Why an Expert Facilities Partner is your Best Defense During and After the Pandemic

WRITTEN BY: Aramark Higher Education Team

The pandemic has brought new challenges to organizations, especially in the management and operation of their buildings. Facilities organizations find themselves on the front line of the pandemic, as building operations staff clearly falls in the category of “essential workers,” yet the duties they carry out and the tactics they deploy are far different than what has been done in the past.

As the pandemic continues to redefine daily life, many colleges and universities have realized they are not fully prepared for the return to pre-pandemic operations. This realization is causing many academic leaders to rethink their approach to risk management, and to give serious consideration to outsourcing facilities services.

Partnering with facilities service providers ensures organizations are better suited to meet the facilities needs and challenges of tomorrow’s campus environment. Here are five reasons why outsourcing facilities management is your best defense during and after the pandemic.

Reason #1: Keeping up with the speed of innovation

The pandemic unleashed a flurry of innovation. New ideas, products and best practices quickly flooded the market at a pace not previously seen within the facilities management industry. For example, new cleaning products, sanitizing equipment, remote monitoring sensors, contact tracing methods and more sprang into the market — all with carefully articulated promises and claims about efficacy.

Institutions are expected to adjust their operations and leverage new technologies to create the perception of safety and cleanliness. With this comes the added pressure of evaluating new ideas, understanding their pros and cons, researching performance, piloting and testing — a time-consuming process.

Few organizations have the in-house resources to research, test and pilot emerging technologies. Yet, access to such innovation provides a critical advantage — whether during a pandemic or just in remaining competitive. A facilities partner brings a dedicated research and development (R&D) team and a pipeline of continuous innovation. This partner can assess several new solutions at once, rather than a few, ensuring you end up with results tailored to your organization’s needs.

What Aramark is doing:

With a service partner, organizations are assured access to leading-edge solutions, helping them stay abreast of an unprecedented pace of change and innovation.

  • Aramark has a dedicated R&D team that focuses on continuous innovation. From spring 2020 through the fall, our operations and R&D teams evaluated more than 60 innovations that offered value. These R&D teams continue to evaluate new guidance and technology as it emerges.

  • Every innovation goes through an extensive stage-gate process to assess viability, such as market claims, safety, efficacy, and more.

  • Several innovations that quickly offered promise were already in the pilot stage before the pandemic, such as AIWX™ Connect, which delivers a suite of business intelligence to drive efficiencies, improve planning and enhance customer service for a safer workplace. Proven in commercial, education and healthcare settings, AIWXTM Connect successfully combines the power of data with operational expertise to create safer environments and improve building performance.

Reason #2: Maintaining compliance with regulatory changes

The regulatory environment that guides facilities has always been extensive, and COVID-19 exacerbated and accelerated this regulation. Guidance from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has evolved over time. Guidance on such areas as cleanliness and indoor air quality changed at a frequency not normally seen in other areas of facilities management. Staying abreast of shifting recommendations, and more importantly, successfully responding when changes are needed, can be a challenge for most organizations.

What Aramark is doing:

Educational organizations often do not have a full-time staff that can keep pace with these changes, nor understand their implications and how they may apply to their own institution. Service providers bring with them resources that can assist in this process.

  • Aramark has a Global Safety and Risk Department that constantly evaluates and reaffirms safety standards in order to reach Target Zero: no harm to people or the environment.

  • We work closely with both our R&D and Legal teams to stay abreast of changes in industry guidance and regulation.

  • Aramark advises clients on upcoming regulatory changes and how to interpret them.

Reason #3: Focusing on safety

The pandemic has understandably ushered in a sharper focus on safety for higher education institutions and their operations. Prior to the pandemic, cleaning was focused on dirt removal and mechanical systems on user comfort. Now the focus is on healthier environments that are safe for occupant return. Far outside the core mission of education, as well as creating engaging learning and living environments, institutional leaders must now focus on creating environments that maintain and protect the health, safety and well-being of the campus community.

The health and safety of the campus environment is becoming an occupancy prerequisite for students and their parents, as well as faculty and staff. Yet, this focus is well beyond the bounds of how campus facilities organizations have traditionally staffed, approached, and funded their facilities operations.

What Aramark is doing:

  • Aramark approaches safety holistically, and in doing so, we have developed solutions that are proven to create healthier environments.

  • Aramark developed EverSafe™, a multidimensional safety platform designed in partnership with Jefferson Health to empower students, teachers and staff with confidence in their safety.

  • We’ve utilized our experience serving the healthcare market to incorporate infection-prevention solutions akin to those used in hospitals to protect patients.

  • We provide third-party validation from Jefferson to support public perception of safety and cleanliness.

Reason #4: Accessing financial solutions

Pandemic response and return-to-work operations have required extensive investment to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being — leading to rising costs. Financial flexibility is an acute need today and for the foreseeable future.

In higher education, for example, there has been a 13% reduction, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in first-year student enrollment, which ultimately means lower revenue from housing and dining.

What Aramark is doing:

Service providers have a proven track record of delivering value and securing savings for reallocation, and Aramark is able to reduce costs in several areas.

  • Demand-driven cleaning and AIWXTM Connect help achieve increased cleaning frequencies without additional resources.

  • Energy management programs deliver savings of 15% or more.

  • Remote monitoring capabilities allow space, systems and equipment to be assessed more efficiently through data analytics.

  • Energy performance contracting and Asset Monetization solutions provide additional access to hidden capital opportunities.

Reason #5: Maximizing space utilization

Occupancy levels are expected to fluctuate over the next several months and years, and social distancing guidelines may remain in place for some time. Decommissioning unused or infrequently used space may be financially advantageous to organizations while reconfiguring existing space to accommodate changes in occupancy, social distancing and program requirements are expected.

Having real-time insight into how space is used is critical to help prepare campuses for students’ return, as well as for a post-pandemic campus experience. This insight will arm institutional leaders with the data they need to make informed decisions about how much space is needed and where.

What Aramark is doing:

Educational leaders can harness partner-collected data to influence capital decisions about renovating or building new facilities, prioritizing space for investment, and even decommissioning costly space. This data also informs operating decisions that influence staffing levels, service frequency and energy management.

  • Aramark uses AIWXTM Connect to help institutions understand their real-time space utilization.

  • Our team of experts assesses facility and equipment condition and deferred needs backlog.

  • We develop prioritization models and financial plans that align with broader institutional goals.

A healthier, safer higher education environment starts with outsourcing to a partner with proven experience in facilities management. Ready to get started?