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Quick fix for brewery

28 October 2011

Streamlining maintenance across a multitude of micro-businesses, like pubs in the case of Young’s brewery, is not an obvious discipline. With technology at its fingertips, Young’s went about changing this.

Young’s Brewery is one of the UK’s leading chains of pubs and hotels. Originally founded as a brewery in 1831, Young’s produced beer at the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, South West London from the company’s inception until 2006, when the brewing operation was transferred to a new company, Wells & Young's Brewing Company Ltd., a joint venture with Charles Wells Brewery. Young’s retained a 40% stake in Wells & Young's until August 2011, when this was sold to Wells Brewery. Young’s is now an independent business responsible for the management and operation of the company’s network of over 230 pubs and hotels, the majority of which are located within greater London. In 2010, Young’s further expanded their business by acquiring the Geronimo Pubs chain, extending Young’s network of managed estate by 20% and adding another 26 pubs to the Young’s brand.

By their very nature, each of Young’s pubs houses a range of specialist equipment, such as pumping and refrigeration units, which must be well maintained in order to ensure the smooth running of the pubs. In the hospitality industry, it is essential that downtime is kept to a minimum as customer satisfaction is a high priority. Whether visiting their local pub to have a quiet drink, or meeting friends for dinner, customers have high expectations with regards to the level of service and the range of drinks and food on offer when they visit a Young’s pub. It is therefore essential that the facilities management function remains invisible, in order to avoid any impact upon the customer experience.

Each Young’s pub has its own on-site manager, as well as area managers who take responsibility for overseeing the performance of pubs across different geographic locations. Until 2009, management of reactive maintenance was the responsibility of the on-site manager. When a piece of equipment needed repair or replacement, the manager would telephone the relevant service provider, an engineer would be sent out to assess and fix the problem (making multiple visits where needed) and an invoice would be sent to Young’s head office for payment. Steve Browne, Property Maintenance Manager at Young’s explains: “The first that we knew about the contractor’s visit was when the bill for the maintenance work arrived. We had no means of cost control and the lack of systems made it difficult for us to improve our reactive maintenance processes and in turn tighten budgetary control.”

Automation and control
Driven by the need to more accurately control and forecast facilities expenditure, Young’s made the decision to establish a Facilities Helpdesk, based at the company’s head office in London, to centralise the management of reactive maintenance across their entire portfolio. This was to be supported by a new CAFM solution which would streamline and automate the job management process. The system selection process began in 2008, and as Steve explains, “It was essential that the systems we looked at offered the ability to enter details of jobs via the web, since a core part of our requirement was to allow the pub managers to record maintenance requests directly into the system, which could then be processed by the helpdesk team.”

Four potential technology partners were identified and this list was quickly narrowed down to two. Following vendor demonstrations and reference site visits, QFM from Service Works was selected by Young’s. “The other systems that we looked at simply did not offer the proven capability to support remote job logging on the scale required by Young’s. QFM was the only solution that we felt was robust enough to support our needs,” explained Browne.

QFM was installed in a phased approach, with the system being initially used to manage reactive maintenance for pubs within one geographic area, before being successfully rolled out across Young’s entire portfolio. Every site manager now has access to QFM, via the web, enabling them to log a job at any time of the day or night. Information is instantly updated within Young’s central QFM database, and the request is processed by Young’s helpdesk team, who assign the work to the most appropriate contractor. 

Contractor performance management

Young’s outsources maintenance tasks to different hard and soft FM service providers and those companies with whom they frequently work also have “contractor level” access to the QFM system, over the internet, allowing them to receive jobs and update progress from notification through to completion directly within QFM. The benefit of this is that high priority jobs can be actioned much faster, since the job details are updated in real-time. All maintenance requests have clearly defined rectification times, which are driven by the nature and severity of the problem. Jobs which could cause serious disruption for a pub, such as failure of cellar equipment or cooling systems, are flagged as high priority, and must be resolved within four hours, whilst less urgent tasks will have a rectification time of up to 24 hours.

“The nature of our business means that we have very busy periods, resulting in a sharp rise in maintenance requests, for example, a busy bank holiday weekend,” explains John Matthews, QFM Support and Maintenance Executive at Young’s Brewery. “Therefore the ability to quickly review open jobs and readily identify those that are approaching their deadline is essential.” In order to meet this need, Young’s takes advantage of QFM’s Event Director, a job escalation tool which centralises real time job information via one screen, using “traffic light” colour coding. Jobs that are approaching their deadline are highlighted in amber, and those that are overdue are highlighted in red, giving Young’s a snapshot view of open tasks and allowing intervention before deadlines are exceeded.

Young’s is now also starting to use QFM as a tool to review its service providers’ performance against contractual obligations. “QFM provides us with an accurate and clear picture of performance, demonstrating which of our contractors are delivering against SLAs.” said Browne. “From the contractor’s perspective, they have the ability to optimise the level of service delivered by having instant access to jobs as they are logged.”

In addition to controlling reactive maintenance, QFM functions as an asset register, storing details about the equipment located within Young’s pubs. Currently only higher value assets, such as air conditioning and cellar equipment, are recorded on the system, however this is being expanded to include smaller items. The QFM Property module is also used by Young’s Estates team to centralise property management data, such as landlord, tenancy and rates information. Young’s has plans to further expand its usage of QFM, as Browne explained: “Each year we take a look at what we plan to do next and how QFM can support this. As well as extending our use of QFM for asset management, we will also be starting to use the system to control planned preventative maintenance for all of our pubs.”

As Young’s takes on new staff, it is standard policy to provide new pub managers with an induction programme, including QFM training which is carried out by Young’s Facilities team, as John Matthews explained: “The system is very user friendly and the managers’ are able to get up and running quickly – this means that we are able to remain self sufficient as our business grows, without having to incur external training costs for new recruits.”

Reflecting upon how the introduction of QFM has allowed Young’s to streamline and improve its facilities management processes, Browne said: “QFM is very flexible and has adapted well to our specific needs. We now have a much greater audit trail of maintenance jobs. The management team can instantly see exactly how many calls our helpdesk has received over a specific period, for a given pub or area – with supporting detail. The system allows us to spot trends, for example we can understand which of our pubs have performed well against budget, and identify those that are underperforming – and we highlight this information to the area manager.”

The most notable benefit for Young’s has been in meeting its requirement for greater cost control, as Browne concluded: “QFM has given us the capability to fully manage the costs associated with each maintenance job, something that we could not do before. We now have much greater insight into facilities expenditure, and since we have been running QFM, we have come closer than ever before to maintaining our expenditure within budget.”

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