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Switching to single point of contact supply chain management

Author : Grahame Wright, Pipe and Climate Center commercial operations director

08 June 2017

As the FM role continues to shift with customer demand and trends in technology, many teams are switching to a single point of contact (SPOC) supply chain solution as part of their evolution strategy.

The changing face of facilities management has been in the spotlight for a few years now, and it seems the landscape is still evolving.

Integration and high-level buy-in is rapidly becoming the rule rather than the exception and FMs need a lean and efficient supply chain that they can rely on, now more than ever before.

To better understand why the need for a leaner, more reactive supply chain solution is intensifying, let us first look at the key trends.

Throughout 2016, the three main drivers for change were customer demand, emerging technologies and an increasing skills gap crisis.

These are shaping not just the composition of facilities management teams but also how they work together and interact with their customers and suppliers.

Customer demand

In recent years, FMs have found their role broadening to encompass a wider variety of asset maintenance and management tasks.

What began as a refrigeration contract, might now have extended to lighting and communication networks too, as procurement teams demand more from their suppliers to make long-term contracts more viable.

Emerging technologies

The Internet of Things, industrial connectivity and remote monitoring are beginning to find their feet in the main stream, which means customers and FMs have better access to real-time data and performance analytics.

With such sophisticated monitoring equipment in place, FMs are learning to interpret highly accurate diagnostic data to improve the efficiency of their maintenance and replacement efforts.

Of course, the flip side of real-time data is that customers now expect their FMs to react much faster when an issue has been identified.

Reacting in real-time to an equipment performance issue can be an intensely stressful situation and to optimise the outcome, the front-line technician will need quick access to the right parts from a robust and highly reactive supply chain which uses lean accounting and administration procedures.

A skills gap crisis

Boomers are retiring at a rapid rate, forcing the sector towards an exponential skills gap crisis.

With technology shaping the way in which facilities management teams operate, the industry is focusing its recruitment efforts on attracting, training and nurturing the digital savvy millennials in order to secure future prosperity.

Many facilities management teams are seeking the comprehensive support of a single point of contact supply chain solution, to help alleviate the challenges associated with these three key trends.

But what is a SPOC Team and what can it do to help? Leading suppliers to the facilities management sector understand the changing requirements and increased pressures faced by specialists in today’s market.

As a result, industry-specific SPOC teams have been implemented to support companies through these changes and into a more digitised and reactive way of working.

In a nutshell, a SPOC team is a dedicated and highly-knowledgeable team of experts working within a merchant.

They are charged specifically with advising, supporting and processing the orders of FMs, arranging fast and accurate local collection or delivery of materials, as well as efficient management of invoices and account handling.

The overarching benefit to using a SPOC team rather than a conventional network of merchant branches is speed.

Having a dedicated team at the end of the phone, all with industry-specific knowledge, means reacting to customer emergencies or real-time monitoring of assets is considerably more achievable.

Any costs attributed to using such a team are offset against overheads saved by both the facilities management organisation and the customer.

For many advocates, SPOC teams are also a more engaging route of purchase and delivery management for field members, who have can have more influence in purchasing decisions, in line with the maintenance issue they are faced with.

In addition to greater involvement for the man on the ground, a well-established SPOC team will have set technical escalation pathways to accurately resolve a variety of procurement challenges, delivering the desired outcome far quicker than would be possible through the traditional in-branch or online routes.

Integrated ordering and accounts systems for a transparent supply system

Some FM-specific SPOC teams, like the one at Pipe and Climate Center, have the capacity to integrate their ordering and accounts systems within the systems used by their customers.

An integrated platform eliminates human error and optimises speed of service, allowing both the SPOC team and the customer to access the account and view orders quickly and easily, reducing manual administration costs.

Pipe and Climate Center is proud to support a number of customers with integrated and data transfer solutions.

The future of FM and SPOC supply chain teams

There is no doubt that the future success of any facilities management company and its supply chain lies with the uptake of technology and its ability to generate, analyse and use data to enhance business processes.

Until now, it has been the customers that have led the way in integrating remote or real-time asset monitoring equipment, but there is a real opportunity for FMs who can manage their business in real-time to drive competitive advantage.

With support from single point of contact-ready merchants, the facilities management companies must now continue to develop their supply chain, procurement and delivery processes in favour of working reactively.

This means leaner purchasing procedures, better industry-specific knowledge throughout the supply network and robust relationships between merchants and FMs.

A key area of investment for merchants working within the facilities management sector will be electronic proof of delivery, especially in the areas of rapid delivery times and just-in-time logistics.

It is widely accepted that perfecting this area of supply-chain communication would have a positive impact on FM workforce management, which in turn will result in further cost efficiencies.

If you are yet to make the switch to single point of contact supply chain management, speak with your preferred merchant about their offering in this area.

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