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Managers don’t like to talk about outsourcing too much, and that’s certainly understandable, given the tough choices the process requires. But there is more to the discomfort than just tough choices.
Bottom-line pressures often force managers to identify tasks within their departments that an outside contractor might be able to perform more cost-effectively. But managers are aware that all too often during the process, they run the risk of identifying their own departments as candidates for wholesale outsourcing.
“It starts to hit home when you think it might be you,” says one manager, who recently watched his organization outsource its food-service operations along with its manager, who worked right down the hall.
Outsourcing often is cyclical. When an organization is performing well financially, there tends to be much less scrutiny of the maintenance budget as a source for savings. But when times get tight, managers know that e-mails and memos will arrive soon asking them for cost-saving suggestions. Predictably in the current economy, companies nationwide that provide maintenance services on a contract basis report increased interest in their offerings.
This month’s cover story provides insights from seasoned managers who have been through the cycles of outsourcing many times. Their experiences and insights can serve as the basis of a game plan for managers who face the unenviable task.
But while the process of outsourcing is no doubt difficult, managers might also consider an alternative view of the process: The search for outsourcing opportunities also can serve as a sort of self-audit of a maintenance department’s performance.
Outsourcing might be one solution to a problem that is uncovered, but a savvy manager might just as easily be able to find a quicker, lower-cost solution that is equally effective — and, more importantly, that keeps the work in-house.
That might be one strategy that keeps outsourcing from hitting too close to home.