Could App Technology help the FM industry Get More Lean for 2019?

The last four years have arguably been the most brutal on record for the FM industry – bringing unprecedented scrutiny, and even collapse, within finances and margins. As a case in point: in 2014, Interserve made its largest ever acquisition, of a £250million facilities company. Last year, it saw its shares fall by half. Further, in 2016, Carillion – a major player in FM – declared £5.2billion in revenue. Yet just two years later it was subject to the UK’s largest ever trading liquidation.

There are multiple, complex causes for these high-profile declines. The most recent IWFM (formerly BIFM) Business Confidence Monitor highlights multiple concerns over economic growth, increasing competition, skills shortages, Brexit, and the overall performance of the FM sector.

Whatever is to blame, no-one can be in any doubt that FM firms will now be putting even greater focus on cutting unnecessary costs. FM is an industry in which providers can manage hundreds of thousands of individual parts – from plumbing spares to smart meters, as well as ventilation and fire safety systems.

The processing of parts is historically complex, with providers open to leaking cost via use of expensive same-day couriers, lost stock, over-ordering items, wasted technician time due to failed or delayed deliveries.

The Solution.

In a digital age, the solution must revolve around tech. At ByBox, we see advanced firms eliminating unnecessary processing costs and risks by using a combination of smart phones, apps and lockers to manage moving parts in a much more robust, transparent and cost-efficient way underpinned by real time data.

They’re placing critical items in lockers situated at service sites, with engineers using smart phone apps to open and close lockers, and sign items in and out. This provides full visibility of total stock, and stock held by individual engineers. It also ensures engineers have access to items with less fuss – with items placed in lockers away from town centre congestion and traffic delays.

The concept aligns with Lean – a systematic way of removing seven types of waste from operations, while enabling full focus on the customer.

Transport: Unnecessary movement of people or parts between processes

We saw one company save 640,000 miles of driving by delivering parts to app lockers situated at service sites, rather than having the technician go to a collection point.

Inventory: Excess raw material or finished parts

Another firm significantly reduced its £1 million-worth of duplicated stock by storing items required by each service site in secure lockers, rather than engineers’ vans

Waiting: People or parts waiting for the next step of a process

We estimate that organisations can save 45 minutes per day, per engineer, by processing parts via tech-enabled lockers instead of via collection centres. Furthermore, collection from lockers is not restricted to opening times.

Motions: Unnecessary movement of people or parts within a process

Using mobile apps enables direct ordering, and eliminates the un-necessary and inefficient movement of thousands of items to and from warehouses

Rework: Correction or repetition of a process

Mobile apps enable engineers to assign condition codes for parts which need to be returned. This allows items to be directly routed to repairers, instead of via warehouses for evaluation

Overproduction: producing sooner or in greater quantities than customer demand

With full visibility of inventory, firms can rationalise and consolidate stock holdings

Over processing: Processing beyond standard required

One customer reduced same-day transportation costs by 80%, without impacting fix times, by using app lockers at fixed points on its service sites.

Simon Fahie is MD – Global Technology at ByBox, a global app locker company

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