Tesco Maintenance & Energy's Format Team has been named the BIFM in-house FM Team of the Year, for its innovative approach to the maintenance of the entire UK Tesco estate. Sara Bean finds out how the change has benefited Tesco colleagues and its customers.
4 December 2014
Ensuring that their stores are maintained to the highest level is critical to the success of any retailer.
The traditional approach is to outsource the job to external maintenance contractors, which guarantees a level of expertise, but can result in a lack of communication, structure, and affect the overall fix times.
In 2010, Tesco took the unique decision to bring all of its maintenance provision in-house.
This has created a much closer interdependent relationship between maintenance and retail colleagues and enabled them to introduce a more efficient maintenance system; improving the shopping experiences of Tesco's customers.
Alan Smallman, head of operations, explained: "From 2010 we increased the number of technicians to provide a stronger support network across the business and improve our operating model.
"We recognised the opportunity to improve our proactive maintenance regimes and better utilise our technician base. Once we'd identified that the existing style of maintenance had reached a plateau, we looked at ways to make improvements, ensuring we maintained our position as an industry leader."
Today, the operations team is made up of 854 dedicated store technicians who work alongside 60 group maintenance manages (GMMs). There are also six format maintenance managers (FMMs) who lead all Tesco Maintenance Formats.
This arrangement has greatly enhanced the service provided and improved communications between retail and maintenance.
The Tesco estate also encompasses a range of buildings, including hypermarkets, neighbourhood stores, large Dot Com distribution centres, office and bank buildings, coffee shops and restaurants. The sheer diversity of the estate presents a range of challenges for Tesco Maintenance to contend with.
In 2010 it mirrored Tesco retail's approach and gave the teams specific store types to look after. This meant that not only would the right type of technician be allocated to the right store, but store directors would have one GMM as a point of contact.
"The biggest impact of our new ways of working was our change in perspective, and the realisation that while our primary function is to provide a great maintenance service for Tesco, our primary customers are the people shopping in our stores." explains Smallman.
"As simple as that may sound, getting that mentality and culture across has really helped our teams understand the importance of great customer service. It has also helped us to focus on and understand what matters to our stores and our customers."
This interpersonal relationship has assisted the teams in working closer with their store colleagues, taking part in regular team discussions, with the team much better placed to advise their stores on how to take a preventative approach to maintenance.
Smallman added: "Because the teams are working within a store or a group of stores, they become much more familiar, not only with the store but with both customers and colleagues as well.
"This means a much better level of familiarity between Tesco retail colleagues and technicians - all of whom are wearing their Tesco badges.
"For example, a technician might say, 'I've noticed that we're bashing into the loading bay doors, and they're getting damaged, what can we do to prevent that?' With our retail and maintenance colleagues working as one team, we can sit down together and organise the reactive maintenance and the proactive preventative plan moving forward. This is why being part of the Tesco family makes such a huge difference."
A dedicated team of technicians and managers is also responsible for managing the 45 head office buildings, all with an understanding of the particular needs of high-occupancy buildings.
Tesco Maintenance and Energy work together as one team to understand how and where to save energy - from dimming lights during quieter periods, putting a timer on a bakery oven when it is not used, or educating retail colleagues on when to stop checkout belts running.
Since Maintenance and Energy merged there has been a 25 per cent reduction in refrigeration leaks. The teams treat energy work orders with the same priority as any work order.
The carbon footprint of the Tesco stock is now measured as part of the team's KPIs.
Andrew McMullen, energy performance manager, adds: "Merging the energy team with maintenance has created a real step change in removing utility waste from our stores.
"Since 2013 we have seen a 5 per cent year-on-year reduction in our utility consumption. Much of this saving is down to the support of our in-house teams providing us with an additional capability and capacity to identify and fix energy waste in our estate."
Express stores and London region
Express stores are a growth area for the main business, and as such, Tesco Maintenance developed its operating model and revised the way it provide planned and reactive maintenance to best suit its convenience stores.
"The solution was to create a planning team and a response team, solely focusing on the scheduled visits to stores for preventative maintenance and the overall look and feel. This enables the other side of the team to respond to breakdowns effectively and means that technicians are not distracted from completing preventive works."
As a result of this initiative, the number of jobs completed by due date has increased by 10 per cent and there has been a 12 per cent reduction in the number of jobs passed to external contractors.
"We recognised an opportunity for improvement; London has specific challenges and we needed to respond to the customer needs differently."
Mark Baker, FMM for London went on to explain: "In London we maintain the full range of stores, from our large Extras to the smaller express stores in the city itself.
"We have to adapt our approach to the needs of each store, based on things like the affluence of the local area. Meeting the needs of our colleagues and customers in the busiest environment in the UK is a challenge that we relish."
Finally, Smallman details how staff training and development has been critical in helping to enhance the performance of the maintenance staff to provide a high quality of service.
"We encourage our technicians to deliver great customer service. We took them all through the [customer care] process; we utilised Tesco's scale and brought it into maintenance."
As well as ensuring that staff are upskilled sufficiently to move into to other format areas, a new programme called 'future service', headed up by business change project manager Matthew Reeves-Smith, was launched over the last 12 months. This has concentrated on helping to support specialist work streams, such as HVAC or bakery and catering.
"With this process we are working to harmonise our technicians skills to maximise their contribution," says Matthew.
"If it's a common issue you might not need a specialist, but if we train our store teams to feed back on the symptoms they can help us ensure that we send the right type of
"The idea is to upskill our people, helping them understand what breakdowns they can fix and what to pass on to our specialist contractors. This enables them to repair breakdowns faster in store and only send request specialists when necessary, this gives us better use of our resource and faster fixes."
Training has also been extended to the management teams - who all go through the same Tesco leadership and academy programmes that are offered to their retail colleagues.
Its alignment with Tesco Retail has underpinned the success of the teams and has enabled them to provide the best possible service to each store.
As the BIFM judges remarked, its strong leadership skills have provided direction to a large multi-skilled team that delivers exceptional customer service and value to Tesco.