Critical Facilities Summit

4  FM quick reads on outsourcing

1. Evaluate contractorsí green services to meet green goals


Today's tip is to look to your service providers to help meet green goals. Many outsourcing providers have realized the growing demand for green and have tailored their services to help green-focused facility executives. But carefully evaluate the providers and their services to ensure you are getting what you want.

"There are more than two dozen credentialing, certifying, or inspecting authorities, and I think to some extent they're all credible if you clearly understand the mission of each," says Vince Elliott, founder and chief executive officer of Elliott Affiliates, Ltd.

Facility executives need to make sure that a provider's certified products work not just in a lab but in actual working buildings, Elliott says. And requiring certification could significantly reduce the pool of otherwise-qualified providers and possibly raise prices.

Facility executives should also know what they are willing to commit to. "Some measures will require time and energy and possibly capital," says Michel Theriault, a principal with Strategic Advisor. "You may prioritize and start with those that are low cost, low effort and work your way up the ladder."

Joe Havey, president of Havey Real Estate Consultants, recommends talking with other facility executives about which providers they've used and whether they've been happy with the work.

Havey also suggests that facility executives design a matrix and assign a weighting to each of the criteria. For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, having a LEED Accredited Professional credential may be worth three or four points, while being a certified energy manager may be worth 10 points.

How the expertise is applied is also important and should be spelled out in the contract with the provider, Theriault says. "That expertise costs money, and if you're not specific in your request for proposal, you may not get it," he says.

It's also vital to get proof of exactly what a provider has done. "Get the data that shows it's worth replacing the lighting system and which shows the payback," Theriault says. "You're evaluating their performance rather than just evaluating what they say they'll do."


2.  Elevator Service Provider Considerations

Once facility managers have evaluated the existing elevator equipment in their facility and the available budget to address needs, they will have the framework for determining what type of services to seek from providers.

When searching for a provider, facility managers should look first to see that the contractor is accredited to work in a given market. Accreditation requirements vary around the country. Some states require service providers to have a contractor's license. Others have specific licensing programs for the vertical transportation industry, which includes elevators and escalators. Research the company to make sure it has proper insurance coverage because elevators open the owner to substantial liability. The provider also should have the financial strength to follow through on its service commitments for the life of the contract.

Next, review the company's engineering experience. Ask whether it has an adequate inventory of spare parts and the logistics to get them to the job site. Find out how many service technicians are available to respond to calls, even if the call comes at 2 a.m. Pin down prospective service providers on response time. Experts say a typical response time during normal business hours should be 30 minutes or less.

Ask too about the contractor's technical training program and be cautious of partnering with service providers that don't have an ongoing tech training program, as they will likely not be versed in the latest industry developments.

The company's technicians should be intimately familiar with the building's original elevator equipment and have access to spare parts, necessary software, wiring diagrams and other documentation.

A good service provider, however, will do more than just meet the technical requirements of a contract. Service providers should be willing to make recommendations for upgrades and improvements to meet current or future standards.

3.  Elevator Service Provider Considerations

Once facility managers have evaluated the existing elevator equipment in their facility and the available budget to address needs, they will have the framework for determining what type of services to seek from providers.

When searching for a provider, facility managers should look first to see that the contractor is accredited to work in a given market. Accreditation requirements vary around the country. Some states require service providers to have a contractor's license. Others have specific licensing programs for the vertical transportation industry, which includes elevators and escalators. Research the company to make sure it has proper insurance coverage because elevators open the owner to substantial liability. The provider also should have the financial strength to follow through on its service commitments for the life of the contract.

Next, review the company's engineering experience. Ask whether it has an adequate inventory of spare parts and the logistics to get them to the job site. Find out how many service technicians are available to respond to calls, even if the call comes at 2 a.m. Pin down prospective service providers on response time. Experts say a typical response time during normal business hours should be 30 minutes or less.

Ask too about the contractor's technical training program and be cautious of partnering with service providers that don't have an ongoing tech training program, as they will likely not be versed in the latest industry developments.

The company's technicians should be intimately familiar with the building's original elevator equipment and have access to spare parts, necessary software, wiring diagrams and other documentation.

A good service provider, however, will do more than just meet the technical requirements of a contract. Service providers should be willing to make recommendations for upgrades and improvements to meet current or future standards.

4.  Outsourced Service Provider Selection Best Practices

When it comes to selecting outsourced service provider, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are best practices from top-performing facilities to follow. Based on his organization's research, here are some tips from Vince Elliot on what to do when selecting a cleaning contractor — though the strategies can apply to other service areas. The most important part of the process is the groundwork you do before selecting the contractor.

1. Identify an internal champion. Within your organization, there is someone who gets it — what the problem or need is and what it will take to meet it/fix it. The project champion is the opinion leader and is personally involved and passionate about achieving success.

2. Structure change-management activities. It is imperative to gain support from everyone involved in a process for change to be successful. This involves educating and informing affected parties through change management seminars, workshops or other activities.

3. Establish a baseline of pre-project performance. In order to measure how far you've gone, you have to know where you're starting. The baseline effort should document performance metrics that outline the expected benefits from a re-bid and serve as a reference measure for future success. The elements documented vary according to company goals.

4. Customer-driven specifications. In customer-facing services, like cleaning, use a "voice of the customer" process to define performance specification standards. Assemble a team of key tenants, managers and occupants, or use an online survey, to facilitate discussion about what is important and how customers describe good and poor quality. The data from the process identify what conditions are acceptable and unacceptable to occupants and managers.

5. Collect and validate property profile data. The more accurate the property profile, the more accurate the bid. That generally results in a more realistic and lower price. When contractors have a clear understanding of what they are responsible for and of the conditions that influence what they'll be doing, they build in less "contingency" cost.


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