Why facilities managers need to take a more professional approach to winter maintenance

Be prepared!

Change is afoot in the world of facilities management as the industry becomes increasingly professionalised and standards- based. However, evolution is slow and patchy and certain areas such as clearing snow and ice are often not given the same level of serious consideration. Winter maintenance specialists GRITIT explain why this can be a dangerous oversight. It is without doubt a changing climate:

Earlier this year the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) announced it would change its name to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM). As part of the Institute’s bid to become a chartered body, it desires “to reframe facilities management, emphasising its ability to make a real contribution to the performance of organisations – more value creator, less cost centre”. This objective makes perfect sense; in the quarter century since the sector gained its first trade association, FM has evolved to become increasingly professionalised with the creation and introduction of standards, higher quality training and increasing amounts of transformational technology.

The impact of technology

As with virtually every other industry, a key part of this evolution is the greater adoption of technology. The BIFM noted that a key driver for adopting the term workplace is to acknowledge the degree

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to which professions are intersecting, with FM professionals increasingly needing to work alongside their colleagues in IT when managing the working environment. Practices such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), exemplify the way that technology can have a dramatic impact on how sites can be proactively managed throughout their lifecycle. Yet while some aspects of FM are racing

ahead, the picture often looks starkly different the minute you step outside. At GRITIT, we offer services in two areas – Winter Gritting and Grounds Maintenance – both markets in which the exploitation of technology and the adoption of professional ethos still fall far behind. Addressing this gap is precisely how we’ve been able to grow as a business. Most of the productivity gains from early and often discrete technologies, such as tracking, have now been exploited. More recent investments have delivered customer-friendly transparent services with tools such as apps that are more accessible and engaging. While not claiming to be transformational, the real-payoff of long- term bespoke IT investment is starting to be realized through the integration of data and automated tools that offer more immediate control. Just as BIFM describe the change from ‘managing space to empowering productivity’, outside we are looking at a shift in emphasis from managing logistics to empowering quality service.

So, knowing that technology can deliver

real benefits in outdoor FM, it is still frustrating to see that across the wider market that this sort of innovation is limited – particularly as sticking to older ways of doing things can involve playing fast and loose with health and safety.

Taking a chance with ad-hoc winter maintenance

Over the course of this winter, just as with every other winter, professional gritting companies will invariably receive multiple desperate calls from businesses that have suddenly found their arrangements for snow and ice clearing to have fallen dangerously short. Whether it’s a call for emergency cover when that unbelievably cheap contractor fails to show up, or requests for quotes that come in as the snow starts falling, we see dozens of examples of organisations feeling the heat when the temperatures hit freezing. Particularly alarming is that this ad-hoc

approach is not just confined to smaller businesses, even large organisations with otherwise highly developed FM arrangements can treat snow and ice clearing as an afterthought. A particularly egregious example we encountered was a state of the art fulfilment centre that found their trucks unable to move due to compacted snow that had turned the loading areas into ice rinks. In that case, leaving the task of clearing

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