FM Culture, Plans & Maintenance on the London Cable Car

Episode 2

Facilities Management Podcast


About this episode

Bhavin Patel talks about the importance of FM culture, plans, and maintenance activities at Mace Operate when working on the flagship London Cable Car project.


Matt (HOST) [00:00:30] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Comparesoft podcast. Today, our guest is Bhavin [Patel]. Bhavin is a Facilities Manager at Mace Operate, which is a global facilities and workplace management company with projects in the EU, Middle East, the Americas, and Asia. Bhavin has worked with Mace for over 10 years on one of their flagship projects, the London Cable car. So, from being from such a unique project, it will be really interesting to get Bhavin’s take on facilities management. Bhavin, welcome to the show. How’s it going?

Bhavin Patel: [00:01:09] Thank you. Yes, going very well. How are you?

Matt: [00:01:14] I’m very good thanks. I’m obviously interested to talk about your view, get your take, and your view on facilities management. So having said that, let’s jump into the first question, which is, how do you go about setting a good facilities management culture?

Bhavin: [00:01:32] Okay. Good question. As I work for a facilities management company, our culture is FM culture. And I think it’s a bit different if you’re working in-house, where the culture of a company might be whatever product or service they offer and there being the FM probably stuck in a broom cupboard, glorified broom cupboard as your office.

So I kind of got this privileged position where my team all understand FM values. But I can speak to this in a different way, which is how Mace set their culture and their values.

I’ll use safety as an example. Safety is a core value in facilities management wherever you are. A couple of things that Mace do that work really, really well — and when we’re talking about culture, I’m thinking, we’re talking about taking high-level ideas like safety and turning it into concrete actions that all of your employees kind of do on a day to day basis.

Something that we do at Mace is we have a safety moment and this is a piece of information that goes out by email to the team and it comes from C-level executives [and] goes out to all the employees every month. Now, this information is used at the account level, at the start of every meeting. So, every meeting we will have a couple of minutes to discuss a safety moment. And that way, the people right there on the ground can consider the safety moments and that topic for that particular safety moment and how it relates to what they do and whether they’re doing the best practice; whether they’re meeting the Mace standards, and any improvements that need to be made.

So we’re going right from the top showing that very senior level commitment, right down to the bottom, every employee discussing the same thing. Then this kind of translates into another thing that I really like that Mace do, which is our safety score.

We have a monthly safety score that’s published across all the accounts and it’s used kind of to create consistency of how Mace deliver their service all over the globe. But the kind of things that are monitored would reflect the culture of the company. So if we take safety again, as an example, if there’s an incident, I might be investigating that incident and I would take that information and put it on a central software system that Mace use. And if we’re taking that incident as an example, maybe there’s some actions off the back of that incident. Those would also go on that system with dates for deadlines. If I miss a deadline, that would affect my quality score.

At the beginning of the month, when that’s published, you really see those values being translated into actions [then] being translated into a score. So, yes, a couple of things I think people can probably take.

Matt: [00:05:31] So moving on to the next question. What is the best way to plan for facilities management maintenance activities?

Bhavin: [00:05:40] So this could mean a couple of different things, I think. If I’m planning something new, for me, the starting point is always my contract. I’d look at the contract and the scope within the contract. And that kind of gives you already a bit of a plan. And working on planning a new FM activity at the moment, where we’re taking over a space, and we’re setting up a cleaning contract in that space. So the way that I’m doing this right now is with a colleague, we’ve looked through an existing similar contract, we’ve broken that down, and we’ve taken all of the items that would be applicable to the new contract, and use that as the basis of our plan.

So things like costings for cleaning equipment, uniform training, we’ve made a list and everything that translates, put over onto the new list. And again, we go back to our contract and there’s a few things in there that are different. There’s some additional scope.

We have public toilets, for example. So we’ve added in hourly cleaning for the toilets, and we’ve made adjustments for the timings because at the cable car, we have very long operational hours from 7 in the morning to 10 or 11 at night. So we made some adjustments there and that gives us a rudimentary plan and a rough idea of what to expect and we will go out to our cleaning suppliers with that.

But then you also mentioned maintenance, which kind of maybe changes things a little bit. And with maintenance, I would generally, again, start with a contract and what the scope is.

You have to consider the statutory requirements, which, again, gives you a bit of a plan already. And then I would always look at the O and Ms and see what the requirements are from the O and Ms. The O and Ms often will have a table in there that say you need to do this maintenance at this frequency.

So that’s how we do that. And then I guess you want to take all of this and automate it best you can, put it into a system that alerts you when when maintenance is due.

Matt: [00:08:25] Right. Well, it’s very interesting to get an insider view on the cable car as well on those long hours. So, how do you think then facilities management teams should go about driving appreciation for management teams across the business, particularly with the top management?

Bhavin: [00:08:48] Yes. This is a difficult one. There’s probably something I can improve on as well actually. But I guess the heart of the matter is you’ve got to be communicating. Find reasons to communicate and tell people what you’re doing. It might be just to let them know that maintenance is happening, or to loop them into reports that you’re sending to the client or to provide an update on actions taken on a reactive task that isn’t quite resolved yet but you’ve been working away in the background, to inform them about investigations into incidents — just keep on communicating.

The work of the FM and the maintenance team is kind of should be by design, invisible. So if you’re maintaining a lift, for example, you want to try to do it when people aren’t around. And then the people just don’t know what you’ve done. So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword there.

So communicate, I think that should be your mantra. In my role, there are a couple of things that happen. I don’t send out newsletters, but I do have to do a report every month, which gives a snapshot of the operations at the cable car. And this is for the client, but it does go to senior management internally as well. And then senior management is all about the bottom line and numbers.

You’ve got to find ways that they are looking at the business and try to highlight yourself there. So I talked about the quality score. I talked about the safety and incidents. That’s something that’s on my mind, because I also know that it’s on the mind of the directors and the chief executives. So that’s what I’d say you have to try to understand the business from the very top as well as your own operational tasks.

Matt: [00:11:07] Great. So, moving on to the next question, which is, what is the best way to implement an effective facilities management plan?

Bhavin: [00:11:16] For me, I really like my CAFM system. It plans out things for me. Things are automated. You can run reports. You can find out how maintenance has been done and what’s due and it’s just very quick to get that information. And it eliminates human error that you get from spreadsheets flying around. They help you to have one version of the truth throughout your team.

So we use Concept right now and I love it. One of the things that I really love about it is it’s based on tasks. But if I open any task up, everything associated with that, all of the files, any quotes, any job sheets, it’s all in one place. I’m not hunting around SharePoint looking for different documents. So yes, I think CAFM systems are the future.

Matt [00:12:24] So that moves on nicely to the next question. What do you think about software tools and do you think they’re useful for managing facilities management activities?

Bhavin: [00:12:35] Yes, definitely. They’re useful. When they’re implemented well, they’re absolutely fantastic. It’s not really a downside but something that you need to consider is your software needs to be set up correctly for the purpose of what you’re doing from the very beginning.

And having a system is one thing, but the system itself needs to be planned, implemented well and training is normally required.

You reminded me of something actually that I can share. We had a supplier who, when I started in this role was using paper-based job sheets. So every time they turned up, the engineer would write out what he did. And it would be one of those where you tear the top sheet off and it’s got a copy of what you’ve written on the next sheet and you tear that off and give that to us.

And every engineer writes things differently. Some engineers have terrible doctor’s handwriting. And they moved to this wonderful digital system, which I absolutely loved, you know, I’d get all the information by email. I wouldn’t have to scan it in. There’s no paper in folders anymore, which is great for the environment as well so it was perfect.

The engineers on the other hand, who were all used to paper-based systems, they weren’t so keen. They had to use these new devices, and they’d have to wait for things to upload over 4g. We obviously have two stations. They’d be doing one station and have to wait and then they’d fill out the next station. So — you can’t win them all I guess, but I certainly think the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Matt: [00:14:49] So I guess you don’t like using spreadsheets for FM management, [it’s] safe to say?

Bhavin: [00:14:58] Yes. Well [I] might be contradicting myself. You need to be as proficient as using Excel as you possibly can be and then try and use it as infrequently as you possibly can, for all of the reasons that I mentioned.

Spreadsheets are not ideal but someone at some point is going to ask you for something, and you’re going to need to put it in a spreadsheet. It’s happening to me right now. I’ve been asked to do a report on some downtime of the lifts against passenger volume.
The lift downtimes in the CAFM system, but we don’t record the passenger volume that way so that’s where Excel comes in. It’s your friend. I think it’s kind of like learning to type. You need to know how to use a spreadsheet.

Matt: [00:15:58] A necessity. Very interesting. So what are your top three tips for our listeners on effective facilities management?

Bhavin: [00:16:10] We’ve covered communicate already. Absolutely find ways to communicate what you do.

I’d say nurture your relationships. And there have been occasions, many, many occasions I’d say where I’ve had to pick up the phone and say that I’ve got this problem, I’m not quite sure how to approach it. And I’ve had a fantastic response. And that comes because you’re a likeable person. You treat your subcontractors the way they would like to be treated, and they will go the extra mile to help you out.

And I’d say the third tip would be don’t be afraid to escalate if you’re not getting the service that you expect. I learned this pretty early on. There was one occasion where I was trying to work with an underperforming subcontractor. I’d given them the benefit of the doubt here and there. Then that would end up with me chasing them and then getting things at the last minute right before the KPI meeting.

In effect, I just ended up doubling my workload and my stress levels and I waited a little bit too long to escalate with that one. But once I got the MD involved, we saw a massive improvement. Things that were difficult a month ago suddenly were achievable. So I am a bit faster to pull the trigger on getting senior management involved if a subcontractor is underperforming and I think escalating up the chain of command would be my third tip.

Matt: [00:17:55] Okay, great. Well, amazing tips for the listeners there. Hope you guys have taken something away from those. And finally then, what’s your favourite saying or quote on FM?

Bhavin: [00:18:09] You’re only as good as your subcontractors. That sums it all up.

Matt: [00:18:17] There we go. All right, amazing. Well, Bhavin, thanks so much for being on the show. We’ve taken away some really great nuggets of information there. And yes, hope you have a fantastic week.

Bhavin: [00:18:34] Thank you for having me. You too.

Matt: [00:18:36] Yes I know. It’s been a pleasure. And thank you to all the listeners. We’ll see you again on the next show. Cheers.