The estate has approximately 2,300 sqm of academic space and a similar size for accommodation. Managed by a small FM team, QMU has partnered with SPACE FM to utilise the skills and expertise of consultancy. QMU and the SPACE team have linked to CEMAR and adopted an NEC contract system to operate their FM service delivery. John Walker, Head of Estates and Engineering oversees the function.
We interviewed John and the SPACE team: Stuart Craig and Miguel Montenegro; to understand more about how the team handles their FM services and their experience of NEC.
What do you see as the main challenges you and your team face in trying to administer the FM supply chain to support educational delivery at QMU?
John: QMU has a small in-house team and, consequently, our biggest challenge is accessing external skills and resources at the right time to support what we do. From the IFM contract point of view, our biggest challenge is administration, particularly with a new style of contract, so we concluded sourcing external support was the way to manage it all.
After two years of manually managing the NEC4 contract, which is very heavily process driven, SPACE recommended we implement CEMAR. Having a system that integrates the management of these processes is essential and that has been a challenge up until now but with the new CEMAR system in place and with the expertise of our SPACE colleagues, things are now running much more smoothly and reliably.
The other challenge has been to change mindsets when it comes to the IFM contract and ensuring we focus on what they are delivering rather than how. That has made a difference too.
What were the main drivers that shaped your decision to pursue an outsourced, integrated FM (IFM) approach to service delivery?
John: Where in the past we had a range of contractors supporting different elements of facilities, our thinking was that integrating all of these elements into one provider would eliminate multiple interfaces and further integrate that provider into the QMU team. This would be much more efficient and encourage cross-communication and cross-fertilisation of information and ideas.
Stuart: An integrated route is so much simpler, not least, because there is only one contract. However, efficiency and improved performance are key to this approach, so we worked together to create an optimal system.
Can you tell us why the NEC4 contract was chosen as the mechanism to manage the outsourced contract?
Stuart: Our relationship was something that kind of grew, as these things often do. From the start it was clear that QMU was looking for integration and an NEC3 or 4 contract. NEC4 was fairly new in 2019, when we were discussing it, but as it’s the future of FM management, we went with it. We now have a clear operational framework.
Our initial role was to help scope out the integrated model and then handle the procurement process. We aimed to generate as much interest as possible in the market and then really engage with it, encouraging collaboration and negotiations through the process to ensure that what came out at the end was the best fit for both parties.
It was a worthwhile journey. And I like to think that at every stage we were able to demonstrate that we could work flexibly with potential suppliers and the estates team, adapting to QMU’s needs. It has very much been a partnership between SPACE FM and QMU all the way through.
Why did you engage with SPACE FM for guidance and support?
John: It was really about the knowledge and experience and what SPACE can deliver. Working with SPACE, having someone that knows NEC contracts and can help guide us through all the legislation, contract management and administration elements of what is a very different style of contract, has been a huge help.
What key benefits have been achieved from this partnership and working relationship with Miguel at SPACE FM?
John: In the same way that we have been integrating the IFM Contractor into the QMU team the relationship with Miguel has been very similar. Having that single point of contact bringing the expertise, understanding and detail of NEC contracts and how they operate has been a huge benefit.
Miguel: Because of the structured nature of NEC contracts, knowing how to navigate them is essential for the best outcome, though they offer a safe methodology and a single point of contact, which is of great value.
Stuart: There are a lot of mechanisms which need to be followed correctly. Both parties need to manage the contract equally, so the advantages are also equal. If both parties are fully compliant with the requirements of the contract, then the outcomes will demonstrate the real benefit of an NEC contract. When it’s done properly, it works really well.
John: An additional benefit is that even though NEC is a formal contract between the parties, in line with the collaborative ethos of NEC4, this support has also been made available to the Contractor, which has further improved the efficiency of administration.
Stuart: That’s a good point you make. We were appointed by QMU, but Miguel would be just as willing to help out on the service side. It’s not a case of having all the cards stacked in our favour, it’s more about making sure both parties are doing what needs to be done. Overall, the single point of contact, the right expertise and a knowledge of using NEC to best value is what really gets the job done well.