Sodexo solutions make the humdrum high tech

04/05/2017 - 12:54

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The global company that runs many of WA’s mine camps believes a technology platform developed with local ICT firm Velrada provides a blueprint for its international operations.

Paul Bean at Sodexo’s operations centre in Balcatta. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Mundane services such as catering and cleaning are rarely associated with complex technology solutions, yet facilities management company Sodexo is seeking to change that perception.

At its Balcatta operations centre, Sodexo workers huddle around clusters of keyboards and computers, while large screens on the wall monitor the company’s service delivery in the Pilbara.

It’s similar to the high-tech remote operations centres established by the big iron ore miners in Perth.

While the miners’ track things such as the movement of their ore trucks, Sodexo tracks the operation of its bus fleet, among many other things.

That may not appear significant, until you realise the scale of the Sodexo business, which encompasses all of Rio Tinto’s iron ore operations across 42 sites.

“Any vehicle we’ve deployed anywhere across the Pilbara, we know exactly where it is, we know whose driving it and where it’s being driven,” Sodexo chief executive mining Asia Pacific, Paul Bean, said.

The technology platform allows Sodexo to constantly assess and refine the efficiency of its bus routes, which move 6,000 people per day.

“On that scale, any small improvements can make a significant difference,” Mr Bean told Business News.

Transporting staff is one of many services Sodexo delivers, after signing a 10-year, $2.5 billion contract with Rio Tinto early last year.

As well as traditional services such as catering and cleaning, it has been contracted to handle property management, building and grounds maintenance, and aerodrome management, across numerous remote sites 24-7.

That was a big win for French-based Sodexo, which competes with Australian company Spotless, and global players ISS Facilities Services and Compass Group’s remote division, ESS Support Services Worldwide.

Mr Bean said technology was not new to Sodexo’s business, with many of its site staff using tablets and smartphones.

It has also installed modern technology at its sites, such as kiosks that allow Rio staff to provide quick feedback on service standards.

“Where the technology differs with us is that it’s integrated,” Mr Bean said.

“In facilities management, this has been the holy grail.

“Ten years ago when I first looked at this, the technology wasn’t advanced enough.

”There wasn’t a cloud-based enterprise solution, it didn’t exist.”

Changing technology

Sodexo awarded Perth firm Velrada a three-year contract to help develop and implement its technology platform, which has evolved rapidly.

Its original plan was to integrate three Microsoft systems – Office 365, CRM and analytics package Power BI.

Mr Bean said it was anticipated there would have been a light interface of these systems.

That changed when Microsoft developed Dynamics 365.

“What they did, over the same time frame that we developed our solution, was integrate those into one platform,” he said.

“It was almost inevitable they would put them together because the market was crying out for Microsoft to do that.”

Mr Bean said the technology platform, combined with a single operations centre, gave Sodexo absolute visibility across its operations.

“We’ve already driven double digit incremental improvements in efficiency, purely as a result of bringing the data together,” he said.

“The data in itself is nothing without the analysis, so we’re constantly analysing trends and patterns in the business.”

Rio’s chief executive iron ore, Chris Salisbury, told investors in a conference call last December that Sodexo’s contract was delivering big benefits.

“In the case of our camp accommodation, earlier this year we signed a 10-year integrated facilities management agreement with Sodexo,” Mr Salisbury said.

“This has more than $75 million (of) cash benefits over 2016 and 2017 alone, with the standards of service and food maintained at high levels.”

Mr Bean said the technology platform made it much easier to identify inter-dependencies.

“Today if we change something we know the impact pretty immediately,” he said.

In the past, multiple service providers were involved and integrated data was not available, which made it much harder.

He believes the new platform means Sodexo can respond faster to any challenges and replicate improvements faster across its operation.

Mr Bean is bullish on the benefits he expects will flow.

“With an integrated contract, we typically get 15 to 20 per cent upfront savings for customers,” he said.

“With the solution we’ve now got, we can drive that over the life of the contract by a further 5 to 10 per cent. So you’re talking about optimally 30 per cent gains.”

He said the technology platform could be deployed by other clients and in other industries.

“What we’ve developed is a very flexible solution, it isn’t just about one company,” Mr Bean said. “This solution is already being considered by other clients.”

Sodexo’s latest win, announced in February, was a two-year, $22 million integrated services contract at Rio Tinto’s Amrun bauxite project in north Queensland.

This followed a contract to run the Western Australian government’s new 256-bed women’s prison.

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