The FSI logo. UK

How to Effectively Manage Contractors in this unprecedented Digital Age

Facilities Management

06/04/20 | Rebecca Drewett

In the world of facilities management, contractors and suppliers are business critical cogs that keep building environments well-oiled and FM functions supported. In an article for PFM Magazine, our Business Strategy Director, Paul Bullard, talks about the latest release from FSI: Contractor.

The scope of contractor management has always been an ever-widening one, for both building managers and facilities management companies. But as health & safety, quality assurance, control and efficiencies continue to be front-and-centre priorities for many businesses, the way that contractors are managed needs to be addressed – and fast.

With many FM companies making the switch to CAFM/IWMS systems, the majority of helpdesk tasks and processes have become automated or digitised in some way. Yet, with contractor and supplier management, there can be both a manual and disconnected process.

As a business, can you honestly say that your supply chain is legally compliant? Or indeed, do you know which contractors are on site, that they have the correct permits and certifications to complete the work, and therefore whether their work is safe and compliant?

With Contractor from FSI, not only can you take control of your contractor management, but its integration with the Concept Evolution CAFM/IWMS solution ensures you have seamless end-to-end management of your supply chain.

Contractor gives you three core tools in one centralised system:

Gateway

A portal for contractors (the supply chain) to log into and view all tasks pushed through by FSI’s Concept Evolution CAFM/IWMS solution. Resources with correct permits and documentation can be assigned, and any of those missing up-to-date or compliant information can be reminded. Gateway provides a single place to view any discrepancies, manage contractors remotely and allow any new companies to register and upload all the details needed to ensure they are compliant

Kiosk

A central hub for all contractors and suppliers to sign in and out of. They can answer any pre-qualification questions, learn about risks associated with a task and view all the information they need to collate in order for their job to be considered completed. If there’s a requirement for a building manager to sign off on works, this will also be highlighted at the point of sign in. The software powering the kiosk is web-based, so the kiosk technically could be housed in any fixed device.

Relay

A web-based mobile application that can be accessed on a mobile device. Contractors can use the login once checked in via the Kiosk to complete any required checklists and upload photos as their task progresses.

Essentially what a system like this does is take a lot of the manual checking out of your hands, and gives contractors, facilities managers, building managers complete oversight of what’s expected and how it needs to be completed.

If you aren’t utilising Concept Evolution CAFM/IWMS to aid your facilities management, then you wouldn’t be able to use a platform like Contractor. But there are other things you can do to ensure the smooth-running of your day-to-day operations. While some may seem obvious, it’s always worth reviewing each of these points and considering what could be done to improve how they’re currently handled.

Make sure contractors know what’s expected

This is the most obvious point, but it’s first because it’s undoubtedly the most important. When a job is conveyed verbally and there’s no physical or digital audit trail, it opens up a range of issues. If you don’t have the infrastructure to keep this recorded on a digital platform, try to introduce checklists where suppliers have to sign off on particular parts of a job, and require them to sign that they understand the risks involved. This can be passed to the building manager upon leaving for them to digitise in any way they see fit.

Keep your contractor database up-to-date

If this isn’t part of someone’s remit already and is purely undertaken on an ad-hoc basis, it’s time to reconsider your process. Accountability is paramount in ensuring only compliant contractors are present on your database. If you have an administrator or similar on the team you can trust, introduce this as part of their role. In the absence of this person, a senior member of the team should take this on. Their responsibilities should also include sending reminders for updated permits and paperwork, as well as ensuring this is recorded sufficiently on your system or spreadsheet.

Ensure the security teams/building management follow the correct protocol

When a contractor becomes familiar with building security and managers, certain rules might not be followed because there’s a personal trust that has been built during the professional relationship. For example, being waved in without proper checks, or signing in but not being asked for the correct identification, could have major implications. Ensuring that not just contractors but those that will be greeting them are fully up-to-speed on correct working etiquette and procedures will be vital in order to not compromise security and the audit trail.

Create a single check-in point

If there’s no obvious wayfinding for sign in, it’s important that contractors are fully briefed on a check-in point prior to their arrival. If there are multiple check-in points for a single building, streamline this for all third-party suppliers. In larger facilities with various zones, you can allocate a single check-in point per area.

Ensure building managers sign off works

While you might not deem this necessary for smaller tasks, for those that have health & safety implications, affect other areas of a building or are being completed by a new contractor, it’s worth ensuring workers don’t leave the site until they have sign off or approval from the building manager. This not only ensures safety precautions have been taken, but also confirms the task has been performed correctly and to the expected standard.

Don’t be afraid to ask for progress updates

It’s not uncommon for contractors to turn up, do what they have been asked and leave without anyone knowing if and when they arrived, or what they completed. By having a process in place where they are required to detail the exact works completed PRIOR to submitting an invoice, it helps everyone understand exactly what the status of each task is. If you want pictures of completed works and greater detail, ensure this is outlined in your initial onboarding meeting.

And most important of all, keep the lights on in these unprecedented times…

Given the current climate, Contractor from FSI eliminates the requirement for the traditional face-to-face signing-in process. This allows authentication without the physical interaction. So, tasks get actioned, Contractors keep working, and buildings keep running.

These are just some of the many ways you can effectively manage your contractors (supply chain). The working practices identified here are incredibly important but can be time-consuming if the information and communication isn’t available online. If you are working with CAFM/IWMS as part of your operations, a platform such as Contractor from FSI will deliver this and more, while significantly reducing the administrative costs associated with your supply chain.

Click here for more on Contractor