Grupo EULEN is a Spanish firm founded in 1962, dedicated to providing general services to businesses and public administrations. The company is specialised in cleaning, security, support services (logistics, general and telemarketing), facility services & management, health services, comprehensive maintenance, temporary employment and environmental services. Grupo EULEN provides over 60 different services to its clients, with a global workforce of more than 84.000 professionals.
Guillermo Pérez Morales is Technical Director and National Sales Manager at Grupo EULEN Support Services. He has worked at the firm since 1999. Given his expertise in outsourcing and facility services in a wide range of areas he also carries out a number of training and conference activities. He is a professional with extensive experience in the airport sector, having implemented, led and managed a range of large scale outsourcing and facility services projects in the sector since 2001.
“Sustainability should form an essential part of the undertaking made by companies to society as a whole and to airport users in particular”.
Facility management is an increasingly popular business strategy in many industries, but what role do you feel it currently plays in the airport sector? And how do you view of it in five years’ time?
I consider that facility management is presently a key element in practically all sectors of the economy and, of course, in the airport sector as well. It has formed part of the airport sector for many years as a tool which generates value in projects requiring the management of human resources, materials and technologies.
The airport sector is certainly complex, very demanding and requires a great deal of professionalism. Therefore, from my standpoint, in order to recognise the importance and influence facility management should have in this sector, it is essential to be keenly aware of the scope of what in my opinion are the sector’s five key factors.
Firstly, it requires that all operations have to be planned both in time and in the way they are performed within a set of predefined quality parameters that contribute to ensuring the safety of all operations. The second key factor is the high degree of technical complexity of all its services and operations, which invites us to parameterise (automate in some cases) and continuously standardise all the processes of the different areas which make up an airport. The third is the need to adjust and integrate in a necessarily coordinated way all the operations involving the different stakeholders at the airport (airlines, handling services, cleaning services, maintenance, check-in, baggage handling, etc.) to the processes, technology and human resources needed for each service or project. The fourth key factor is the need to create a comfortable safe environment for all its users. And the last and fifth factor is that all the companies linked to an airport should help and contribute towards improving the users’ experience.
Thus, in my opinion, facility management has to “understand”, align itself with and integrate itself into these five key factors so that its contribution to this sector, as part of the value chain, really makes a contribution to improving on a daily basis processes, services and the experiences of users.
This is why I feel that facility management plays an essential role in the airport sector, given that, when it is well focused, it should be capable of providing quick, safe and efficient responses to each of the key factors at an airport that I have mentioned previously. It thus becomes a tangible tool that generates value for the sector.
In order to achieve this, it first has to be in line with the strategic objectives of any airport infrastructure by defining a clear and accurate business model for any services in which it is used. A specific model is the best way to generate trust among those holding responsibility for the infrastructure, users and the facility management company itself.
Secondly, said model will serve as a strategic and operational basis for projects managed by qualified human teams having a business philosophy based on flexibility, productivity and adjusting resources to operations or seasonal factors with the ability to transform overheads into variable costs, innovate, provide the appropriate technology and contribute to operational cost savings by enhancing processes on a continuous basis.
According to my experience in the different airport projects I have been involved in from a management perspective, I have always attempted to implement this philosophy and approach to each of them as a means of generating trust among our customers and the airport’s users.
How do I see facility management in five years’ time? I see it fully integrated into the airport value chain, truly responding to user needs and with a clear aim in mind: enhancing the customer’s experience. We cannot forget that everything revolves around customers and that is precisely what facility management companies have to understand.
However, in order to attain this vision, I believe it is essential for facility management companies to be increasingly geared at what I call “the economy of experiences”, in other words the ability of and interest in getting to know, assessing and analysing the impact which the services the facility management company may offer at an airport have on the different kinds of users. Knowing the perceptions, assessments and demands of airport passengers or users will be a key factor to evolve, improve and create services are fine-tuned to a sector having a great potential for innovation and creativity.
The factors which are taken into account when an airport is designed have evolved a great deal and today more emphasis is placed on concepts like sustainability, for example. What impact has this evolution had on services companies working at airports?
From my experience, I believe it is necessary to view an airport as a “green environment” where many people usually work or pass through in order to comprehend the impact of important concepts like sustainability. It is a driving force for the city or country’s economy. It creates jobs and is able to provide society with such a basic service like air transport.
Thus, given this sector’s importance for a city or country, services companies, as part of the airport value chain, should work in line with any airport infrastructure’s corporate social responsibility by of course contributing to airports’ economic, social and technological improvement and always providing added value to the processes in which they take part.
That is precisely why sustainability should form an essential part of the undertaking made by companies to society as a whole and to airport users in particular. It is evident that airports have already implemented environmental management systems and policies at their facilities which are in accordance with users’ new demands. This is the reason why I believe services companies should follow their lead and their users as well, who pass through a smart space and would view security, cleanliness and the care taken in each square metre of the facility in a positive light. The ambience should be as comfortable and as secure as possible, thereby at the very minimum contributing to ensuring a positive user experience. We should all be very demanding about this.
As you know, the European Union set a mandatory target for airport infrastructures of covering 20% of their energy consumption with renewable sources by 2020. Hence, we are all responsible for contributing to this target, either by reducing energy consumption or by providing environmental solutions that improve the environment and contribute to improving users’ experience of any services in which we have a presence.
Furthermore, with regards to some specific services in our maintenance area, we can provide perfectly sustainable and tangible solutions like, for instance, controlling and managing air conditioning and lighting, managing services that enable current lights to be replaced by LED systems and allowing for safer, cheaper and more natural lighting.
From my point of view, the impact of corporate social responsibility policies on facility management companies has therefore made a positive contribution by making us more demanding on ourselves through the strict fulfilment of these policies and by providing added value solutions to airport infrastructures as “green” environments.
Grupo Eulen provides numerous kinds of services at airports in many countries. Which markets do you believe offer business opportunities today?
Facility management in itself is an opportunity. Although it is a business which generates €650 billion in Europe alone, of which €50 billion are managed from Spain, according to the European Facility Management Association, these figures are still an unknown business strategy for some companies which are unaware of all the advantages outsourcing can offer them.
Facility management is not only a business solution which allows costs to be optimised, it is also able to create value through processes, people and even provide the necessary technology to appropriately manage services.
Taking the specific case of Grupo EULEN, we have a presence in practically all sectors of the economy, such as: industry, automobiles, logistics, banking and insurance, education, agri foodstuffs, facilities, rail transport, hotels, ports, etc. We manage cleaning, maintenance, security, environmental, ancillary, social, health and temporary employment services in each of them.
Hence, keeping in mind our services portfolio, our business opportunities are many and varied for each sector and customer. Given the value and weight we give to each of our customers, our aim at EULEN is to always customise our management models to each sector, company and process by providing the appropriate solution to each of the customer’s needs.
Furthermore, from my standpoint, I think that business opportunities today are very closely linked in a highly incipient way to services which require the use of technology and its integration with processes and people, such as, for example, digital channel management, BPO services, e-commerce, etc. These are highly interesting markets and facility management companies have to be ready to manage them.
In your opinion, does the perfect airport exist? If there are any key features that an airport should have to be considered as one of the best in the world, what are they?
It is very complicated to say whether the perfect airport exists due to the complexity and large number of parameters used to measure an airport’s quality (cleanliness, punctuality, adaptability, customer service and information, technology, signage, passenger flow management, etc.).
The fact that in my opinion the perfect airport does not exist is highly positive for me, since it allows “healthy” competition to exist among airports, firstly to become their city or country’s main economic point of reference and, subsequently, because they need to measure themselves against other airports. This effect and the willingness to implement improvements allow new processes of any scope to be implemented every day that contribute to enhancing the quality of these infrastructures. There is no doubt that users and society are the main recipients and beneficiaries of the airport sector’s vocation for progressive enhancement.
In addition, technology has favoured and speeded up the pace of globalisation, thereby allowing the best airports to be located anywhere on the planet, be it in Asia, Europe or America.
To my mind, the best airports are the airports which clearly place users at the very core of all their activities. Airport infrastructures, services and operations should revolve around users and offer them an adaptable and secure response to their needs and requirements.
Taking users as the core of an airport and taking into account that their impact necessarily cuts across any of the processes carried out at the airport infrastructure, the main features which I believe a great airport should have would be the comfort and cleanliness of its facilities, proper passenger flow management through signage, customer services and appropriate information.
All of this together being well managed should allow the passenger experience to be as satisfactory as possible.
Improving the passenger experience through technology is becoming increasingly important in the sector. In your opinion, what are the main innovations available in the market today and how do you think this trend will develop?
In the vast majority of cases, I think airport passengers behave like digital citizens who use technology on a daily basis. They know it and, in many cases, control it. This raises companies’ level of responsibility to equip a smart space like airports with technological innovations that are capable of meeting the demands made by passengers, who are increasingly demanding and require adaptable, reliable and secure responses.
I always like to give the iPad as an example to illustrate how quickly technology is advancing. This device, which is known by millions of people around the world, was first released in January 2010. In other words, surprisingly enough, only five years have elapsed since it was officially released, yet we have all assimilated touch-screen technology through tablets, smartphones or any other of the so-called wearable devices. They now form part of our daily life and, nonetheless, I reiterate, only five years have gone by since they were introduced.
To my mind, I believe that the airport sector has been able to assimilate in a natural way that technology is the key to improve any process, assuming that the coming generations – this sector’s future users – will be fully literate in digital terms and will demand new services that surely do not exist today. That is why it is necessary to evolve at least as fast as the pace of innovations in order to avoid lagging behind.
In line with this requirement, airports have implemented a large number of technological enhancements in recent years. Some of these which stand out, for instance, are auto check-in, information kiosks that allow any doubts to be cleared up at any time of day, the scanning of boarding cards with QR codes to speed up queues, equipping airport lounges with Wi-Fi and even allowing Internet access to passengers on aeroplanes anywhere or creating and designing apps that provide information, data, etc. In all these cases, technology has been focused on making the stay of passengers in a smart space like airports easier and even making passengers happier.
Luckily enough, these advances are now realities and they are just a limited example of how technology is evolving rapidly on a daily basis.
How will this trend develop? Well, this is evidently just the beginning of a very interesting future in which airports, as large infrastructures, are becoming the main point of reference for the smart city concept, where a large number of people coexist and interact to meet other people’s needs which, in this case, are users who have decided to use air transport or airport infrastructures for personal or business reasons. If airports are equated to smart spaces, they should therefore evolve at the same pace as the “Internet of things” or wearable devices do, that is to say bracelets, rings, t-shirts, shorts, lenses and glasses that are capable of gathering and transmitting data and interacting with other devices which, in the case of airports, carry out processes that are much more rapid than current processes and at least meet the same quality parameters.
Where are airports going then? Well, in my humble opinion, they are becoming spaces where users are able to carry out any process for themselves within an airport infrastructure through their devices as part of a do-it-yourself philosophy.
My vision for airports in the medium term is not solely geared at a machine-to-machine approach, but rather it would require a humanisation of processes as an essential key element to allow new innovations to be properly used by airport users. In this long learning process, facility management will be the key to providing qualified professionals who are able to attend to users and inform them about the proper use of new technologies. That is why I consider that technology should evolve rapidly, but we have to clearly emphasise that it will never be used if it is not fully understood by people.
Hence, facility management will not only provide traditional essential services to airports like cleaning, security, maintenance, customer service and information, consultancy, environmental services, handling, etc., it will also be the key to direct new services linked to the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) area by managing large platforms which allow all the information “that will circulate” through airports as a result of new technologies and the interactions between users and the infrastructures themselves to be analysed, controlled and measured. It will even allow for the analysis of the impact digital channels have as a natural showcase for all the opinions users express through social networks about any service performed at the airport. Facility management has a lot to say about all this.
As you can see, we have come a long way, but luckily a lot still remains to be done and this is what motivates us as professionals to carry on developing services and processes that improve life at airports.