Outsourcing Antidote: Become Indispensable

By Dan Hounsell  

Outsourcing isn’t a dirty word, but it might as well be in many maintenance and engineering departments. Its mere mention results in threats of job insecurity and hard feelings, among other emotions. But as our cover story this month points out, many organizations have embraced the practice as a way to bring greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness to facility operations and maintenance.

While many of these departments are in commercial organizations — including State Farm Insurance, the subject of the article — school districts, universities, and hospitals are no strangers to the practice.

In some cases, organizations avoid the wholesale outsourcing of entire departments and opt for the more focused approach of outtasking, where a contractor is brought in to perform a very specific task — often, one that is hazardous or requires specialized training or licensing.

Strategies for Success

What can a manager do to keep as much control as possible over the amount of maintenance and engineering work his or her in-house staff performs? For that matter, what can front-line technicians do to ensure that a contractor won’t show up one day to perform their jobs?

As the managers with State Farm interviewed for the article make clear, knowledge often is the answer. Each member of the management team in the company’s facilities management department has developed in-depth knowledge of various activities and issues. From HVAC system operation and maintenance to landscaping and housekeeping, someone on the management team is the company’s in-house expert — the recognized go-to person when a question or concern arises.

Their central role in important decisions doesn’t end there, however. They also are involved early in new-construction and renovation projects, ensuring the facilities architects turn over to them are as efficient to operate and maintain as possible.

Focus on Training

How can managers, supervisors and front-line technicians follow this path and become indispensable to their organizations?

One place to start is with a commitment to training, both for managers and technicians. Developing a better understanding of the complexities of new and existing technology — especially how that technology can benefit the bottom line — can position managers and technicians as in-house experts, key players in an organization’s decision-making process. That’s about as indispensable as it gets.

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  posted on 9/1/2007   Article Use Policy

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