Outsourcing non-core activities used to be seen by multinational companies as simply a way to save money. This is no longer the case, writes Phil Gregory, senior regional executive Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions: MEA. 
Today, leading companies appoint outsourcing providers as part of a deliberate business strategy to have specialist partners bring value in their non-core functions, while they focus their investment and resources on their core business.
In terms of facility management (FM), outsourcing is increasingly seen as a strategy to provide the most efficient and effective working environment to help the organisation’s people and the core business perform better.
Depending on the business, this might be about ensuring that a production line is kept running at full capacity, a critical data centre is kept operating 24/7, a research and development laboratory complies with legislation, or that a customer visiting a shop has an experience that is worthy of a brand.
However, as the industry globalises and matures, a real opportunity exists for multinationals to take advantage of the data that global FM companies can provide.
Many FM outsourcing partnerships are now in their third decade. Over this time, companies have moved from looking at outsourcing FM on a country-by-country basis to the current position, where increasingly companies are seeking providers who can provide FM solutions on a pan-continental and global basis. There are a number of reasons for this.
As organisations have sought more efficiency on their non-core areas, they have consolidated their supply chain and removed the internal cost of managing and processing multiple vendors. Also, as business has become more global and companies have moved to international operating structures, the value of the consistent service that a single supplier can deliver has become much more important.
Companies increasingly want to know that their buildings are operated to consistent quality standards, regardless of whether they are in Boston, Berlin, Beijing – or Africa.
This drive for greater efficiency and effectiveness has of course been fuelled by the global economic challenges of the last few years. This has caused many companies to take a much more aggressive look at their business models and has led to significant expansion in FM outsourcing.
However, the trend to appoint fewer or single suppliers is also driven by the need for standardised performance data. In order to make that jump to the next level of efficiency, companies need to have consistent data about their buildings’ performance. The ability to collect and analyse this data will become more important to multinationals, as it allows them to identify hidden opportunities for improvement.
As the industry has globalised, expectations have increased regarding suppliers’ capability to deliver and measure performance data consistently everywhere they operate.
The new generation of cloud-based data platforms, which receive building information from multiple sources including building management systems, energy meters and security systems, will allow FM providers to support their customers’ core business in new ways.
Information from a multinational’s entire building portfolio will be collected, analysed and used to benefit the core business in ways that were not previously possible. For example, this data could be used to discover that a particular maintenance regime reduced production costs at a manufacturing facility, which could then be introduced globally.
Similarly, such data could uncover that a pharmaceutical company was using too much energy for a laboratory process at one of its sites compared to other locations in its global portfolio.
This requirement for consistent global processes, data management and analytics to support the customer’s core business will be one of the main features of the global FM industry in the future.