Facilities Management - The new world of work has challenged the traditional onsite facilities maintenance models, categorised by teams of full-time electricians, engineers, plumbers, etc. The growth of mobile teams in the facilities management sector is changing how facilities can be managed. With the rise of underutilised facilities, property managers are turning to flexible, mobile maintenance teams – which are providing unparalleled efficiencies and cost-effectiveness.

Sipelele Mnyani, managing director of Integrated Solutions at Servest says, “Flexible, mobile maintenance teams present a practical and commercially viable solution for cost-effective facilities management.  At Servest, we have seen companies save between 26.5% and up to 46%, just by using mobile teams.”

According to Mnyani, among other factors, the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a shift within the facilities management industry towards employing flexible and mobile teams. This adjustment allows for the maintenance of underutilised assets as companies have embraced hybrid or work-from-home work models.

Mobile teams have now become a growing trend, across industries, from warehousing, healthcare to retail. General commercial buildings, excluding high rises, also benefit from this approach. While a handyman may be present on-site for general maintenance, specialised services like electricians and plumbers are not required on a daily basis explains Mnyani. This is where mobile teams prove valuable.

Mnyani notes that although several companies have chosen to reduce facilities management services due to high vacancy rates in their properties and to cut down on maintenance expenditure, he advises against this. "Managing a neglected building purely on a reactive basis, is more costly than adopting a proactive approach to facilities management," he warns. We have witnessed the detrimental effects of neglect on numerous properties, and reviving those facilities would be prohibitively expensive. Mobile teams offer a solution to tackle some of these challenges because asset managers do not need to employ them full-time; they can utilise their services as and when they need them.

Mobile teams can save companies up to 48.5% in costs, based on specified call-out rate fees. 

Mnyani explains that due to the economic climate, clients have been looking at ways to reduce overhead costs. Consequently, they have been focusing on eliminating non-core functions and minimising them on their financial records. Support services, including facilities management, are often perceived as non-core functions in some industries.

Despite some companies holding the view that reactive maintenance is cost-effective, it actually presents challenges. Reactive maintenance leads to downtime as assets are operated until they no longer function. In the short term, it may seem cost-effective. However, restoring these assets becomes more costly and negatively affects productivity. Mobile teams play a significant role in implementing preventative maintenance measures to mitigate these challenges,” argues Mnyani.

Mnyani says that deploying mobile teams to provide preventive maintenance services reduces the need for urgent repairs due to unanticipated equipment breakdowns and outages.

Mnyani explains that apart from causing frustration for those who depend on the affected components or assets, last-minute repairs can also lead to a significant increase in operational costs. By implementing preventive maintenance measures to keep hard services such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and plumbing equipment in optimal working condition, facility-wide systems can be efficiently managed, thereby extending their useful life.

Mnyani emphasises the importance of providing the necessary preventative maintenance to commercial properties, even in the face of high vacancy rates, in order to avoid expensive reactive maintenance.

"Strategically investing in mobile maintenance teams aligns with the facility's needs and contributes to the long-term success of an organisation," he highlights.

"The deployment of mobile teams offers a strategic approach to effectively manage properties in the context of a hybrid work model and in financially challenging environments," says Mnyani.