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Smarter, tech-based contracting for cleaning efficiency and cost reduction

Outcome-based contracting could enhance cleaning services by harnessing innovative solutions. Frasers Property Retail and Temasek Polytechnic share their experiences. 

Smarter, tech-based contracting for cleaning efficiency and cost reduction

IoT-powered sensors help ensure that toilets at Frasers Property Retail malls have sufficient supplies of toilet rolls. Photo: Frasers Property Retail

Technology has permeated just about every facet of everyday life. Is it any surprise that sensors powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) have a hand in ensuring how clean a mall toilet is, and whether it has sufficient supplies of toilet rolls and soap? 

As part of its sustainability goals set at the beginning of 2021, Frasers Property Retail looked to digitalisation to support sustainable operations and mall management. One of its tasks was the implementation of IoT sensors in toilets, and this was executed successfully with the help of outcome-based contracting (OBC), an initiative spearheaded by the National Environment Agency (NEA). 

OBC encourages the adoption of technology to improve productivity and enhance processes to deliver desired outcomes, instead of taking a headcount approach when it comes to cleaning services. From a long-term perspective, OBC can help manage rising costs, making the initial investment worthwhile. 

“As opposed to traditional data that is computed monthly, the IoT-enabled scoring system provides real-time updates, allowing us to adopt a responsive approach for the cleaning and maintenance of toilets,” shared Ms Molly Lim, deputy chief operating officer, Frasers Property Retail. “With the adoption of this technology, response time and shoppers’ satisfaction are expected to improve. Over time, we will be able to derive insights from the data to look into pre-emptive measures and more efficient use of our resources.” 

To help organisations make the switch to OBC successfully, NEA provides help and support in the form of online guides and complimentary consultations. 

GUIDANCE ON AN OUTCOME-BASED JOURNEY

Frasers Property Retail and Temasek Polytechnic (TP) are two organisations that have benefitted from NEA’s expertise. Despite their diverse needs and backgrounds, both organisations were driven by an interest in utilising technology and innovation to optimise their manpower needs and maintain high cleanliness standards. 

Mr Andrew Ang, deputy director of Estates and Facilities Management at TP, said that NEA provided different perspectives that were useful to his team. “NEA provided inputs regarding tender documents, explained to us how the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) could help vendors that were participating in our tender, and gave guidance on evaluating and assessing tender proposals,” he said.

For Frasers Property Retail, the conversations with NEA also led to valuable insights for Frasers’ own team. Said Ms Lim: “The NEA team offered in-depth examples to better illustrate the overarching goal of OBC. This guided us in shaping the contract that we put out for vendors – with the outcome as the key priority.” 

TECH SOLUTIONS FOR TOILETS, AND MORE

Mechanised cleaning machines have been deployed at Temasek Polytechnic. Photos: Temasek Polytechnic

As part of its consulting assistance, NEA linked TP to a list of tech solutions that was part of the PSG initiative and advised on the feasibility of the selected tech tools. These included a workforce management system, an e-inspection system, autonomous and mechanised cleaning machines, and IoT monitoring deployment in all toilets.

Unfortunately, the timing of TP’s new outcome-based contract coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 circuit breaker period in 2020. But the outcome-based contract turned out to be a lifesaver, according to Mr Ang: “Both TP and our cleaning service partner had to adapt quickly and constantly. We were fortunate to be able to manoeuvre effectively through the many challenges due to the flexibility afforded to us by the OBC model.” 

For Frasers Property Retail, in addition to having better visibility of cleanliness and supplies, the organisation benefited from a customised app dashboard based on its performance matrix – a determined set number of tasks that are systematically assigned to cleaners. 

Explained Ms Lim: “The app allows us to more actively engage the cleaners in the malls to maintain a consistent standard of hygiene. With the customised matrix, we are also better able to measure our cleaners’ performance. Being able to monitor and recognise outstanding efforts by the cleaners further encourages productivity and efficiency.” 

LOOKING TO A CLEANER FUTURE

Temasek Polytechnic has observed improved productivity and manpower optimisation since the adoption of outcome-based contracting.

Having settled into their OBC contracts, both Frasers Property Retail and TP are looking forward to planning for the future using the cost savings and other benefits derived.

Ms Lim said that the eradication of routine tasks has allowed the organisation to optimise its operations and manpower. “The time and resource cost savings are then channelled to technology implementation, manpower upskilling and staff incentivisation. As part of our commitment to future-proof our assets, we are also making provisions for funds to carry out future digitalisation initiatives, while maintaining the same level of operating costs.”

TP saw several other long-term benefits, such as improved productivity and manpower optimisation, reduced impact to cleaning costs and the amalgamation of multiple conservancy-related contracts into a single contract.

Before an organisation decides to embark on OBC, Mr Ang suggests that it consults NEA in addition to assessing its own cleaning requirements: “The organisation needs to fully understand their operational needs and constraints, and not expect to be able to replicate another organisation’s contracts in full.” 

Ms Lim agreed: “A mindset shift to one of experimentation and adaptation across all levels of staff is necessary to keep pace with the wave of digitalisation. Recognising the role of technology and innovation will play a pivotal role in this paradigm shift.”

She added: “A good way to push through this project is to leverage existing resources provided by NEA, such as the one-on-one consultation or online guides. Once the initial hurdles are overcome, the sustainable benefits of OBC are undeniable and will be visible to all.”  

Sign up for a one-on-one consultation with the National Environment Agency or learn more about outcome-based cleaning contracts and tender evaluation

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