When it comes to managing waste, proactive facilities managers can save their organisations a lot of money while also improving performance
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure – and this is as true for facilities management as any other profession. The ability to anticipate and head off problems before they develop into serious business issues is invaluable.
Regardless of whether you are in charge of a construction site, an office block or a catering business, waste management is an area that has the potential to present significant challenges for facilities managers. But a proactive approach can make a real difference. A robust waste management plan, for example, will repay you amply in time and cost savings.
Just think of the costs that organisations incur. Take the UK hospitality industry, for example. Figures from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) suggest that this sector faces a £2.5bn annual food-waste bill, with 18% of all food served in the sector wasted. According to WRAP, with more effective waste management policies, this figure could be cut to just 5%.
Aside from the obvious bottom-line impact of overspending on supplies, this kind of waste also has significant consequences for the environment, with much of it ending up in landfill. From the perspective of an organisation’s corporate social responsibility, this is far from ideal – and with punishing rates of landfill tax, it can prove even more expensive.
So what are the hallmarks of an effective waste-management approach?
Identify problems – and nip them in the bud
The ideal solution is to ensure that as little waste as possible is generated. This means that facilities managers need to understand and address the most significant causes of waste within the business.
For example, is the equipment being procured by the company long-lasting and reliable? While it might appear cheaper to buy less durable equipment or materials, this could be a false economy once waste-disposal and replacement costs are taken into account. Look also at the way the business obtains its supplies - could over-ordering be avoided by making smaller but more frequent orders?
Take a collaborative approach
Facilities managers can also seek input from around the business to help identify potentially wasteful practices. Construction firm Carillion, for example, has expanded its Don’t Walk By programme – originally set up to encourage staff to highlight health and safety issues – to cover unnecessary waste generation. Carillion workers have an app they can use to report any instances of wastefulness or inefficient use of resources to senior management.
Reuse and recycle
When procuring resources, facilities managers should also give serious consideration to whether any excess materials could be used elsewhere in the organisation, for example on future projects. Facilities managers may need to work with procurement teams to make sure that purchasing decisions take into account full life-cycle costs rather than just the initial price.
Work with suppliers to find the right solution
The relationship between the organisation and its suppliers can also play a crucial role in managing waste. As mentioned above, it is important to strike the right balance between the size and frequency of orders. But consider also what kind of service your suppliers are offering. Will they take back unwanted stock, for example? And will they offer you the flexibility to change the size or timing of orders if necessary?
Ultimately, facilities managers who want to successfully deal with waste must work proactively and anticipate problems before they have a significant impact on profitability and efficiency. If you find yourself reacting to waste issues as opposed to heading them off, much of the damage is likely to have been done already.
• A reactive approach to waste management can cost your business a considerable amount of money - and make it less efficient.
• Facilities managers should identify the most serious sources of waste and develop strategies to minimise them.
• The most successful approach will involve collaboration with other parts of the business as well as key suppliers.
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