Asset management: Cornerstone of facilities management
An emerging trend in facilities management is that services seem to be fast becoming a commodity, with facility owners content to jump from one service provider to another when the opportunity presents itself.
In this lies the root of the industry's current predicament - the consumer does not perceive the service delivered by a particular vendor to be significantly different from that offered by any other, says Gerrie Olivier, marketing director of Pragma Africa.
He says a winning facilities management approach recognises the importance and untapped potential of physical asset management in its fullest sense.
"Dedicated focus on the so-called hard services is not only an absolute must, from a safety and statutory point of view; it also offers the best opportunity for sustainable financial gain. Invariably, facility asset owners are hardly aware of the benefits of improved reliability, availability and extended asset life cycles."
Facilities management is seen as a fast-growing discipline that cuts across all industries, including manufacturing, mining, utilities, transport, health and hospitality. Facility asset owners have traditionally been the first to realise the value of outsourcing this non-core function, yet Olivier cautions that facility owners should not view the outsourcing of facilities management as a panacea.
"Asset owners cannot abdicate responsibility of their asset life cycle strategies. While technical contractors invariably focus on the execution of the day-to-day care and maintenance activities, the asset owner should maintain a comprehensive understanding of the effect of asset-care strategies on the asset performance throughout its life cycle. Herein lies the real value-add, the constant balancing act between ongoing care and continual improvement actions that stretch beyond the traditional soft services component."
Olivier says facility asset management is therefore a strategic co-sourcing partnership between the asset owner and the asset management service provider, where the ultimate objective is to ensure these assets are operating at their optimum.
Physical asset management as a discipline is concerned with deriving optimal value from physical assets by improving production or service delivery, reducing downtime and optimising all maintenance expenditure.
Olivier says the three key elements required for this purpose are a structured approach, information technology and systems, and skilled personnel.
"A structured approach buys you efficiency, and efficiency goes straight to the bottom line. Systems allow for the capturing and analysis of information, enabling continual improvement."
He says the main challenge faced by the industry in SA relates to the unavailability of technically-skilled personnel.
Olivier says his company's approach to addressing this shortage goes beyond training. It involves the optimum deployment of these scarce resources by supporting them with a clear methodology and state-of-the-art information management systems and tools. This provides an active learning opportunity for the lesser skilled resource in a productive facilities management environment.
He says Pragma Africa begins a facilities management assignment with an assessment of current procedures and practices, which provides a baseline for the development of an improvement plan and the measurement of results.
A well-defined asset strategy serves as the basis for establishing an asset-care centre that serves as an operational hub, established on-site or off-site.
"Value is added to the normal operational activities through the constant analysis of performance data and the identification and implementation of continual improvement actions.
"Adopting a physical asset management approach to facilities management provides facility asset owners with more than a solid foundation. It establishes a strategic partnership that does more than prevent huge investments from falling down like the proverbial house of cards. Ultimately, it is a value-add decision that delivers optimum results to the bottom line, while retaining focus on safety and integrity priorities," he says.