EMCOR UK has also been notably involved in the sustainability agenda, becoming the first facilities management provider to achieve conformity to ISO 50001:2018 (energy management), ISO 140001 (environmental management) and ISO 20400 (sustainable procurement). It is also one of the founding partners of the Supply Chain Sustainability School, formed to bring a collaborative industry approach to developing sustainability competence in the supply chain.
Alison Bettany, Strategic Supply Chain Manager at EMCOR UK, chairs the Facilities Management Leadership Group, which aims to develop a more responsive FM sector. Encouragingly, the recent findings of the school’s second impact survey revealed that the leadership, learning and support provided by the school is clearly and consistently credited with having a significant positive influence on the sector.
A recent topic on the school’s agenda was how FM providers are addressing the issue of single-use plastics. With customers already asking about this, EMCOR UK decided to invest in a training module to tackle the issue. This culminated in the launch of a free e-learning module focused on sustainable use and the management of plastics in businesses across the UK. It is open to individuals and corporates via the Supply Chain Sustainability School website and covers the whole spectrum of plastic use in a typical business – what its properties are and the most common wastages.
According to Chanter, launching this free service into the sector is “the right thing to do”. “We’ve all had negative reactions to some of the mis-selling in this industry and outside it, and alongside this, the social agenda has become more important. You might need to generate profit for shareholders, but you should do so in balance. This is why a number of the programmes we’re involved in are geared towards moving forward on the societal and business platform.
“I also think there is a real business benefit, and it fits with our collaboration values, which is of a consistent, open, transparent message of being a responsible business that is keen to do the right thing, but also be efficient and add value to your organisation.”
The impact of technology on FM services is something which preoccupies the sector, and has resulted in a spike in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity over the past few years. According to business advisors BDO there is a race among FM operators to equip themselves with the technology required to remain competitive, which will continue to spur M&A activity.
EMCOR UK, according to Chanter, is doing things differently by utilising most of its technological development in-house. “As long as an IoT sensor is accurate it will take measurements, but we’re much more interested in getting the insights that it brings. What is the data science we can bring to this? You need to do that in the context of what is the organisation actually trying to achieve?
“For instance, you can have an asset which is creating well-ventilated offices, and the sensors you attach and the data it produces will be different from the insights you’d need for a data centre. Creating a sensor and throwing it in is one thing, but the real advantage is in choosing the right sensors to examine the critical business process that can give you that information. We share all of our data with clients via an open portal that they can access from anywhere. In essence, this provides a traffic light system to say that one is working well, one may need maintenance, and so on.”
Chanter was coy when asked if the rumour mill was correct and the firm is actively exploring the concept of introducing an Uber-style model to its delivery services. “It would be a company like us which would look at something like that,” he concedes.
He is proud that the firm has its own in-house tech people to explore these kinds of innovations, arguing that by utilising the “DNA of electrical and engineering expertise” within the company, it has all of the in-house data science it needs.
This means that for the future, a spate of M&A activity to keep up with the FM digital drive is not on the table. “It’s a positive spiral if you continue to invest and a negative spiral if you try and outsource bits of your expertise,” he asserts. “We’ve been so successful in organic growth I’m not convinced that acquiring is important, unless for a very niche competency.
“And I don’t see us buying another FM operator, as it may contaminate the brand. Being big isn’t as important as being best, so we’ll continue to concentrate on organic growth. Our pipeline is looking extremely strong, and although with growth there may be some challenges, we are continuing our investment in people. That is critical, alongside continuing to drive up investment in IT and digital tech.”