Facility Manager Spotlight: Aydan Walker, Ticked Off App
The Total Facilities ‘Spotlight’ mini-series profiles a different expert working within the facilities management industry each month. Each expert shares insight into the varied nature of their role, their background and current trends shaping their work.
Aydan Walker is the facilities manager at Ticked Off App Pty Ltd, a strategic technology platform that enables businesses to easily manage their repairs and maintenance needs. It enables assets, contractors, programmed maintenance, repairs, safety, warranties, approvals and reporting in one simple-to-use app and has a growing number of corporate retailers on board including Glassons, LUSH, and Guess.
Aydan joined Ticked Off two-and-a-half years ago, as the former facilities coordinator for Scentre Group at Westfield Mt Druitt. As part of his role, he manages a database of more than 300 contractors who service more than 400 metropolitan, regional and remote stores managed by Ticked Off on a regular basis in every state as well as across New Zealand.
Tell us about your work.
I am the first point of contact for all communications with the client. I manage all incoming reactive and programmed maintenance requests, and I provide both safety and design inspections for the client.
What was the industry like when you started compared to now?
I think the biggest change has been the impact of technology on providing and verifying information. When I started, a lot of people worked off their experience or ‘gut instinct’. Now, we have an amazing range of information systems available for better decision making, on the ground and at a higher level.
How has COVID-19 affected your workplace and FM in general?
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the financial side of our workplace, especially given our core focus is retail. The shutdowns in Melbourne, along with earlier shutdowns nationwide, dramatically reduced the number of jobs we were receiving. Although this is less of an issue now, it’s symptomatic of FM work in general, especially in the retail sector. With the financial and operational uncertainty, brands are less likely to dedicate funds to repair and maintenance (R&M). This has a cascading impact that affects both FM companies (such as us), and the contractors we use. However, I will note that a number of contractors have diversified and have a larger focus on domestic and government work than they had previously.
In terms of the operation of our workplace, not a lot has changed. The future-proofing of our software means we can all work from our phones, which has meant increased flexibility to work from home (although it already existed).
How are you addressing these issues?
We are encouraging better spending habits for our clients, such as bundling jobs together or prioritising safety/works that will affect their ability to trade. Cosmetic works have become essentially non-existent over the last quarter, and this is something we have had to adapt to. Enabling our staff to work remotely and reworking the number of hours they work has not only improved cost-effectiveness for the business, but it has also enabled us to better support our staff financially and in terms of safety.
Speaking to former colleagues and other FM professionals both in small retail chains and larger shopping centre groups, it is obvious that the majority of companies have employed the same strategies. Reduction of hours, rotation of staff and an increased focus on working remotely.
Any positive trends you’re seeing in the industry?
As I have already mentioned, I think the increase in flexibility and working remotely is a significant, positive change. I can see no reason why working from home arrangements won’t continue in the future. It helps prevent employee burnout and I have always felt that a business that can be flexible with its employees will derive greater loyalty from them. While there are some instances where this isn’t possible, for a lot of us, there are very few things we have to be physically on-site for.
What is your most proud contribution to the FM industry?
I’m most proud of our company’s contributions to cost savings and greater awareness of expenditure. It’s hard to believe but a number of retail clients had no idea what they were spending or where they were spending it. We identified total and average amounts spent by trade, location or state as well as forecast their financial year spend, spend by store and number of jobs.
I’m also proud of our contribution to greater safety standards. By using our own software, I can preempt any potential hazards and provide the client with the best solution possible, in any given scenario. For example, we have a sign in/out feature that we developed prior to COVID-19. This helps notify contractors of any site-specific conditions, such as Asbestos or COVID-19 cases.
By signing in and out we can see where our contractors have been if COVID becomes an issue. Now, this has a greater impact than we could have first imagined, because we can retrospectively notify our contractors and ensure safety on all fronts. Our contractors also have to be registered and verified with us too to receive a log-in when they check-in.
What’s the future like for FM? Is this a great career?
I think the future of FM will see a greater emphasis on software utilisation where one system can replace what would traditionally be a larger department. Intelligent software such as ours requires just one person to steer it, not only saving wages for larger organisations, but also promoting a greater onus of responsibility for day-to-day tasks.
There is a great opportunity for emerging managers, especially those who have experience with software and information systems as there is less focus on trade knowledge, and a greater focus on management ability. The emerging importance of safety has also created integrated roles between traditional FMs and safety managers.