When I was asked to write an article on the current situation in the market for FM services with a focus on the benefits and the very essence of facility management in the Czech market, I decided to take up the challenge from the diametric side, and, at least in the first part, to write about the negative impact of the current trends," says Václav Soukup, director of FM.
The market situation is acute due to the influence of "pseudo-FM companies" whose approach is not always solid and professional, this devalues the worth of high-quality and professional facility management and, generally, the services included in the gamut of facility management.
Often during selection procedures, competitive price quotations and unfortunately sometimes even in the case of contracts already signed, we meet with absolute minimum requirements on quality, professionalism, the execution of the work necessary in connection to the legislative requirements - and, unfortunately, sometimes even gambling with the client’s property. This, in my opinion, reprehensible under-estimation of the needs in order to ensure the full, and, above all, safe operation of the property and equipment entrusted is a result of attempts to achieve the minimum price, which, in these demanding times, is usually the only decisive criterion for acquiring a new client or keeping existing contracts.
I fully understand and subscribe to the necessity and the need for healthy competition. I agree with minimizing monopolistic contracts and the need to putting in as much time and effort as possible to gain and/or keep a client. But at the same time, I have to ask, where is the border between healthy competition and a hazardous duel between companies that, to tell the truth, often don’t deserve to be labelled a FM company or a company engaged in property management?
For the most part we see the error in the client’s lack of awareness about the potential risks, damages and, not least, the penalties, which can be imposed by the state and the authorities. In my career I myself have met with cases where the client propounded autonomy insofar as sophisticated technologies, such as stable fire-extinguishing equipment (SFE), including regular checks and tests. It goes without saying that these checks must be carried out with the assistance of a qualified and fully trained person with a focus on fire safety. More specifically, in this case, the client’s "plan" was that testing and inspections would be carried out by their internal IT administrator, during his working time ... My bewilderment was compounded by the fact that the client did not abandon the idea even after listing all of the above risks, not even after warning them that without a regular service inspection and a qualified operator the manufacturer’s guarantee, coming to several million crowns, is immediately invalid. I finally managed to convince the client on the basis of the need to be on-call at night and weekends. Their IT staff flatly refused to work during the weekend.
As a further negative trend I see the employment of inexperienced or, in the worst case, all too aggressive or ambitious managers in positions of control and tendering by the client. It is very dangerous when a newly appointed manager tries to minimize costs, and, in an effort to accommodate company requirements to reduce the budget, limits or even stops servicing and inspecting the technology or halts preventive measures. Unfortunately this dangerous behavior is seen by the building’s (facility) owner, at least in the first few months, as very positive and with a sense of hefty savings the devastating consequences for the equipment, the loss of guarantees, and the complete absence of any preventive operations are ignored. It goes without saying that the damage comes to the surface after the passing of a certain period of time, often requiring much higher amounts for repairs and reinstating the damaged equipment. This is exactly the moment when the client will understand and suffer the effects of the decision to entrust the activities to an insufficiently qualified employee, or even supplier. What is sad about the whole affair is that this "manager", after ending his/her employment at the damaged company, generally gains immediate employment elsewhere and starts building another "glittering," but mainly destructive, career ...
Unfortunately, as suppliers, we cannot do anything against this trend; the only thing we can do is develop the maximum effort to inform and make the client’s representatives aware of the issues and risks of facility management. Unfortunately, more and more often we encounter facility management, with all the demands, importance and issues it entails, being offered only as a sort of added value or bonus in the case of submitting quotes and organizing selection procedures. Often the price for FM is well below the costs for fully-trained personnel and the necessary equipment; this is simply so the contractor obtains not just the FM but also other parts of the contract, such as gardening services, cleaning, security, etc. This is a highly dangerous gambit, especially in the case of under-estimating the technical administration, emergency readiness, activities related to fire safety and HSE and ensuring review and control activities. At ATALIAN we cannot permit ourselves to be content with this.
One of the main objectives of ATALIAN for the following years is to fight against these ills and their negative effects on high-quality facility management. Another aim is to return importance and professionalism to all basic facility management activities.
This is undoubtedly a huge challenge and an extremely difficult and complex struggle. Nevertheless, I’m sure that on the Czech market there are lots more strong and robust FM providers that identify with this challenge and, just as with ATALIAN, they refuse to fall to the level of a supplier of low-cost services. I want to believe that this challenge can be taken to a successful conclusion with the help of a strong and stable company, which ATALIAN undoubtedly is.
A company, which has its own network of service centers throughout the republic, that has high-quality and trained personnel, its own modern technology and long-term experience from all sectors and with all facility management processes. I want to believe that for the customer, in contrast to the frequently unskilled local "subcontractors", there is a much more suitable offer from a stable and trained employee, one who is part of a company that guarantees the work carried out through its good name. I want to believe that the security in the form of a comprehensively insured contract, a high quality and well-equipped vehicle fleet, the co-production and management of individual professions is more favorable for the customer than the promise of free transport from a Czech jack-of-all-trades with a pickup truck and a stamp. Indeed the very nature of facility management is based on the merging and improvement of secondary, if you will, support processes, which are designed to give the client the best possible conditions for good results in their line of business.
And what better for the client than safe facilities, fully functional technology and the knowledge that their property and equipment is taken care of with the maximum of effort and care?
Václav Soukup, director FM