Associated Services Ltd

Associated Services (Essex) Ltd (ASEL) are part of the MJ Ferguson group and one of the UK’s leading mechanical and electrical contractors, providing a range of facilities management, building maintenance, installation, repair and compliance services to clients who include building owners and managers, and facilities managers nationwide.

ASEL has two key client-owned facilities management contracts with the Ministry of Justice and QBE Insurance,
both of which are supported by FSI’s Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) platform Concept™ .

On behalf of the Ministry of Justice, ASEL maintains nine buildings in London and a further eight regional offices,
who are serviced by a mobile team. Since 2008, handheld technology has played a key role in the delivery of Planned Maintenance and Help Desk services: engineers at each site have a PDA to access Concept™, allowing them to react quickly to task requests.

In 2010, the company announced that it had secured a five-year facilities services contract with QBE Insurance, an agreement that also absorbed the existing ASEL maintenance services provision contract. The new contract is managed by Account Manager Tony Knight at QBE’s London offices in the heart of the city and, Tony explains, ASEL’s successful experience with Concept™ at the Ministry of Justice has been an important influence in driving the benefits of the system to the heart of QBE’s business.

QBE had already invested in Concept™, after searching for a platform that would allow it to upgrade its facilities management operation from largely manual systems and processes. QBE then asked ASEL to help set up its helpdesk operations as well as the building assets on the system and integrate the platform with its business processes.

Implementation took place from August to December 2009. As Tony says, it was an exacting process, designed to make sure the system was completely ready and aligned with QBE’s business before going live. A big bang approach was never on the cards as QBE was keen on evolution rather than revolution.

“We were already heavily involved with QBE, with the hard services maintenance provision, so we had some understanding of the client’s business processes and requirements,” he says.

“But we had to get to the heart of the day to day business to fully understand not only what the initial requirements were but to also understand what form the output information should take. We then had to define process maps for each individual task – and there are more than 80 – ranging from hot and cold calls to requests for security passes. We had to get right down to the detail of what QBE does and work out how to integrate those processes with Concept™. We had to make sure that everything was dotted and crossed before we crossed over to the live platform, rather than jumping straight in with a monster system that would be difficult to grasp and manage from ‘day one’”

The Challenge
QBE Insurance has three sites in London, as well as premises in Chelmsford where the QBE European Operations data centre is located and eight regional sites including Glasgow and Norwich. The biggest challenge, says Tony, was grouping the mass of process and task mapping information from the regions into a meaningful structure that would work within Concept™, allowing the best use of the Planned Maintenance and Help Desk modules.

“Previously, QBE had utilised manual Planned Maintenance systems,” he says. “Maintenance tasks were issued from a manual planner. We had to work with our contract managers, devising a common template so that they could load their own assets in a uniform way rather than according to their individual perceptions of a task.

“It was a question of combining our data know-how – taking the Ministry of Justice system as the model – and getting right into QBE’s operation so that we could fully understand what the business needed.”

As Tony says, the biggest knowledge gap concerned the FM processes themselves. Service Level Agreements and cleaning up processes had to be defined for the system so that the Help Desk could be properly specified.

“In the end, it came down to effective communication,” he says. “Because we simply didn’t know how a lot of the processes worked, we sat down in a room with our QBE colleagues and a flip chart, and mapped each process out, starting each one with the basic question: what do we do when a customer calls?”

The implementation process was intense and painstaking. “We wanted to keep everything low key, and make the introduction of the system as much of a natural progression as possible,” says Tony. Both ASEL and QBE had agreed that the first step would be the PEMS module as it would be from this that the rest of the implementation programme would be driven. Once all the building information had been reviewed and loaded to the PEMS module, we set to work in structuring the helpdesk initially. This proved invaluable as QBE now held all of their building portfolio information in one central location.

The helpdesk went live in January 2010, when all the operators received training. The helpdesk operators also received training and an overview of the process maps that we had published. This assisted greatly in getting them to understand the fundamental aspects of how the helpdesk should operate. The PPM module went live the following August once all the building assets had been loaded and sense checked.

“It has been very much a gentle approach, getting each module operating exactly how we want it to before we move on to the next stage,” says Tony.

“Our relationship with FSI has been an important aspect of the project. I’ve been involved with Concept™ for a number of years and the relationship between all the parties has been very good. FSI have always responded to any problems, however minor, quickly and efficiently. You’ll get an answer to any questions the same day. And their help was invaluable in getting the implementation of the system ready.”

The Benefits
The combination of data compiled by Concept™ and feedback from the system users points to a significant improvement in call resolution times at QBE, according to Tony.

“There was initially some resistance, which is typical when you introduce a new system, but Concept™ is very easy to use and we’re flying with it now. We’ve now got clear guidance on what’s expected of it,” he says. “The end-user doesn’t care about the system as such – they just want their call dealt with correctly and in a timely way.

“We now have meaningful data and we’ve seen a step change in the level and quality of call completion”

In fact, at the time of writing, the Help Desk was hitting all its targets on a monthly basis – no mean feat in the demanding world of facilities management. Now, ASEL is helping QBE look to the future with the possibility of implementing Concept™ on handheld devices and exploiting the system’s web portal potential.

“We’re building it up slowly but surely,” says Tony. “We’ve already demonstrated how effectively the handheld implementation works at the Ministry of Justice, where the environmental benefits have been tremendous: an astronomical number – more than 2,000 – of assets are assigned PPM tasks each week, and pre-mobile Concept™ that meant reams of paper was consumed.

“QBE has seen the whole thing in operation and I’m sure there are lots of benefits still to come from the Concept™ platform.”