Should you be outsourcing your facilities management?

April 20, 2018  •  Alayna Giesting

The question of whether or not to outsource your facilities management (FM) is a tricky one that most facilities managers face. While outsourcing your FM has the ability to save you money if done correctly, it also has the potential to negatively affect your ROI if you outsource the wrong work at the wrong time. With 44% of FM being outsourced in the U.S. it may seem like everyone is choosing this route, but before you follow in their footsteps, you need to determine if it’s the right choice for your specific organization. While you’re making your decision, keep the following pros and cons in mind.

Pros:

1. Time and money savings

The vendor you choose will be highly specialized in FM infrastructure, which means they will already have an effective set of processes developed to best fit your needs.  They are prepared with the tools, staff and training necessary to do this, so you can take those expenses off your plate when you choose to outsource. Research shows that outsourcing can help you achieve annual savings of up to 10-15%, so if you’re looking to stick to a tight budget outsourcing may be the right choice for you!

2. Expertise

By using a vendor that specializes in certain aspects of facilities management (such as L.E.E.D compliance or building renovations), you can be sure that they have the expertise necessary to perform high quality services. Outsourcing specialized projects is a great way to become more comfortable with the process and vet a vendor, without outsourcing a large amount of your services.

3. Staffing flexibility

It’s important to analyze where your team is excelling and where it needs a little help. If your team is lacking expertise in a certain trade or type of equipment, you can outsource your weakest FM tasks, which frees up your team’s time to focus on what they are best at. Trying to learn how to perform a service on something you aren’t familiar with takes a lot of time and effort, so imagine all the work orders your employees can close out now with all their extra time!

Cons:

1. Less control over operations

If you have a clear goal in mind for how you want a project to be completed, it’s a lot easier to meet those goals with an in-house team than working with an outside vendor. Each vendor will determine how he or she wants to deliver their services and handle their personnel, which decreases your control over the processes. Establishing a clear contract built around key performance indicators (KPIs) - such as cost/energy savings, work order response/resolution time, etc. - can help counteract this risk.

2. Lack of knowledge about your FM needs

Sometimes a vendor will be unfamiliar with your organization’s FM processes, equipment, or facilities in general. A clear understanding of these elements is crucial for outsourcing success, so if the vendor doesn’t put in the effort to familiarize themselves with your specific FM needs you may want to evaluate different options.

3. Dedication issues

The vendor you choose is going to be working with a multitude of other organizations, so their time is going to be spread across more projects than just your own. While many vendors are able to juggle multiple clients, you want to make sure that the vendor you choose is able to stick with your projected timeline.

How should I go about outsourcing my FM?

Unfortunately, several FM outsourcing stories don’t show the greatest success. In fact, surveys show that one in four outsourced FM services is brought back in-house within two years. So, what makes the other 75% successful? Take a look at our list of do’s and don’ts!

  • Don't: Specify your own process for performing maintenance. The vendor you choose already has a list of best practices and if they can’t do the work the way they know best, you won’t see the results you are hoping for.
  • Do: Specify the results you expect to see. That way, the vendor can use their set of best practices to make sure your project has the outcome you want.
  • Don't: Be too focused on price. A cost savings option might benefit you in the beginning, but in the long run the vendor may put your work on the back burner for someone who is paying more for their services.
  • Do: Weigh the costs and the benefits. You don’t want to spend more money than your budget allows on outsourcing your services. So, make sure you aren’t spending or skimping too much. It’s all about finding that sweet spot!
  • Don't: Only outsource short-term, one-off projects. While some vendors can be utilized for these short-term projects, it can be beneficial to use a certain vendor repeatedly. For instance, if you don’t have a full-time plumber you may want to outsource all plumbing tasks with a vendor instead of only using them one time to replace your old toilets with new dual-flush toilets. This way, they become familiar with your equipment and processes, which will benefit you down the road.
  • Do: Establish a relationship with your vendor. As I’m sure you know, maintenance issues never pop up when it’s most convenient for you. Sometimes, you may be short staffed and will need to call on someone outside of your team for assistance. Having a reliable vendor you trust can make all the difference when these types of situations arise, so make sure you foster healthy relationships with your vendor and their team.

Outsourcing your facilities management should only be done when it makes your FM processes more efficient. Make sure you only use a vendor for the activities that your in-house team isn’t excelling at, and insource the rest. In addition to identifying work that has room for improvement, identifying seasonal spikes in your labor is a good way to find services to outsource.­­­­­ For instance, if summer is significantly busier for you than the other three seasons, it might make sense to outsource work in those months so you aren’t hiring full time employees who can’t keep busy the rest of the year.

How FMX can help: With FMX’s robust reporting and analytics, you can view where your team is excelling and what areas need improvement. This will help you figure out which services you should keep in-house and which services you should consider outsourcing. You can also look at the number of work orders that have been submitted over a given period of time. So, if you notice that in March and April you have a significant amount of work orders, you can consider outsourcing during this time. You can even track trends related to work order or preventive maintenance (PM) type. For instance, if you notice your work order/PM completion rate for plumbing tasks is low due to insufficient plumbing resources, you may want to outsource this specific trade.


Alayna is the marketing communications specialist at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not drafting up content for the blog or social media, she is most likely reading a good book or taking short weekend trips!

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