Maintaining control when outsourcing supermarket maintenance functions

Maintaining control when outsourcing supermarket maintenance functions

For many business managers who are looking for a new strategy for handling supermarket maintenance, it's not uncommon to worry about the balance between efficiency, cost and control. Outsourcing the process is a great way to address the first two concerns – by turning to trusted professionals who are experts in supermarket refrigeration, you can run your business more effectively without breaking the bank. But can you also maintain control over your daily operations and your brand?

According to a case study by facility management systems expert Abtar Singh, it is indeed possible to outsource certain aspects of managing your physical assets without ceding the reins to your business. Singh's paper, entitled "Lessons in Energy and Maintenance Management from One of the Best in the Grocery Business," looked at the recent work of Steve Hagen, who joined Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Markets with the intent of reforming the business and ushering in a new, more efficient strategy for handling maintenance.

Outsourcing without letting go
When Hagen signed on with Fresh and Easy, he was joining the brainchild of Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, which was already a big hit in Europe but was looking to expand into the United States. His challenge was to keep the brand strong and hold its business practices in place without sacrificing the parent company's control.

He was able to outsource management in order to handle only a few key tasks. He wanted a business partner that would:

  • refrigerate perishable items well
  • manage in-store temperatures
  • keep energy costs manageable
  • maintain compliance with government regulations

"It is possible to outsource certain aspects of managing your physical assets without ceding the reins to your business."

By isolating these specific goals and working with a contractor on those and only those, Hagen was able to remain in control of everything else about his business. And as for those four objectives, he was able to meet them without overextending his staff or his budget.

Striving for continued improvement
Trusting an outside partner for help with your supermarket maintenance functions is a major step, but it's one that can set any food retail business on the right track toward success, Singh noted.

"If your infrastructure is old, you may well face bigger challenges in achieving an acceptable return on investment for some of the technologies Fresh and Easy has deployed," the researcher explained. "But there is plenty you can achieve incrementally, through a process of continuous improvement. Pretend for a day that you could start over from scratch. What would you do differently?"

Starting with one or two key business goals, any supermarket can make steady progress toward a more forward-thinking approach to maintenance. An outsourced provider can help push things in the right direction.

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