Aston Services Group is the UK’s fastest growing independent facilities services provider and became established as a result of the merger between Cleanall Services Limited and Care Facility Management nearly three years ago.
They specialise in the provision of security and cleaning services nationally and work for a variety of market sectors including shopping centres and retail parks, student accommodation, leisure, commercial & property.
Customers include property management groups such as Knight Frank, Ashdown Phillips, CBRE, Munroe K, Savills and Realm, together with other blue chip names such as Liverpool Airport, Liverpool ONE, Manchester 235 Casino & Spinningfields in Manchester – to name but a few.
James Wheeler, Integration and Business Development Director, comments here on the changes in the Security Industry and what possibly lies ahead…
Q: James, you have been in the industry for 27 years, how do you think it has changed for better/worse?
Since starting my career in the FM world 27 years ago, we have seen a dramatic change both in terms of perception in the market place and the ever increasing use of technology to support the security and cleaning operations we deliver on a daily basis. When I started my career, I was given a pager to call the office if anything happened at my sites. Now we have smart phones / lap tops / biometric readers and real time monitoring capabilities, to assist us in managing day to day events.
The industry has become far more professional in its approach to delivering soft services, to a wide range of market sectors. These changes have allowed companies to develop their own approach and identity when specialising in certain market sectors.
Security and cleaning roles can now be a very structured and rewarding career path, given the right levels of support and training opportunities.
Historically the security and cleaning provisions were seen as poor relations to the rest of the workforce, but this view has been changed in recent years, by the increased regulation and innovation brought to the industry, that is now attracting a higher skilled calibre of person into these dynamic and challenging working environments.
Q: You mention people – how do you retain the best employees?
Because we are a medium sized company, we still strive to know every one of our team members by their first name. Maintaining close working relationships allows us to understand and develop them into a motivated and committed team, which results in regular examples of them going above and beyond the call of duty. As a company we work very closely with our customers and thus we see ourselves as an extension of their site management team, instead of being referred to as the “contractor”.
The ability to self-deliver the “world host” training courses throughout our business has made a dramatic effect in terms of the professionalism displayed by our teams interacting with the public and the value-added services we can now offer in supporting our customers’ requirements.
Alongside this, we have been a Recognised Living Wage Service provider for over 4 years and maximise our retention of future talent via our continued use of the Apprenticeship Levy, maximising training & development.
Q: Why is accreditation so important in the Security industry?
Being an approved SIA ACS member has become a “must have” accreditation in the industry, especially as our business grows and develops across the UK.
We are very selective in the customers we would like to work with and so we tend to partner with companies that share our “passion and vision” for developing and rewarding our teams who provide such a vital service to each and every one of the sites we manage.
Quality is of the utmost importance to us and Aston Services Group regulations are maintained to the highest industry standards and to this end we have been awarded the following facility accreditations: SIA, ISO9001, ISO14001, ISO45001, BS7499 and BS7858.
Accreditation is vitally important in driving standards and as a benchmark for achieving the highest levels of quality and service.
Q: Technology is moving at a rapid pace – is it important to keep up?
I like the changes in technology over the past few years, but Aston also focus on the team members as individuals, who can offer the personal touch and communicate effectively in a wide range of situations.
Technology should not replace the human side of the services we provide but simply be able to enhance the services we are providing in terms of capturing information and real time reporting.
Put simply, I prefer to have a blend of technology and highly skilled team members.
There is no doubt that the industry is moving rapidly and as a group, to keep ahead, we must invest in new monitoring technology and robust management IT systems such as:
- Real time monitoring technology – (PDA’s)
- Lone working monitoring
- 24hr helpdesk
- Customer portal for sharing site information
- iAuditor reporting for a wide range of activities
- Staff checker for real time managing of all hours worked on each site
Q: Lastly, James – where do you see the industry going from here?
The industry is changing every year and I see more and more opportunities for the FM industry to grow and develop in supporting our customers’ needs.
For instance, we have recently seen an increased demand for Concierge services which are becoming critical to good customer relations.
Offering a wide range of personable services to make customers’ lives easier – arranging, recommending and booking, the Concierge is definitely a growing trend.
However, we still maintain that strong and open relationships that are key “DNA” elements in our business, together with our highly motivated and skilled management team, who share our passion for providing a unique service proposition.
This article features in Tomorrow’s FM magazine – view it here: http://www.tomorrowsfm.com/#