The facilities management firm’s approach to tech has proved a winner, as its mySUPPLIER platform wins praise from the CIPS judges as well as its users
Witnessing first hand the difficulties CBRE staff had in finding local contractors for a new site in Aberdeen spurred the development of the purpose-built mySUPPLIER online platform, which won CBRE this year’s CIPS Supply Management Most Innovative Use of Technology award.
CBRE is a global property firm, offering facilities management services for over 5.2 billion square feet of managed property in over 100 countries. Its supplier portal should have shared local supplier information, but the user licences had all been used up, leaving the CBRE team high and dry. “We needed to do something better,” says Anna Williams, EMEA supplier engagement director.
They wanted a simple platform that could be used without training and by unlimited users, so the licensing model didn’t work, explains Rachel Lee, vice president of global supply chain transformation.
The team looked at online businesses such as TripAdvisor, Amazon and LinkedIn, and picked out the Amazon 5-star rating of suppliers to help guide selection, and the LinkedIn-style basic free service with a fee for enhanced functionality.
They searched for a suitable system and found nothing, so when OCG Software, a small developer, offered to build whatever they wanted, they signed up for a prototype.
A key ask was a way to improve management of suppliers of high-risk categories like gas and high-voltage electricity, which must comply with the many and varied national legal requirements. Gaining better visibility of these suppliers would also allow CBRE to limit only compliant suppliers to quote for business to its clients.
“Ease of use was the key driver,” says Lee. “A facilities manager running a building in Bristol needs to be able to search for an air conditioning system, for example, and get quotes for the work.” On mySUPPLIER, the quotes are ordered by user ratings, and the manager can go ahead and make the purchase, she says.
Suppliers need register only once, and supplier competence and visibility is much improved. This is important, says Lee, pointing to a fatal accident in India that resulted from a competitor’s subcontractor doing illegal drainwork. “The new system has changed our ability to be confident that we are managing local suppliers,” she says.
Part-way through the development, the team was thrown a curveball when a company merger meant that the platform would need to cater for legislation and languages for every country in the EMEA region. OCG Software was able to expand the product, and the platform was rolled out.
Not everyone would have the confidence to take on such a small company for a project of this size, but Lee and Williams believed in OCG. “It was partly their attitude; there were many setbacks and they never let them get in the way,” says Williams. Procurement still had to sell it to the wider business. “There were relentless discussions and audits. Our IT department threw everything at them,” she says. “But they never said this is too much.”
Mice work if you can get it
Like LinkedIn, mySUPPLIER works for free, and an enhanced service is available to those who pay a £250 annual fee. This gives access to services such as QuickQuote, and the Innovation Centre, where more than 200 innovations have been submitted and presented to clients since launch, generating an estimated £1,123,000 a year. One that has been taken up is Rentokil Initial’s wireless system to remotely monitor pest control. Pest Connect is a 24/7 ‘burglar alarm’ for mice, says Williams, and has won humane awards from animal cruelty organisations and CBRE’s Great Ideas Innovation of the year. It was launched on the mySUPPLIER platform and is now live on one of CBRE’s client sites, she adds. Not only does it protect buildings remotely, it is a fast-acting and humane way to get rid of pests. “It is a brilliant invention,” says Williams.