Operational Case Study (Wholesale Food Supply Sector)
Acacia was asked to conduct a review of the technical facilities management and maintenance structures employed by one of the largest wholesale fruit and vegetable supplier in Ireland. The client had employed a large industry-specific contractor to provide on-site resourcing, technical facilities management and maintenance services for their main site, which housed three individual business units. The primary driver for this review was a steep but steady increase in costs over the previous three years since the outsourcing model had been employed and no sign of costs reducing in the future. The scope of the review, in summary, was to assess the maintenance strategy on behalf of the client with specific consideration for the effectiveness and value of the on-going management and maintenance of the site, and to identify how best to manage these services in the future.
A review was conducted over three weeks with the appointed maintenance contractor, the managers of each business unit and the management accountant.
Summary of Findings
- Most of the maintenance completed by the contractor and other specialist sub-contractors was of both a reasonable quality and value for money but improvements were identified throughout with little effort resulting in improved maintenance efficiencies and long-term cost savings.
- There was a need for improved maintenance record management in general across the site for legislative and cost-tracking reasons. We developed a process to ensure this was carried out.
- The existing maintenance management structure was clearly lacking in a high-level technical competency. By reviewing decisions made historically, we recommended the addition of this competency, which resulted in the business decision makers being able to more effectively managed the maintenance of their individual business units within the site.
- The Maintenance System in use on the site was being effectively used for certain parts of the management of maintenance but had the potential to be used to a much greater benefit to the business. We developed a plan to achieve improved benefits from the system and to reduce maintenance costs.
- There were regular additional costs outside the contracted services costs, which we investigated and identified the root cause. We made recommendations to manage and control these costs.
- A revised cost-centre approach and approval process was required as part of the financial system for the allocation and approval of costs so that accurate financial information could be accessed clearly and easily by business decision makers in an effort to control costs. It was also recommended that the specialist maintenance sub-contractors should be involved in this process so that the invoices submitted would contain the necessary information resulting in the requirement for minimal investigation to allocate costs and gain approval for payment.
- It was found that the indirect costs of capital upgrade works were being allocated against on-going maintenance budgets resulting in incorrect reporting of annual costs so it was recommended that all costs associated with capital works needed to be differentiated from maintenance costs correctly. We made recommendations, which provided a roadmap to address this issue.
The review resulted in the following:
- The annual financial reports had suggested that maintenance costs had increased from €250k in year 1 to €650k in year 3. By reviewing the specific details of capital projects carried out during this period it transpired that the maintenance costs had remained steady at approximately €200k each year, while the remainder of the spending related to some major capital upgrade works.
- By the recruitment of a skilled maintenance engineer in lieu of one of the on-site maintenance technicians (therefore resulting in no additional costs), a number of improved efficiencies were identified for implementation across the site while the client gained a management resource with a technical background to be used for business-related decision making. A number of “bad value” judgments had been made by on-site business managers prior to this.
- A number of assets which had legislative maintenance requirements associated with them were identified during the review as not being done. These were primarily due to the specialist sub-contractors “not being asked the right questions” so these issues were quickly resolved following the review resulting in full legislative compliance.
- During the review, a number of changes were made regarding the way invoices were handled upon receipt from contractors resulting in the management accountant being able to easily prepare a detailed set of financial reports relating to all maintenance activities. It was accepted that this would in turn allow the business managers to closely examine and target certain costs associated with the technical facilities management of their units.