Climate Control in the FM Industry
Carl Webb, UK Operations Director at Andrews Sykes, considers the relative merits of hiring, rather than purchasing, climate control solutions.
The primary role of facilities managers is to ensure the buildings and services they are responsible for continue to meet the expectations of users and visitors. In commercial facilities, incongruous surroundings may lead to low morale, reduced productivity and, in extreme scenarios, even employee illness. Sensitive equipment, raw materials or products can also be adversely affected in areas exposed to inadequate climate control. The result? An unreliable operation manned by demotivated staff which could harm revenue streams, output and perhaps most importantly – your client’s reputation.
Irrespective of your industry or sector, the need for a supplementary or replacement climate control solution is likely to be encountered from time to time – whether for heating, cooling, ventilation or moisture control. Such requirements may have a wide range of causes and persist for unpredictable periods of time. As a result, facilities managers are increasingly opting for hired solutions instead of a standard acquisition.
A hire arrangement affords end users a much greater degree of flexibility not possible with conventional assets. Changing circumstances may necessitate an increase, decrease, extension or sudden end to the requirements. Such changes may be the result of rapidly fluctuating weather conditions, the unexpectedly quick repair or replacement of a faulty system or an increase in seasonal demand.
Unlike permanently installed equipment, the responsibility for the routine maintenance and repair of rental equipment lies with the hire company and not the facilities manager, building occupier or owner. All equipment should be fully checked, serviced and prepared prior to despatch to ensure its reliability and fitness for purpose. In the unlikely event of a breakdown, specialist technicians are on hand 24 hours a day to deliver an urgent response. In extreme circumstances, if a timely on-site repair cannot be completed, a hire provider with a national presence will have the capability to deliver replacement equipment with minimal disruption. This service is included in the rental price, instilling confidence in facilities managers and ensuring peace of mind for their clients.
A further benefit of hired equipment is its tendency to be modern and incorporate the industry’s latest technology. The high level of equipment utilisation achieved by rental organisations enables them to renew their equipment fleets frequently. This ensures improved efficiency and performance of models in their hire range whilst guaranteeing compliance with increasingly stringent health, safety and environmental legislation. Such regulations often place onerous responsibilities on the managers, owners and operators of building services plant in relation to its coefficient of performance, suitability to the application, power consumption and safety in use. The plethora of standards and expectations can be bewildering but by employing the technical expertise available from a competent hire organisation, a prudent facilities manager is able to ensure full compliance and thus maximise the benefits and service levels to their clients.
Once the need for increased or replacement capacity subsides, a temporary system can be quickly decommissioned and removed from site. All the necessary engineering, lifting and transport resources will be organised and managed by the hire company. Owned equipment which is used sporadically still requires storage space during those periods when not in use. This highlights another, commonly overlooked, advantage of hiring – the burden of removing and storing equipment when it is not operational falls on the rental company, thereby absolving the facilities manager or its client of the need to maintain a suitable storage location.
Hiring is most cost-effective when a client’s needs fall into one or more of the following categories – short or uncertain duration, intermittent demand, or uncertain and potentially changing volume. Many clients who choose to hire do so because they require infrequent support, possibly for just a few days or weeks a year. In instances such as these it is important that the correct equipment is delivered when and where it is needed, and subsequently removed promptly once its purpose has been served. The summer and winter months often place demands on facilities managers (particularly in the retail, education and healthcare sectors) to provide additional short-term cooling or heating whilst seasonal temperatures reach their extremes. The expertise available from specialist hire providers is often a crucial part of the contingency and business continuity planning processes of facilities managers.
In addition to the above benefits, professional providers of temporary climate control offer free site surveys to ensure a thorough understanding of each application and the selection of the most suitable equipment. Technical advice comes from expert engineers whose direct industry experience guides customers towards the best solution for their particular project. Unacceptable capital costs are avoided, and all equipment is fully prepared prior to – and properly maintained during – each hire.
For any instance where a client’s needs are varied, unpredictable or of an uncertain duration, equipment rental should never be overlooked as a viable option. There are, however, other situations where a conventional purchase agreement makes more sense.
If you have a long-term requirement for a portable air conditioner or heater, which is likely to extend for more than 12 months, it may be cheaper to buy a unit. However, within your cost comparison you should consider hidden outlays including maintenance, testing, repair, storage and eventual replacement when the unit needs to be updated.
Another tangible benefit of purchasing equipment is that it will be sold with a 12-month warranty covering parts, labour and any mechanical failures should the unit(s) break down through no fault of the customer.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of committing to an outright purchase, though, is having the knowledge that your units are paid for and available whenever you require them. A one-off payment, although often expensive, can be more desirable and means you won’t have to worry about additional instalments further down the line.
It is important to ascertain which transaction agreement suits you best which means considering multiple variables that might influence your decision. While the general perception appears to be that traditional purchase arrangements are preferred, there has undoubtedly been a growing trend – particularly in the FM industry – towards choosing hire options as customers value flexibility and convenience above all other factors.