Václav Trávník is the Chief Executive and Vice Chairman of the OKIN FACILITY Administrative Board. The company is a specialist in building management and maintenance, support and administrative services, security services, reception, helpdesk and cleaning. The field in which it has been involved for many years is now changing dynamically - data or the Internet of things are entering into it. “Someone who does not have access to data or is not highly qualified will no longer be able to do facility management,” says the man in charge of the branches in six European countries.
In 2003, the company had 200 employees in and around Prague. It now has almost three thousand employees in six CEE countries. What is the story of its growth?
I think that the main contributor to it has been our owner, who bet on expansion to the east from the beginning. This has proven to be the main prerequisite for success. His constant pressure to find new trends is also a powerful driver of our long-term focus. And last but not least, it is the principle of perception of the competition. We have always followed our own path in such a way that the competition looks at us rather than us looking at it. We also maintain the slogan that only satisfied employees are able to guarantee the top quality of provided services. That is why we build long-term relationships with our own people. All of this has resulted in a continuous growth of twenty percent per annum in revenue.
Many companies have trouble finding employees. Have you hit your ceiling?
We certainly have not. The point is, we use smart technologies that help us. For example, it’s not that we have different cleaners than our competitors, but we are able to manage them better. The same goes for technicians. Ours do not screw the screws twenty times faster than others do. But because they have planned exactly what to do, maximum efficiency enters into the maintenance process. We are also able to record each of our services digitally in the long term and in detail, so we know what happened, say, five years ago, for contracts at any of our regional offices. The advantage of such service management is therefore also in the overall comparison of branches amongst themselves.
OKIN FACILITY won the Slovak Business Superbrands 2019 award. What does this mean to you?
I think that this award is proof of the correctness of our focus on modern technology. In recent years, we have been successful in attracting clients in Slovakia with technologies that competitors either do not have or do not work with as much as we do. Therefore, there is simply more interest in us. Another reason is the stability of our people, in particular in managerial positions. For example, I have been working here for ten years and lower and middle management has remained virtually unchanged over the years. We have therefore managed to win the trust of our clients and along with it come awards like this. We have also obtained similar results in Poland.
You said that the owner made the right decision by focusing on the East. Where do you see the advantages of the East over the West?
Our industry is also very sophisticated in the West. But the further you go east, the greater the pioneers you are. In our conception, outsourcing is still coming together with large multinational companies. Therefore, we set the trend, and the competition is once again forced to follow.
How important is digitalization in your industry? Why have you embarked on the development of new tools?
I am a person who wants to have an overview. If you are responsible for six countries and each is a thousand kilometres away, you can rely either on what your employees tell you about their clients’ situation, or on very accurate data – digital, independent and generated by our own software tools we have created for these needs.
Are you talking about the Drive tool?
Drive ensures technical management and maintenance of buildings and technologies. Today we are able to modify it so that we are able to plan any activities of our employees that it comes into contact with. All this including a detailed itinerary for each step of the relevant activity. Therefore, if you come to our client as a brand new employee and you have to repair an air conditioner, for example, simply run Drive on your phone, load the NFC code and you will know what to do point by point. Confirm, do, save, and that’s it. This actually amounts to a schedule. Thanks to this, we will also save the capacity to train employees.
What does the Internet of Things mean to you?
When using IoT technology in facility management, we dare literally identify ourselves as pioneers. At the beginning of everything was the decision not to use customized IoT solutions from external manufacturers. The price of such equipment is so high that we cannot subsequently calculate it in the order for the client; we have to remain competitive. That is why we have built a team of people internally that is able to create our own IoT devices.
How hard was it to build the team and maintain it?
I have already mentioned that the lower and middle management in our company is basically unchangeable and therefore understands the company very well from the inside. So, all we need to do is bring someone into the company who knows the technology and connects it all to a team that creates the desired solution together. In fact, the vast majority of the tools we use are based on our own development. Sometimes, this means development that is time-consuming and human resource-intensive. But we have an owner who is in favour of constant innovation. This gives us a tremendous degree of freedom and the results will always come.
Where do you use IoT devices?
Mainly in the area of cleaning. When you have a large number of branches, you need to clean from 7:30 am to 8:00 am, so you need to know if our employee was there two minutes after 7:30. You find this out in such a way that the manager receives a telephone or computer notification according to where and when the employee used their chip. We also use the IoT for cleaning. We have a lot of cleaning machines, mowers, maintenance tractors and so on. One of our solutions is being able to tell: the tractor moved and stopped at a certain time. Thanks to this data, we know what the exact mileage of these machines is and when they will need regular maintenance, as well as much more information.
With data collection, you promise to prevent breakdowns in buildings. How does the system work?
In order to make a promise to the client, we need to get to know the building first. We will carry out a pre-construction condition survey, upload data to our system, and then we will have an initial state. If I simplify it, we know how long a boiler or air conditioner will last until their repair or replacement, and we will notify the client of this in advance. Based on the volume of data and its continuous collection, we are constantly learning, thereby becoming more accurate.
What are you able to monitor?
For example, the overall condition of equipment, humidity, temperature or the heat of a particular device using thermal imagers. Again, this can predict, for example, bearing frictions or power overload.
Why is your industry growing so much as a whole? Are companies looking for savings?
It is a combination of several factors. On one hand, new equipment is much more sophisticated, and companies can no longer entrust service to just anyone. Another factor is that companies need to produce during a boom, bringing their in-house machines to the company and using them for other tasks, and they often look for outsourcing. Everything is also related to the overall shortage of labour on the market, which paradoxically also helps us.
If you look at the future of your industry, what will it be?
Massive digitization and automation are definitely on the horizon. As there is a lack of a skilled labour force on the market, all workflows will have to be automated. Why, for example, would someone physically check the boiler room when sensors are enough? A person only arrives when something is happening. This will be the same with robots. For example, drones can largely replace security. Then there is the phenomenon of smart buildings. They can de facto manage themselves. Someone who does not have access to data or is not highly qualified will no longer be able to do facility management.
Could it not be a disadvantage for you that companies will buy drones, robots and sensors and will not need you anymore?
I have also thought about this. But look, it is we who mostly push our clients to acquire technology, to save and to optimize. For example, to use sensors to recognize the movement of people in a specific area and only clean there when it is truly necessary. I understand that they don’t yet think this way. They have their core business and they are good at it. If they want to progress, they can’t waste their time and energy on things like building management. That’s what we are here for. Facility management will be about qualified people who will be able to communicate with technology and improve the environment in which people live.
You are also involved in ECS. What is this about?
The European Customer Synergy (ECS) is a joint venture of private facility management companies. Thanks to this grouping we are able to cover any contract in Europe and we offer other partners the possibility to use our regional branches. Incidentally, we have recently seen great success in the context of ECS. We have provided a technology solution in the form of HelpDesk and ServiceDesk to all of our partners. Thereby, together we can use the unified technical maintenance management system we developed at OKIN FACILITY.