by Ken Neal, Canon Business Process Services
Every business day, corporate environments across the country function like small cities. This includes integrating and managing the complex flow of materials and services such as warehouse and inventory management and specialty transport, as well as facilities support services. To effectively meet these integration and management challenges, companies and their service providers need to combine logistics best practices with enabling technology and facilities management services.
We refer to this combination of the right people, technology and services as “corporate campus logistics services.” It is essentially a specialized discipline that ensures the efficient flow of materials and people at large multi-building office campuses serving thousands of employees. Corporate campus logistics services are supported by efforts that span a wide range — coordinating the receipt and distribution of supplies, equipment and packages; safely transporting thousands of employees as well as suppliers and contractors to locations within the campus; and tracking and warehousing countless materials to support daily planned and unplanned workplace needs.
Survey Reveals Key Insights
Recently, we surveyed facilities management executives, asking them to share insights about the challenges and opportunities they encounter while trying to maintain and improve corporate support services spanning medium- to large-size companies. The majority of respondents work at organizations with more than 1,000 employees. The latter point is relevant because there is little available data on how organizations successfully deliver support services at large, multi-building corporate campuses with thousands of employees. Besides a special focus on larger companies, the survey report addresses another important topic: outsourcing. Due to the scale, complexity and special skills required to manage campus logistics services, outsourcing is often a key ingredient to success. New approaches to outsourcing are now available, a topic I will touch on later in this article.
First, let’s take a brief, high-level glimpse at three key findings highlighted in the survey report; results that may shed some light on the most important and challenging facilities management responsibilities your company is experiencing.
1) The tools, techniques and methods having the greatest impact.
Among the tools, techniques and methods available to them, executives indicated that facilities management applications have a moderate (31 percent) to high (61 percent) impact on their ability to improve support services. However, tools for tracking the delivery of supplies or services as well as Six Sigma improvement projects represent opportunities for some companies that may want to take action in these areas.
2) The managerial responsibility considered most “highly important.”
The managerial responsibility considered most “highly important” to the vast majority of executives (94 percent) is maintaining high customer satisfaction. A significant number of organizations that do not measure this critical key performance indicator might consider implementing a measurement strategy.
3) The managerial responsibility considered most “challenging.”
In the previous section, I pointed out that maintaining high customer satisfaction ranked tops in importance; it also ranked tops as being a challenging to very challenging (91 percent) part of delivering quality services.
Most Important and Challenging Responsibilities
I think it’s important to add a little extra context around points number two and three above, focused on what companies consider to be their most important and challenging responsibilities. As highlighted in the table below, the survey ranks 15 managerial and services-related activities in terms of their importance and the degree of challenge they present to delivering high-quality corporate support services. Maintaining high customer satisfaction tops the list as the most important and most challenging activity to oversee.
The six activities falling in the top quartile (75 to 100 percent) are all managerial and rank the highest in terms of being both important and challenging to manage. These activities include maintaining high customer satisfaction, maintaining the right staffing levels, compliance with safety and security procedures, reducing response time, staff retention and on-time delivery. Additionally, virtually all of the strategic/managerial responsibilities ranked higher in being important and challenging compared to the tactical/service-related activities.
However, it is significant to note that several services-related activities scored above or near 50 percent in being important and, to varying degrees, challenging to manage. These activities include office equipment management, tracking materials and supplies, warehouse/store room and inventory management and security for mail and package handling, closely followed by implementing/maintaining technology systems and shipping and receiving.
These findings suggest that some companies could benefit from assistance in the form of people, processes and technology to solve these services-related challenges. One strategy to obtain this assistance is to engage with an external services provider; particularly one that offers proven expertise in managing both strategic and tactical activities as many of these are seen as highly important and somewhat challenging to oversee. The right service provider is particularly important for supervising corporate campus logistics services, which present a high level of logistical complexity requiring the appropriate strategic skills, analytical systems and reporting capabilities to manage effectively.
A Changing Scenario for Outsourcing
What I defined earlier as corporate campus logistics management services comprise a more sophisticated discipline compared with traditional corporate support services and span site supply and demand planning; warehouse operations; inventory and materials handling and transportation and delivery. Coordinating all of these elements daily on a massive scale is a complex challenge.
To meet this challenge, organizations need to implement the right mix of in-house and outsourced services. For the latter, ideally companies would like to partner with one service provider that can manage diverse campus logistics services across sites, elevate performance metrics to reduce costs and improve service, and implement technology such as cloud-based warehouse management systems to advance operational efficiency. Until recently, there has been a gap in the market for managed services providers that offer the experience and resources to meet these and other campus logistics needs.
This scenario has changed. Now select vendors have the capability to bundle disparate logistics services and effectively manage them under one contract. This makes possible an outsourcing partnership that consistently provides the high-quality support services that large, well-run campuses require. Following is a brief case history example that illustrates the potential of such a partnership in solving some of the facilities management activities identified in this survey as highly important and challenging.
Case History Example
An energy company is completing the migration of thousands of employees to a new corporate environment. The company partnered with us to help it ensure a smooth implementation of vital corporate campus logistics services at the new location. Executives participating in this study identified safety compliance and fast, on-time delivery of goods and services as highly important and challenging to their organizations. These imperatives of safe, efficient and timely delivery were also among the top priorities for the energy company.
We are helping to meet these goals by efficiently managing the flow of most of the materials that move within the company’s campus and its buildings. This movement is facilitated by underground tunnels and pathways built to enable the successful, well organized receipt, inventory and distribution of materials, office equipment, supplies, mail and packages, all of which we record, warehouse and distribute to locations throughout the campus.
Survey respondents also specified that maintaining the right inventory levels is a highly important as well as a challenging activity. Again, this is also a priority for the energy company. To maximize warehouse operations and inventory levels, we implemented a cloud-based warehouse management system (WMS). The system is scalable; it can be rapidly expanded from tracking inventory for a small to a large number of warehouses and storage locations. We use the WMS to track the lifecycle of a considerable number of items including office supplies, paper and building stock items such as floor and ceiling tiles, light fixtures and furniture.
Based on our survey report findings, Lean and Six Sigma project management approaches represent an opportunity for many organizations. For the energy company, we are launching quality control and quality assurance programs that will track the performance of specific business processes according to service level agreements (SLAs). An example of one specific SLA is an agreed-upon time span for processing accountable mail pieces once their receipt has been recorded.
Success in the Days Ahead
Like the energy company, executives at other large corporate campuses face an array of demands. These include streamlining services under fewer suppliers and standardizing services across sites while maintaining customer satisfaction; ensuring compliance with safety and security procedures, providing meaningful reporting and analysis and more. Companies that are focused on meeting the challenges and leveraging the opportunities presented by these demands are in an excellent position to succeed in the days ahead.
Ken Neal is a fellow, corporate communications for Canon Business Process Services.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Workflow.