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Andrew Shaw is the Property and Facilities Manager at Pulteney Grammar School in Adelaide. With over 30 years’ experience in manufacturing operations, maintenance management and facilities management, across diverse industries like automotive and component manufacturing, tourism, viticulture and now education, Andrew is an expert in process development, and creating high performing teams.
We sat down with Andrew in November 2023 to get his insights into the industry.
Originally, I came in through a trade background, doing an apprenticeship with Clipsal back in 1990. After a few years I had the opportunity to go down to Wingfield and run a new manufacturing plant they were setting up from scratch down there.
At the time, I was a young tradesperson, so it was a great opportunity to start down a leadership pathway. And from there I just kept seeking out new opportunities, learning as much as possible.
The plant eventually closed, but before its closure, I was fortunate to take up a position with General Motors, Holden. I was there through the global financial crisis, and during that time a lot of senior leaders took redundancy packages, which eventually created opportunities for people like me. Eventually I found myself running a production plant, overseeing production of thousands of cars each week as well as leading Toolmaking Teams as a Team Leader. I was then promoted to Area Supervisor which in turn saw me promoted to Maintenance Manager, which was basically a “2IC” to the Operations Plant Manager.
I departed Holden a year before the plant officially closed, and then did a 3 year stint with Treasury Wine Estates. After that, I went to work with Journey Beyond, who run tourism operations like The Ghan, I stayed for two years running the trains from a General Manager of Maintenance level, but that was right as we got hit by COVID, so when the opportunity at Pulteney came up, I jumped at the chance.
I love working here, I would not change this job for the world. We’re really changing the way the school operates in terms of facilities management.
Throughout my leadership journey, being able to work with people is definitely the most important, transferrable skill I’ve developed. You need to have really good people skills to be in any sort of leadership position.
Respect people, don’t judge where they’ve come from, and embrace their strengths, rather than trying only to fix any shortcomings. It’s so important to really listen to people, and let them contribute.
Whether it’s 4 people or 400, the best leaders are the ones who listen to their people. You get so much more potential out of people when they’re permitted to contribute, rather than kept in their box.
I’m very big on collaboration and bringing people along for the journey, when you get people involved, people will embrace what they can do. Always look after your people first, and the job will take care of itself.
From manufacturing to viticulture, tourism and now education, developing the right processes has been the most important thing.
I’m always looking for continuous improvement, and the way to find that is by taking a really close look at the processes. When something doesn’t go according to plan, and everyone has followed the processes, that’s a sure sign the processes themselves are wrong.
That was something in the DNA of Holden, and while I was there I used all the resources they had on offer to really learn how to hone my skills in that area.
Everything starts with having the right processes in place, so the first thing I do is ask if there are any processes!
If there aren’t any, then I’ll look at what we’re trying to accomplish as an organisation, and dive into how we’re going to get there. Processes and systems should be really defined, and everything should be systems based. It just has to be now, you can’t have a bunch of people doing manual work, it isn’t efficient.
The goal is to build a high performing team, which comes back to caring about the people, listening to them, and playing to their strengths. Work out what their strengths are and let the team do their jobs, supporting them but not micro-managing them.
For starters the change in language is very different, you go from being in a trade where everyone has a nickname, to referring to everyone by their title and surname! That’s weird to get used to after you’ve been out of the school environment for so long.
In education, the operations team are a relatively small part of the organisation, the majority of our staff are teachers. While they’re brilliant educators, the operations side of thing is not their top priority, so it’s a process of educating the educators.
In education, it’s about building processes to support the teaching staff and students, that fit into their days organically. Logging maintenance requests aren’t their focus, so you need to make that process simple enough that they feel supported by it, not frustrated, or intimidated.
The best maintenance teams in education are the “invisible” ones, if everything is running smoothly, there’s no interruptions, you don’t see the maintenance team, which means they’re doing a fantastic job.
The movement towards sustainability is definitely the single biggest change I’ve seen, compared to now, the industry was really quite wasteful when I started out. Now, reducing our footprint is a major focus, which has a big payout, both financially and in terms of our impact.
There’s also been shifts because of the use of automation and new technologies, particularly in manufacturing. The jobs have changed, and headcount has reduced, but it’s also created different kinds of opportunities. You need people who can work all those machines, and the software supporting it.
I think we’re at the precipice of a massive skills shortage in trades, partially because of the shutdown of manufacturing. We’re already seeing that, luckily, we have some key trades here at Pulteney, but if you need to branch out it is a nightmare.
I think there is scope for some more formal learning pathways for people to get into facilities management itself too. You can’t go and do an apprenticeship in FM, which makes it hard for people to get into it.
Every day is different! You can’t plan out your day in facilities management, because you don’t know what is going to come up. It’s very dynamic, one second you might be planning to refurbish a gym floor, the next working with the city council or heritage.
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