Managing NML's 21 Heritage Buildings & 4 Million Museum Collections

Episode 7

Facilities Management Podcast


About this episode

Edward Taylor-Robinson, Head of Estates for National Museums Liverpool, shares his experience of ensuring compliance and health and safety for 21 heritage buildings that support over 4 million collections as well as the detailed processes involved when hosting exhibitions.


Matt: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Comparesoft Podcast. Great to have you here as always. Today, our guest is Edward. Ed is head of Estates at National Museums Liverpool. Ed has worked with companies including Riverside and Downing and Wrexham Glyndwr University. Ed is a certified member of the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, with extensive experience across many diverse sectors, which include retail, education, office, charity sectors, amongst more. So, it’d be great to hear his take on facilities management. Welcome to the show, Ed, thanks for being on. How are you, sir?

Edward Taylor-Robinson: I’m very well, thank you for having me.

Matt: Oh, it’s our pleasure. Well, why don’t we start by you telling the audience a little bit more about what you do specifically in your role?

Edward: Okay. Well, currently, I’m, as you said, the Head of Estates for National Museums Liverpool. So, my job is to maintain the estate, which encompasses in the region of 21 buildings, seven of which are public-facing buildings. The rest are buildings, office space, collection stores, and so on. I lead a small team to ensure compliance and health and safety throughout the estate. We also are heavily involved in some of the major projects that we are working on with our major projects department. We ensure exhibitions and events go smoothly, and that the environment can support those different areas that we work in. Ultimately, we’re here to ensure that the environmental conditions are right for our collections. So, we work with our collection teams, to ensure that the M&E and the fabric of the buildings can support the 4 million plus collections that we have, which are either on public display, or currently in the storerooms. So, it’s quite a diverse amount of things that we actually get involved with.

Also, ultimately, the buildings themselves — I mean, if anyone knows Liverpool, you’ve got the waterfront, walk our gallery, museum Liverpool, world Museum buildings themselves, are heritage buildings. Nearly all of them are graded grade one or grade two. So, the buildings themselves can be thought of as collection pieces as well.

Matt: All right, well, let’s jump straight in. Can you tell us how you go about setting a good facilities management culture?

Edward: Well, I suppose in my experience, it always depends on the company you’re working for. So, I’ll touch upon how we’re doing it at National Museums Liverpool. It’s about understanding, I think, from my point of view, understanding the company and also identifying the customer. So, although we are an internal department within NML, we have to service the key customers, which in this case will be staff and visitors. So, it’s important that we understand the core values of what we’re trying to achieve at NML and in other companies to understand what you’re there to facilitate and that you’re there to help the company achieve its core goals.

So, I think it’s important to get out there to meet with people, to have the team as well get out and make those relationships and connections with people on the ground who are there to move the agenda of the company forward. And then we should be supporting them, we should be working with them to understand key events or in the case of my family and museums. Understanding exhibitions that are coming up. Events that are coming up and trying to help and facilitate those that have buildings to support those areas.

In my experience, it’s about as well, educating people on what we do, celebrating wins, advertising, the bowl estates and how we can actually help not hinder. Some people see estates as a hindrance, but we’re not there to hinder. We’re there to maintain the health and safety of the environment, and to support the key goals of the company, either the company that I’m working for or as it stands NML.

Matt: All right. Well, then, looking a bit deeper into it, what’s the best way to plan for facilities management activities?

Edward: Okay, so in humble my experience, I would say, the best way to plan for the maintenance activities and so on is to understand the estate. So, the first port of call, I think, when joining any company as an estates professional, is to gather information on your estate, to understand the buildings; What do we have on file? What don’t we have on file? Understanding your gas, your electric, asbestos, fire strategies, [and] fire risk assessments. Where all your taps are, all that stuff, and gathering it and bringing it into one centralised location. So, knowledge management really, for me is key.

The amount of places I’ve worked for where the knowledge of the estate is maintained by some contractors who have worked for that company or have been subcontracted for 10 years, and they’ve got the knowledge and everyone just assumes that they’re always going to be there. Joe, who’s worked for the company for 20 years, he knows where all the fire panels are. It’s about getting that knowledge and centralising it. And then once you’ve got that, it’s about developing the plans. So, in the case of NML, it’s the condition funds. So, understanding the M&E condition and understanding the fabric.

Currently, we are having that done professionally. So, we have our condition plans, which will form part of our lifecycle costing plan which will allow me to have a 5-to-10-year plan of replacements for M&E and fabric changes, which will also allow me to plan financially for those elements. In this period of time, we’re looking at the energy crisis and sustainability environmental environmentalism. So, we are looking at the decarbonisation of the estate. So, we’ve had a decarbonisation plan drafted, which will form part of our maintenance plan. So, when we come to that the place of some of the M&E in our venues, the decarbonisation will help directors where we actually put our money. Do we go to the heat pumps and so on?

It’s having that professional plans laid out, educating people as well, going up to key stakeholders and leadership team. So, this is our plan. These are the financial goals that we’re aiming for. If I can provide to the leadership team, at the end of the day, a 5 to 10-year financial plan that says we’re going to do X, Y, and Z, then that’d be fantastic. That is how I’m trying to work at the moment.

Matt: Okay, and you spoke a little bit earlier about celebrating wins. So that leads me on to the next question, which is; how do you think facilities management teams should go about driving appreciation for the maintenance teams across the business? And particularly with the top management. How do you think that they should get top management to celebrate those wins or recognise the good work that’s been done?

Edward: Yeah, I feel in some cases, it’s about education. So, I reported to the executive director, who obviously reports to the leadership team. The leadership team in my case, they’re not estates professionals. They’re here to move in and out in the direction so we’ve got exhibitions and so on. I need to be able to get across to them what estates is, [and] what we can do. One of my goals is to make sure that they understand what I can achieve with the budget that is given to me. So that’s part of my role that is to try and, in some cases, explain that we can’t do everything with the budget. And really educate them on what we can do. In regards to that, it’s about compliance. It’s actually compliance, legislation, and really driving home the key principles of estate management, which is making sure that we are legally compliance and safe.

In regards to the team, and like you say, trying to talk about success and wins. It’s about getting out there, I suppose. NML and all the companies I’ve worked for, there’s always a danger net and used letters. We try and put things on there to say this is what the estates have done. We have photos, and we’ve done this bit of replacements of kits and the energy savings. We’ve managed to reduce energy costs by 30%. In fact, literally, before I came into this meeting, we have a swamp stuck in one of our docks. So, we’ve got the fire department down there trying to retrieve the swamp.

Matt: Sounds complicated.

Edward: Yeah, it’s just putting that information out there. Also, obviously, with systems, doing very basic statistics to say, “The main job is locked, plus the main job is closed.” This is what we’re doing in the background while the rest of the business moves forward.

Matt: Moving on slightly from that. What’s the best way to implement an effective facilities management plan?

Edward: Well, to reiterate, expose some aspects of what I’ve already talked about it. Once I understand, once you have the knowledge of what needs do, so that’s obviously for your condition reports, and any fabric and you’ve gained the knowledge. In your department as a whole, you’ll have a plan. You’ll have a financial plan, based on industry standards, spawns, quotes, and so on. You can talk about how you see the estate’s evolving over the next 5 to 10 years quite comfortably. It’s then, for me, implementing it is about getting people inside. So that’s publishing it. It’s about going around departments and going to key people and explaining the plan, and trying to understand where they’re coming from, what their priorities are showing them where the estate’s department could help. Where they fall into the plan. How we are. For example, exhibitions is always a key one here. We have temporary exhibition spaces throughout NML, and those spaces have ageing M&E equipment.

So for the director of exhibitions, they want to know is when’s that M&E going to be upgraded. What’s it going to be upgraded to? How will it work? What are the limits to the conditions? And so it’s about sitting down with them and saying, “Okay, well when is your next big event?” Or, “Well, we have events in two years.” “Okay, well, in that case, the M&E condition plan says that your M&E equipment is due from Nuland, say four years, but what we can do is work with you to do that in two years. We’ll put money aside for that.” I’m a big believer, it’s not for me to dictate to people what they should have. They should tell me what they need, and then we work on them.

Matt: Okay, interesting. So, going into talking about technology in the future, what do you think about software tools? Do you think they’re useful for managing facilities management activities? Are they going to improve things in the future?

Edward: Yeah, I think it’s essential. We are looking at the environment now where we’re having a reduced workforce. So, there’s less money to actually employ people yet there’s more work to be done. Again, there’s sometimes a lack of understanding from people who hire estates professionals of what is actually needed. So, there’s that element that I’ve got to try and say what I need to actually progress the estate. At the moment, using technology and using the Internet of Things and BMS and RDBMS systems. It’s essential to manage an estate of this size and this nature, because like I’ve said, a lot of our M&E is end of life. Some of the buildings have got some structural issues where we’ve got to maintain a watch on that.

I’m implementing at the moment a new system, which will pull together all of our reactive work and build upon the knowledge management that I’ve spoken about before. So, all the building information will be centralised in the system. It will be accessible to different team members. So major projects who often need information for CDM, they can just pull down that information sheet off our system. The amount of requests that estates get for information from different people, different departments, we can then remove that element because we have a new system, which will allow them just to go on there and grab it.

See, I’ve got that and I’m also working on with the Internet of Things. I’m looking to be able to have a BMS system, which will be centrally located. The back end will allow the fire panels pointing door access, CCTV, all to go into one centralised security control room, and also provide detailed environmental information. So, if any of our relative humidity or temperatures drop in a room, the relevant people will be notified via text message or by email. Also, the security teams will be able to contact whoever they need to contact. It’s imperative really that we move to a more of an internet footing, I suppose and create intelligent buildings that can tell us when things are going wrong instead of reacting to everything at the moment.

Matt: What about spreadsheets? Are you still using a lot of spreadsheets? Do they still have their place? What’s your take on using those?

Edward: Well, my take is, each to their own. I wouldn’t use spreadsheet. I have in the past when I first started in facility management. We used this large spreadsheet for compliance and sometimes preventative maintenance. It does have its place as opposed depending on the size of the organisation. But I believe for effective estates management, you really need to start looking at specialised software. You’re not just cranking widgets, so to speak. You need to start pulling down the port’s information, financial data. Although you can do that, I suppose, to some degree with an Excel spreadsheet, the actual labour intensity required is quite high. So, you need a member of staff, I think to be managing that spreadsheet daily, every day. The minute it goes out of date, it becomes a bit useless. Although I’d say yes, it has the place sometimes, I think as we move forward, it’s time that we dump the Excel spreadsheet for effective working.

Matt: All right, looking towards the future. Well, you’ve given us some real in-depth answers and information there. So, thank you for that. Now, what are your top three tips for our listeners on effective maintenance management?

Edward: Top tips. Know your buildings. Know your estate. Have good centralised management. Invest in technology and have up-to-date drawings. I can say that they say a picture paints 1000 words. Having up-to-date plans of all your estates with all the key information is essential.

Matt: Brilliant. There we go. Nice and concise then. There it is. And so, wrapping the show up then, wrapping this episode up. What’s your favourite saying or quote on FM?

Edward: I think something I heard in the last couple of years. When you’re trying to explain to people what you do. Most people really have an idea, I suppose what facilities or estate management is, but it’s very hard to explain. So, someone said to me once that estate management or facilities management is picking up a building, turning it upside down, and what doesn’t fall out is the estate’s responsibility. I’ve always thought about that.

Matt: Well, that’s a good one. It’s a nice way to think about it. Well, thanks so much, again, for being on the show. Like I said before, you’ve given us some fantastic insider information there on the estates. Yeah, thanks for being on the show. You’ve been a great guest.

Edward: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for having me.

Matt: Thanks to all you for tuning in again and listening to us, and we’ll see you on the next episode. Cheers.