As a facility or maintenance manager, you're often asked to do it all. But with some tasks, it makes more sense to bring in outside help.
The challenge is being able to efficiently find and work with vendors. The solution is modern vendor management and tracking backed by the right software solution.
What is vendor management and tracking?
Vendor management is how a facility or maintenance manager organizes work by third-party vendors. It runs from the initial selection process and assigning work orders to checking completed work and making payment.
There are many reasons to use vendors, but generally it's to fill skill and knowledge gaps that exist on the maintenance team related to periodic, specialized work that requires licensing and/or certification. For example, a facility manager brings in a third-party vendor to install, test, and certify a building's fire suppression systems. And they contract with a different company to service the elevators.
Managers allow these gaps to exist because filling them is not cost effective. Certified, licensed technicians are expensive, so it does not make sense to keep them on the team when you only need them a few times a year.
How do you assess and then audit a vendor?
In the initial stages, facility and maintenance managers must carefully choose the vendors they want to hire. Depending on the type of work and the organization, this can be anywhere from a simple, one-step process to a multi-step, interdepartmental project.
In some cases, it can be as easy as looking through the local phonebook or asking around for recommendations.
But in others, managers start by collecting bids and reviewing prices. From there, they need to collect a lot of different documentation from each vendor, including information about certifications, licenses, and insurance. From there, they might need to pass these documents to other departments, including procurement and legal.
After selecting vendors and assigning work, you can go back and perform an audit, looking specifically at the quality of the work, how close the final cost matched the estimate, and if vendor hit the projected completion date.
What are the benefits of vendor management software?
At every step of the process, vendor management software streamlines the process, making everything smoother, faster, and less frustrating. Instead of trying to track everything on paper or spreadsheets, you can do everything from inside one software solution.
Many of the benefits stem directly from how the software helps you centralize all your maintenance data into one database, where updates are completed in real time, ensuring everyone on the team is looking at the same, up-to-date data.
Avoid repeating time-intensive steps
Using vendors is often like many other parts of maintenance: there can be a lot of preparation that goes into completing any given task. So, if might take a technician only a few minutes to troubleshoot and fix a leaky pipe, but it took them years to gain the knowledge and insights to be able to find the problem and know exactly how to fix it.
With vendors, you might take a lot longer to get them approved than they take to complete their assigned work because you need to collect various documents related to certificates, licenses, and insurance before you can allow them onsite.
With vendor management software, it's easy to create a digital record of all these documents, which means once approved, you never have to go back and redo any of that tedious, critical work.
Include the data that's important to you
With paper and spreadsheets, you might have all your vendor data spread out across files, folders, and hard drives. Comparing something as basic as hourly rates means hunting through a lot of sources.
With the right software solution, you can create specific data fields for all your vendor records. If price is the most important factor, you can ensure it's included and accessible. Often, you can use built-in filter functions to find the information you need.
Avoid making the same mistakes twice
Even for small operations that only bring in vendors periodically, it's impossible for the maintenance manager to remember everything about every vendor, which can lead to bringing back bad vendors.
More likely though, this problem happens at larger organizations where there is more than one person contracting with third parties. One manager might contact a vendor without knowing about the problems that occurred at a different site.
Remember, good vendor management software allows you to create specific data fields for each vendor records, which means you can have an internal rating system. Once everyone on the team can see the internal red flags, no one brings back subpar vendors.
Protect yourself and your organization
Although in some cases a promise and a handshake can be legally binding, it pays to have accurate, detailed records to back you up, especially when competing legal departments become involved. Remember, because all the data related to the work done by vendors is safely inside the software, you have instant access to a paper trail that supports your case.
Often, the reason you are using vendors is to move legal liability from your internal maintenance team over to a fully licensed, certified third party. If there are any questions down the line, solid records could help protect both you and your organization.
To find out how we can help you with vendor management, schedule a demo of ManagerPlus Lightning.
Facility and maintenance managers are expected to cover a wide variety of projects, but it often makes better economic sense to work with third parties, especially for specialized work. The challenge is keeping all your data safe, secure, and accessible. Modern vendor management software help by first moving everything to a central database, ensuring everyone is looking at the same up-to-date data. With the right software platform, you only have to vet vendors once, because you can then store all their important documents inside the system. From there, you can add custom data fields, making it easier to filter the vendors according to key criteria such as price and on-time completion rates. And because the data is centralized and accessible, anyone in the organization can look up a vendor's history, helping them avoid the poor performers. Having all your records in one place also makes it much easier to protect yourself and the organization in the case of a legal dispute because you can prove who did the work and when they did it.
About the author
Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.