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21 March 2019
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Interviewee: Bill Heath, non-executive director, Polyteck

Issue: The FM market and the future

Bill Heath
Bill Heath

05 February 2018 Bill Heath

Bill Heath, non-executive director at Polyteck, discusses the future of the FM market and how it has evolved over the past 10 years.

You’ve been in the FM industry for a while. How do you think it has changed over the past 10 years?

We have seen more professionalisation of the industry. There is a better understanding and awareness of FM as a profession. There is a long way to go to get to where we need to be, which is ‘Chartered’ status in my opinion, however, things have moved on considerably. 

We are seeing professional bodies here and internationally take significant steps to ensure that the industry is raising standards and the importance of FM to business. Universities like Sheffield Hallam are helping to professionalise the industry. Academia has really developed, and we are seeing so much insight and research coming from educational institutions.

There has also been a huge change in the way we operate due to technological advancement. Specifically, we have seen a significant increase in CAFM, and its integration into everyday activity has made a positive impact for the industry.

I don’t believe many companies now are just looking for quick-fix options, and are more willing to develop long-term relationships with contractors. 

What do you think are the long-term implications of Carillion’s collapse? 

The whole Carillion story… may offer the opportunity to reset or at least revisit how we operate, particularly with regard to substantial long-term contracts. In the context of the public sector, I think government may take a much closer at the financial standing of FM companies, potentially trimming the scale of contracts and putting other safeguards in place. For example, in the Middle East performance bonds are often a contractual requirement… If the contractor fails to deliver on a tight set of performance agreements the guarantee can be called upon. This sort of idea could be introduced to safeguard long-term agreements, but the consequence of this may lead to higher costs. The Carillion issue could lead to more clients looking for value rather than just focusing on the bottom line. 

What is challenging the sector now?

We are seeing a general tightening of the resource supply and in particular certain technical skills. Brexit and the confused state we are in is going to be a significant challenge when it comes to the labour market. It is likely the transfer of labour from the EU will dry up. It is going to be much more difficult to see how we are going to meet the need for skilled talent.

Outside of this, as mentioned before, we need to do more to demonstrate added value beyond simple cost reductions.

What do you aim to bring to Polyteck? 

My role will focus on business process improvements with a sharper focus on future strategy, and perhaps helping the business look at other geographies, particularly the Middle East. The company is well established and employs skilled people who have worked in the industry for years, so we can tackle a multitude of services and are well versed in dealing with a diverse range of buildings.