'FM is not a commodity', buyers told

1 March 2012

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1 March 2012 | Rebecca Ellinor

Procurement should consider the people behind the facilities management (FM) goods and services they buy, according to participants at a roundtable debate in London this week.

Speaking at the debate set up jointly between SM and sister publication FM World in association with Office Depot, Les O’Gorman, associate director of facilities management at UCB, said: “FM is a people-driven business and not a commodity, you need to get procurement to understand this and your business early on in the process so when you come to put a specification together, they get it.”

Jeremy Waud, managing director of Incentive FM, agreed. “It’s not a widget, it’s a people thing,” he said. “If you get the strategy and scope right and buy-in from the client, you’re set. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t, and it ends in conflict.”

Lucy Jeynes, managing director of Larch Consulting, said FM services are complex and “not commodities or body-shops”, and Susan Scott-Parker, CEO of the Employers’ Forum on Disability, added: “If both parties better understood the human beings who as ‘end users’ ultimately determine if it’s working, we would all be in a better place.”

FM and procurement professionals took part in the debate that examined how the two disciplines could work together more effectively. Trust, mutual respect and an understanding of what each does are vital, according to John Bowen, who started as a buyer and now works as an FM consultant. And Jason Cousins, premises and facilities director at Olswang, agreed that a better, more trusting relationship was key.

Mark Hurst, head of the FM division at Office Depot, said communication is essential. And Martyn Sherrington, head of procurement and supply chain management at SGP Property and Facilities Management, agreed the two parties needed to talk more. Peter Titus, director of DCT Facilities Management, said that listening and getting the specification right was also essential. 

Emily Hill, senior category manager at Dixons Retail, said more data-driven analysis is required to understand the root cause of failure. “This will take the emotion out of particular issues and help to build improved solutions,” she said.

Matthew Smith, head of procurement at Office Depot, said: “If you get a shared understanding and goal alignment it should be a marriage made in heaven.”

While, Andrew Quinn, director of purchasing and facilities at SCEE (Sony PlayStation), said getting the organisation structure and set-up right so procurement and FMs work alongside one another really helps.

A longer write-up of the debate will appear in the April issue of SM

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