UMS secures Western Sydney Parklands Trust Contract

Regarded as one of New South Wales premier parklands, The Western Sydney Parklands Trust recently selected UMS as the successful provider of Landscape and Facilities Maintenance Services.

Set in the heart of Western Sydney, The Western Sydney Parklands contain world class sporting facilities, popular picnic areas, a full length cycle/walking track and native bushland. Covering 5,280 hectares, the Parklands stretch 27 kilometres from Quakers Hill to Leppington and are twenty five times the size of Centennial Park.

As part of the requirements UMS will provide turf and lawn maintenance, facilities, barbeque and grounds cleaning and graffiti management services for the next three years.

UMS is responsible for the maintenance of over 600 hectares of high visitation parkland, which includes the five main park precincts, as well as maintaining and upgrading 27 kilometres of Parkland Tracks and fire trails.

Speaking on behalf of the successful contract team, Urban Maintenance Systems’ Chief Executive Officer David Probert said “We are really looking forward to being part of the new developments at the Parklands. Our services are provided within a highly professional operational and management structure to ensure landscapes are protected and enhanced”.

Over the past ten years UMS has maintained the Parklands for the Trust, with the latest contract win testament to the quality service delivery of the UMS contract team.

The partnership between Western Sydney Parklands Trust and UMS is a great example of how our broader experience and professionalism in open space maintenance is being utilised to assist in the management of Parkland assets.

Top marks for Yarra City Council in Open Space Survey

Yarra City Council has scored top marks in the 2012 Benchmark Park User Satisfaction Survey conducted by Integrated Open Space Services (IOSS).

The survey obtains information about park users and park usage including user’s requirements for a facility / service provision and measures satisfaction with park maintenance.

Over the past five years UMS has maintained the public parklands of Yarra, with the latest result in the IOSS survey testament to Yarra City Council’s commitment to deliver quality parkland assets for the community.

The survey scored Yarra City Council over 8 out of 10 in almost all the maintenance areas UMS is responsible for, including high scores for playgrounds, sportsgrounds and mowing. This contributed to an overall score of 8 out of 10 for all of Yarra’s park maintenance areas, with UMS responsible for 17 out of 24 maintenance areas surveyed. This result places the Yarra City Council in sixth place out of nineteen councils in Victoria.

Together, Yarra City Council and UMS successfully deliver a range of services to ensure parkland assets within the municipality are maintained to a high standard and enhanced.

5 Steps to a successful FM outsourcing strategy

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Managing a diverse and ageing property portfolio within a tight budget is a challenging task. Surprises are the last thing you need. The usual questions that come up are: what assets do I have, what condition are they in, how must they perform, how much money do I need/have, and who will I get to deliver the FM services?

But, somehow, things still don’t go according to the plan. What could be missing? We need to look beyond just the physical assets and ask some other questions. Let’s look at the five most important, and sometimes omitted, things to consider.

Question 1: Have I adequately engaged and aligned all of my stakeholders in the process?

It is easy to think that we are in the business of managing buildings, but we aren’t. We are in the business of managing the needs and expectations of the people who use the buildings. Unless included in the process, people can undo any well-constructed FM strategy.

Who stands to gain or lose in the process?

Advocates and proponents of any FM strategy have their own reputations at stake, so it is in their interest too to ensure that new systems and providers don’t fail. This ensures new strategies receive a fair go, but can also mean that poor strategies are defended for reputational protection alone until untenable and unrepairable. We also need to consider and manage those who find that the new strategy directly threatens their current or future career, particularly if they were not given an opportunity to contribute to the plan.

Don’t underestimate the value of delivering the small stuff

It must be remembered that a majority of a building’s users are primarily concerned about the functionality of their building and how any change impacts on their immediate needs. A cut in the low-priority maintenance work such as lights, furniture, broken toilet fixtures and air-conditioning, while a reasonable strategy for short-term budget constraints, will be hard for the occupiers to understand when there are extensive refurbishment works happening on the floor below.

Facilitate visibility of progress and seek a common vision for success

FM operates in a dichotomy. People expect assets to work all of the time despite many items operating via a legitimate run-to-fail strategy. Unfortunately, an understanding of asset failure doesn’t equate to a tolerance of it.

Keeping everyone on board depends on effectively communicating the strategy, demonstrating what success looks like and being able to measure progress. The current trend toward improved real-time access for job logging and status has assisted in better monitoring FM performance and will go a long way to better expectation management, but communication will never counter impressions of poor performance or dictate how success is measured. People will have their own benchmarks and perceptions of whether a strategy is working or not, but these perceptions can only be addressed by having some common, agreed metrics.

Question 2: Am I achieving maximum value?

Cost versus price

When all else appears even, the last differentiator is price. However, price is not the same as cost. Price is the amount of money paid to providers and suppliers. Cost is a combination of price and the internal cost of managing and administering the contract service delivery. Failure to adequately dismantle internal structures, develop integration with suppliers or ensure that ongoing management of strategy implementation is minimised are all sources of increased cost for the principal, not the provider. A good measure to assess best value or lowest cost to deliver an agreed outcome is to determine the amount of the principal internal participation remaining. If it is high, the principal isn’t getting the best deal possible, no matter how low the price.

Cooperation between teams and providers

The separation of service delivery into individual service streams is still very common, even to the point of some principals actively discouraging service providers from cooperating. Whether done in the belief of preserving governance or a fear of relinquishing of control, such situations are explicit examples of opportunities lost. Combining activities across different disciplines can ensure minimum disruption, less rework and, most importantly, minimum downtime. Teams can also provide early warnings to alert each other of actual or potential failure.

Control and accountability

There are two important issues to consider here. First, asset health custodianship – determining clear accountability for FM assets and how the strategy is to be implemented is essential where the occupier is not the owner. Second, is the process itself. Each time a task gets handed off to another party there is a risk of delay or disruption in continuity, transpositional and translational errors or costs incurred in terms of delays or inconsistent priorities.

Question 3: Is the scope of my FM strategy wide enough to be effective?

Capturing total asset life cycle cost and performance

Recent interest in building energy optimisation has highlighted the challenge of establishing the right balance between retrofit, repurposing and maintenance programs. Assessment of green-based improvements is forcing FM practitioners to better evaluate total asset life cycle costs across component factors, which may not have traditionally fallen within one area of responsibility. Managing total asset healthcare – including operating costs of energy, depreciated cost, maintenance and replacement – creates an opportunity to holistically manage operations, reduce net asset life cycle cost and to better plan funding and expenses.

Who looks after the cracks?

There are divisions in FM responsibilities across different geographic zones – maintenance, service streams and components. It is important to divide these responsibilities to improve effective implementation.

What about the new stuff? Looking over the horizon

A complete FM strategy has to consider current assets as well as the assets likely to appear in the future. Understanding not only who will take responsibility for these assets, but also where the funding will come from to maintain them, can be a problem. This is particularly the case when the cost of getting a new building does not include the ongoing maintenance costs; for example, in some mining towns, once the main operation moves on, the infrastructure is bequeathed to the town. Unfortunately, the cost of running such large buildings doesn’t come with it. Another problem is when a new facility, while an architect’s fantasy, has not considered the maintenance process. It is important to consider maintenance issues when designing or acquiring an existing building.

Question 4: Is my procurement process helping or hindering my strategic goals?

Who is running the process?

While the procurement process needs to run a structured, independent assessment process, it cannot be successful when it is removed from the owners and implementers of the actual FM strategy. The drive to comply with governance and policy while struggling to achieve meaningful comparative metrics and provide protection and advantage to the principal, particularly in the government sector, can result in a tender process, which is not only complex but in some cases cannot actually be delivered. Procurement should be the cooperative enabling of a desired outcome by the FM strategy owner, not an abdication of a process to be picked up again once the shortlist is delivered after an Expression of Interest (EOI), because by then it may be too late.

Do I really need that? And can it be delivered within my budget?

When designing an FM strategy and implementation plan, it is vital to do a hard assessment of the whole scope before starting the procurement process, in order to overcome over-specification of service levels or standards. Even idealistic FM strategies can fail if the scope of the assessment was not comprehensive in the first place. This can result in clumsy reconfigurations, which don’t deliver the core items adequately and hence cause a problem in the long run.

Evaluating the soft stuff early in the process

People are a pivotal consideration in a successful FM strategy, but this is not limited to the owners and occupiers of buildings. The relationships developed between all parties including those between suppliers and providers and the principal are essential. But often it is not until a relationship has begun to sour that closer attention is given to this area. As a result, there can be breakdowns in outsourced service contracts owing to the divergent values and expectations of those involved. It is important to assess risk management via joint interviews of future key roles and to mandate minimum periods for nominated staff to avoid potential breakdown in relationship.

In for the long haul or not?

Getting an outsourcing provider to effectively invest in a customer’s business fully and thus deliver maximum value back to the principal needs a quid pro quo of security and the ability to achieve payback on that investment. Contracts of five individual year options will not gain the same investment or commitment as a single five-year contract.

Question 5: Have I created a self-learning FM structure and strategy?

Planning for contract evolution 

One of the greatest challenges facing procurement is how to make sense out of disparate value propositions. We recognise that the delivery of services in terms of standard and efficiency are never static or consistent over the contract term, but we rarely see an allowance for evolution of an FM contract being built in to the original scope. The attainment of efficiencies, economies of learning, scale and system refinement are rarely captured or reported adequately – clearly, a missed opportunity for both parties.

Consideration should also be given for penalties or abatements that commence at the start of a contract, at a time when such efficiencies and the ability to best manage high performance is at their lowest. However, as it is in no one’s interest for a contract to fail in the early days of inception, provision for higher standard key performance indicators (KPIs) and, if necessary, abatements, should be gradually introduced over the life of the contract.

Encouraging adaptation and innovation

Contribution from the collective intelligence and experience of all stakeholders in the FM process should be actively encouraged. If there is one key reason for outsourcing other than the delegation of a non-core function, it is to capture the collective wisdom and experience of a specialist provider. The problem is, are both organisations structured and culturally prepared in order to implement any adaptations and innovations presented? Calls for better value from the FM provider in the contract need to be matched with systems to evaluate and implement any ideas or else the innovations will inevitably dry up.

Harnessing technology

New and more powerful FM software is creating the long awaited tie between asset condition, maintenance, performance and life cycle assessment. Today, mobility, total transparency, real-time access to job status, asset performance and building operating parameters are at the touch of a button. But beware: technology is only as smart as we allow it to be. A poorly set up or dated building management system can result in a considerable energy (and, as a result, financial) loss.

Using current asset data capture to enable future strategic decision-making

It has been reported that many buildings could immediately achieve an initial Green Star rating simply by starting to measure the existing building performance. Similarly, building owners may not even be aware of the available data that had been collected previously. Analyse the data you have already collected over the years; it may assist in helping to shape future FM strategies for your buildings.

Delivering a successful FM strategy goes well beyond the operational aspects of maintaining the physical assets. Relationships, contract structure, communications and planning for future change are all essential. There are, of course, more potential questions than just these five, but even if you only address these, your chances of success will have already been enhanced.

Bret Butler is Urban Maintenance Systems Pty Ltd’s executive manager of building services.

Reducing our environmental footprint

Urban Maintenance Systems, through our ZERO Harm Program and Sustainability Policy has made a commitment to minimising our impact on the environment.

As a business we are achieving this by better understanding the impact of our operations and working to reduce our environmental footprint.

Recent UMS initiatives include incorporating the assessment of potential impact into our pre-job start checks; alternative product sourcing; paint recycling; mercury tube recycling; LED beacon lights; power switch sensor lights; hot water timers; ‘fit for purpose’ vehicles and low CO2 vehicle procurement.

Often the hardest step to take in achieving progress in reducing environmental impact is to start measuring current use and testing alternatives.

UMS has tackled this through the formation of the Sustainability Committee with cross functional representation, reporting on vehicle CO2 emissions on a monthly basis, conducting a business-wide survey of sustainability related practices and trialling alternative, lower impact printing and copying consumables.

The information from these initiatives has now led to the development of a formal reduction program to be implemented across the business in operations, procurement and corporate support functions.

Our aim in implementing these initiatives is to encourage better practices within our business and to be able to pass on our experiences and be better positioned to actively participate in and contribute to the environmental and sustainability programs run by the customers and communities we serve.

These in turn promise to deliver a range of benefits to asset owners including operational cost reduction – particularly in energy consumption, optimised asset life cycle cost, minimised downtime, increased asset utility, greater end-customer satisfaction and a net reduced total carbon footprint.

UMS Supports World Environment Day

As part of our commitment to ensuring a sustainable environment for generations to come, we will be supporting World Environment Day by participating in Planet Ark’s National Schools Tree Day on Friday July 26th.

To show our support and commitment to the environment, UMS will be donating trees and time by providing one tube stock native tree and mulch for every UMS employee to a local school.

UMS employees will assist the kids and teachers plant and mulch the trees at each selected school.  UMS is proud to be supporting these two great environmental awareness initiatives.

Thanks for a job well done!

It’s great to see so many in our team going above and beyond to help our customers. These customer compliments are testimony to the great work of so many valued UMS employees.

“Thank you for your prompt response to arranging the erecting of the Councillor Photo Board at Malvern. It looks great.”

Judy Hogan, Civic Support Officer, City of Stonnington

“I do not know what I would do without you guys. Your team are always accessible and a great source of help. You go that extra mile.”

Manny Spiteri, Director & Facility Manager, Caitlin’s Retreat

“What a wonderful improvement! Our store staff have already reported on how pleased they are with the results, and so am I.”

Erika Lambert, National Retail Operations Manager, Florsheim Australia

“Thank you for the awesome new kitchen, the work crew did a fantastic job and were very professional and friendly. Looks fantastic.”

Maree Raftery, Administration Officer, Cardinia Shire Council

“Thanks to the UMS team for your help with our big move. Everything went very smoothly and the positive attitude and willingness to assist displayed by your staff was noted and appreciated by all involved.”

Daniel Noar, Coordinator Customer Service Lilydale, Yarra Ranges Shire Council

“Thank you for organising the door repairs so promptly – the man who came fixed both problems quickly. We do appreciate the service.”

Edith May, Workshop Manager, Firestation Print Studio

“The individual input of your team was integral in achieving a successful outcome at the 2013 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix. Please pass on our thanks to all those within your organisation who worked so hard in delivering the event. We look forward to working with you again in the future.”

Ashley Davies, General Manager – Operations, Australian Grand Prix Corporation

“The SaferSpeeds project has been successfully rolled out on the Shire’s roads thanks to UMS and your team. To achieve the installation of this large signage project with approx.. 380 signs including 40 Area Speed limit and the 80/90 km/h signs over a large part of the Shire by the required deadlines has been an essential to efficiently implement the changes for the regulatory requirements. Well done.”

Doug Bradbrook, Traffic & Road Safety Strategist, Mornington Peninsula Shire

“Thanks for doing this at short notice, you have done a great job as usual. Your efforts are very much appreciated, well done.”

Bob Mason, Executive Officer – Facilities Management, Yarra Ranges Council

“I would like to thank you very much for all the help and support you gave us yesterday during the power loss and recovery period. Your assistance with the baggage system was so very much appreciated and meant that we could get the system operating and assist passengers far more quickly. This was a great demonstration of Melbourne Airport and our contractors working together as one team to help our customers and worked fantastically well.”

Natalie Kayll, Terminal Manager, Melbourne Airport

“Checking your sites for upgrade works recently, I have noted excellent attention to detail performed by your grounds staff from UMS.”

Charles McCheyne, Garden Services Officer, Contract Management Services, Property Management, Department of Human Services

“Just wanted to give you some feedback that was received from the kindergartens following the high winds earlier this week. They were particularly impressed with the prompt response times provided by UMS when called out to deal with torn sail cloths etc.”

Alex Gildea, Coordinator Community Facilities, Hobsons Bay City Council