Drawing the Line on Facilities Management at Manufacturing Sites

As Facilities Management Outsourcing (FMO) arrives in manufacturing companies, a vigorous debate arises over where to draw the line of demarcation in manufacturing plants. This line refers to the separation between management and maintenance of the building itself — including the building’s electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems — and management and maintenance of the systems linked to plant operations. Because it is often impossible to completely segregate the two, this is a critical issue to think through when considering FMO for manufacturing sites.

At first, the answer seems obvious: Use the existing “yellow line” that already exists either physically or conceptually to indicate where access is restricted to participants in the manufacturing process. Even a cursory look, however, reveals the inadequacy of using this boundary, since services such as roof maintenance, lighting, heating and cooling pervade the manufacturing space.

A more interesting possibility is the idea that many utility systems that support the manufacturing line are similar to the building systems that are being outsourced. Production chillers use the same technology and similar components as large air conditioning systems. Circulating gycol loops for process chilling or heating use the same technology as circulating water systems used to heat and cool buildings. Process boilers are similar to the boilers used in heating the building, and compressed air systems can be found in both building systems and process systems. So increasingly we are seeing providers of facilities management services also undertaking responsibility for process utilities.

We see similar integration involving building cleaning and line cleaning. This integration extends as far as line sterilization and changeover support where the facilities management team augments the line operation team in these labor-intensive tasks.

Mature organizations are realizing that a trained and well-equipped facilities management team creates a pool of knowledgeable and skilled resources that can supplement the dedicated operations and maintenance teams that are required for ongoing production. This integrated view lowers costs by reducing the need for temporary workers during periods of peak activity, when service demand exceeds the capacity of the ongoing production and maintenance staff.

Predictably, manufacturing management and the production workforce often initially react negatively when these ideas are raised. As a result, this sort of integration is often set aside during the initial transition as a topic for future transformation work. However, once plant managers understand that they do not lose control over operations with service providers working in their facilities — and workforces understand that first-tier service providers are also good employers who can provide broad opportunities — resistance dissipates, and the integration becomes a next logical step.

We believe that in the near future, such integration will become a recognized best-practice model and that we will see it occur more often during the first round of transition, accelerating savings and improving the financial performance early in facilities management outsourcing arrangements.