Building maintenance. How Can I Set My House In Order?

Building maintenance. How Can I Set My House In Order?

Facilities management – sometimes known as ‘FM’ or ‘building maintenance’ – has gained an unenviable reputation for always coming in over budget.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A genuine partnership with the right provider can make it possible to actually reduce costs while simultaneously raising quality, improving staff and customer satisfaction. But what does ‘the right provider’ look like, and how can you tell that you’re getting value for money?

The most common approach to controlling FM costs is to focus on hourly rates during the procurement process. However, a supplier who’s been squeezed on price is rarely going to deliver a platinum service; instead they are likely to just meet the terms of the Service Level Agreement (SLA), which may leave considerable room for uncontrollable expenditure.

This might manifest itself in a number of ways, including secondary invoices, quote requests, failed permanent fixes, revisits and warranty work, time on site inflation, and parts cost inflation.

There’s also traditionally been more emphasis on reactive activity, fixing things only when they break down. However, this not only results in more uncontrollable expenditure, but the business downtime can cost a company dearly – especially as breakdowns are more likely to happen at peak times, when equipment is under maximum load.

Added to that, if compliance-related activity is also left to slide – or simply not checked thoroughly – the company (and its board) may well be liable to fines, or even a custodial sentence, should anyone be injured or killed as a result of an accident involving non-compliant equipment.

The 21st century model of FM takes a very different approach – a proactive partnership between client, provider and supply chain, focusing on true value.

Cloud-based workflow

Today’s most effective cloud-based workflow systems automate any aspect which can be automated effectively, to avoid human error or bias entering the equation – this also has the positive benefit of lifting the administrative burden, which can sometimes be significant.

The use of a mobile app by engineers – which checks them into and out of the site using a QR code, tracks the time spent on each task, supplies key information about the job, and allows them to record its specifics and any further work required – it also improves governance significantly, allowing every stakeholder complete visibility of progress in real time.

Not all checks should be tech-based, however; there are key points in the process which definitely require the human touch (and a skilled one, at that) – such as checking documentation to be sure compliance has been achieved.

The savvy application of purpose-specific software, combined with an innovative approach to driving up levels of efficiency and quality, and a true partnership between provider, supply chain and client, means that building maintenance can have a wider-reaching positive impact than you might initially think.

Aside from safeguarding a company’s investment in its estate, and protecting against compliance-related risk, raising quality in FM will support the business in offering an optimal customer experience (which can have a tangible effect on both valuable repeat business and on new business, through reputation – which has always been important, but it may be even more so in the age of social media).

Additionally, the significantly higher levels of visibility and control in real time improve governance and cut costs, plus, thanks to more reliable data, an analysis of trends across an estate can be used to model and plan the most effective and economical approach to planned preventative maintenance and capital expenditure projects.

What does ‘good’ FM look like?

Generally speaking, a provider who offers a proactive, partnership approach to facilities management will demonstrate the following service characteristics:

Fair rates of pay

When the supply chain is paid a decent rate, first time fixes are more common, and tasks are more speedily completed. Where charges are for actual time on site (measured using a scan-in scan-out system on a smartphone or tablet), and contractors are paid according to speed of attendance and their performance, the most efficient behaviour is adopted throughout the supply chain.

Transparency and real-time data

Cloud-based workflow systems can act as a transparent interface between provider and client, giving full visibility of the whole estate in real time – including accruals (linked to time on site and contractor rates) and compliance documentation. Building managers (and their superiors) can see their schedule of preventative maintenance tasks, and the current status of reactive tasks, so that they know at the click of a button what is happening in terms of building maintenance.

Quote benchmarking

Where a task goes to quote, parts and labour should be automatically benchmarked before the provider makes a recommendation to the client – and the quoted works should be paid on the actual time and materials used, rather than the initial quote value.

Financial process controls

Various checks and measures can ensure cost control, efficiency, and a reduced administrative burden. Systems where contractors can only invoice with proof of completion, where consolidated invoices are standard, and where late invoices (after a reasonable cut-off period) are rejected, represent best practice.
Efficient, intelligent planning

A smart helpdesk, which triages job requests – preventing unnecessary work, and capturing recalls / warranties – will help keep costs under control and improve both quality and speed of service. Regular scheduled maintenance visits, where non-urgent tasks (such as condenser cleaning, HVAC maintenance, and re-lamping) are bundled together and completed in one go, is much more cost-effective.

Full visibility of compliance

It’s common for service providers to audit a percentage of a client’s compliance certificates, because while paperwork may have been uploaded, it is not a given that compliance has actually been achieved – but even checking a percentage still leaves far too much unknown in terms of an estate’s compliance status. A suitably-qualified specialist should check every single piece of paperwork relating to compliance.


Jeff Dewing is CEO of Cloudfm Group. The company specialises in restaurant and retail estates, and is one of the fastest-growing FM providers in the UK, having doubled in size in the last year alone. Launched in 2011, the Group’s client list includes prestigious brands such as KFC, Prezzo, PizzaExpress, ASK, Zizzi, Karen Millen, Coast, Oasis, Warehouse, and Wolseley. The company’s unique cloud-based workflow system and processes deliver unrivalled visibility and control of FM activity, while a firm commitment to improving quality at the same time as reducing costs delivers maximum value to clients. To find out more visit

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