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Mobile workforce management is set to drive cleaning sector SMEs forward

A recent review of the available accounts for 22 facilities management firms with operations in the UK, revealed that the average (EBITDA) margins has remained stagnant at around 7% during the last three years. In comparison, revenues grew at an average of 14% from last year.

The forecast came shortly before the collapse of the Support Services giant Carillion. The government has subsequently announced that it is to launch a £12bn tender for cleaning and maintenance services at schools, hospitals and in other public buildings. The move comes in the wake of Carillion's collapse and is part of the government's aim to give a third of public sector work to SMEs by 2020. SMEs within the FM sector will hugely benefit from using remote workforce management software when it comes to tendering to win more of these public sector contracts.

The digital work world that we live in has meant that the facilities management and cleaning environment has become highly competitive. With decreasing margins, service providers have had to adapt their proposition to deliver enhanced efficiencies as clients seek suppliers that offer better value for money, digital innovations and accurate management information and analytics. In addition, the facilities management sector, by its nature, is extremely fragmented due to the variety of services offered such as security, building and grounds maintenance and cleaning. We are seeing a high number of recent SMEs entrants, particularly focussed on cleaning, which has created even further pricing pressure.

Delivering a site-based facilities contract is costly and managing hundreds of remote workers on multiple sites can be a huge challenge. Mobile workforce management technology has been largely embraced by the UK FM sector as an essential aspect of business processes. Administration tasks such as payroll, budgeting, staff scheduling and analytics are all made less cumbersome by understanding where staff are, and for how long they are there. Inevitable client questions about the timing of their cleanings can be easily answered as clients benefit from real-time analytics which provide vital contract compliance verification.

Progression in technology is the driver of innovation that is facilitating a shift for cleaning contractors. The prevalence of new, cloud-based technologies such as workforce management software has made it significantly easier for FM service providers to manage teams of staff across multiple sites remotely whilst bringing cost savings, and adding to the bottom line.

Progression in technology is the driver of innovation that is facilitating a shift for contractors. The prevalence of new, cloud-based technologies such as workforce management software has made it significantly easier for FM service providers to manage teams of staff across multiple sites remotely whilst providing cost savings, and adding to the bottom line. Smart phone and mobile technology are delivering added value and more and more in-app communication tools are becoming available for mobile workforces to log completed tasks. This means that contract compliance checks can happen in real-time, remotely. Knowledge is power.

Cleaning providers employ large numbers of site-based workers and nowadays they have a need to provide proof of service provision to their own clients. There is a need for attendance verification and actual evidence of time spent at a client’s premises providing contracted services. The sector is also under increasing pressure to provide accountability for, and safeguarding remote workers. This, coupled with tighter service level agreements, means that ensuring that staff are on-site, as planned, is critical. Modern time and attendance technology enables operations managers to verify attendance, and eliminates the need for paper timesheets thereby streamlining payroll reporting. A massive reduction in the administrative burden of paper timesheets can result in substantial savings in payroll processing including the elimination of time sheet fraud, reduction in payroll overpayments, discrepancies, disputes and time spent on supervision.

Exciting IoT (Internet of Things) technological innovations, from smartwatches and other wearable technology to GPS-enabled shoes, will allow the concept of ‘Smart Facilities Management’ to become the standard. FM service providers using this workforce management technology will drive the sector forward by streamlining processes, encouraging higher levels of productivity and boosting long-term profitability. This technology that sits behind the scenes can make cleaning businesses win more contracts, make the mundane tasks automated, and the complex issues simple.

Having full, real-time visibility of staff attendance and punctuality is key. Time and attendance data can be captured using either a landline / mobile telephone or another workforce monitoring device. The data is then sent in real-time, so Managers can get a clear picture of what staff are where, and when, receive immediate alerts for late arrivals, no-shows and early leavers and act fast to minimise service disruption.

Remote worker technology helps with many health and safety and compliance issues; Working Time Directive compliance, insuring remote workers are kept safe and evidence that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are being met.

An integrated Workforce Management System will include scheduling, payroll and invoice reporting so that employees can be allocated, pay rates assigned and payroll extracts can be produced. Seamless integration to existing rostering and payroll systems means that tailored reports can be created quickly and easily. The technology significantly reduces potential for fraud and time-keeping disputes as it enables Payroll Managers to compare actual hours worked against planned hours, therefore significantly reducing the chance of over-payments.

The team at Ezitracker will be at the Manchester Cleaning Show on hand to demonstrate the value of the solution on stand A11.