The CIH Conference in Manchester started Tuesday and as the biggest event for our clients in the Social Housing sector I always enjoy attending to network with our valued customers, both Housing Associations and contractors and to get a feeling for the key challenges they are facing.
It’s also a good forum for innovation and has been inspirational in the past to take the opportunity to learn about successful projects that other companies working in the sector have delivered and think how we could apply that to improve our own services and offer better value to customers.
The most interesting session I have attended was hosted by Echelon Consulting, highlighting the work they have done with Homes for Haringey and Trafford Housing Trust in helping transform their DLOs into delivering high value effective services.
As contractors, it would be easy to take the position that Housing Associations doing more work in-house is bad for our business especially when part of their transformation is to reduce the number of contractors they use from 60 to 6.
I prefer to think about it a different way and think how can we make sure that our service supports our client’s preference to do some work in-house but gives them access to the specialist skills of our engineers and also access to our supply-chain which totally focused on Windows and Doors.
I was greatly encouraged to see how data had played a key role in improving their services and feel there is an opportunity for us to work with clients in this area – to help them to analyse window and door failures better with the objective or reducing high cost responsive repairs, lengthening replacement cycles and most importantly reducing the number of repairable windows that are replaced each year to the detriment of the environment and value for money.
The use of multi-skilled operatives was also discussed. Again, I think analysis of data can help to identify where a more specialist engineer is required so that they can be brought in sooner rather than after 2 or 3 attempts to repair.
Homes for Haringey gave a great example of the benefits of multi-skilling where they talked about bathrooms and how by training their plumbers in other aspects of repair related to bathrooms such as flooring or tiling they could complete more jobs with one operative and reduce disruption to their residents. This makes a lot of sense however I’d be interested to see data on how many window and door repairs are carried out in conjunction with other repairs. If the number is very little then the benefits of the multiskilled operative are limited and then focus must be on first-time-fix where we feel the benefits of specialism gives our engineers the advantage. Hopefully this more data-led approach is going to become more common in the sector and will be having conversations with clients about it soon.
It was also interesting to note that we have worked with both Homes for Haringey and Trafford Housing Trust in the past to help them training their operatives in window servicing and repairs. Again, this is another area where we may be able to support clients as they identify which kinds of repairs they fail to fix on a first-time basis or seek to reduce the average time spent on a repair or average cost.