Industry Insights: Kel Oswin

Insights of the Industry headshot template featuring Kel Oswin

Kel Oswin is the Support Services Manager at Beaufort and Skipton Health Service in Victoria. The Health Service was recently awarded the Australian Small Employer of the Year.

Kel and his team remain committed to creating a progressive, well maintained facility that their community can rely on.

With Kel being an experienced facilities manager, we sat down with him in November 2023 to get his insights of the industry.  

How did you get into facilities management?

Prior to my current role, I was working with the Accor Group and RACV at a Hotel Resort. I was involved from the start of construction of the Resort in a project management capacity, and then stayed on to help manage the facility.

I quickly realised that in managing facilities, there’s a lot of little things that can turn into big things very quickly, there’s a lot of things to keep track of and report on.

In a huge facility like that, it’s easy to get in over your head, and so we implemented facilities management software out of necessity after the fact. That’s when I realised that to do this job effectively, the support that you can get through the right program is absolutely critical.

How has facilities management changed over your career?

Facilities management now is about so much more than just being able to fix things. When I first started in this area, it was all very ad hoc, you’d just fix things when they broke, and replaced them when you couldn’t fix them anymore, and nobody really knew when that was going to happen. 

Now, we have a lot of data, we have standards to maintain. We now understand better what our critical assets are, how they need to be maintained, and executing that maintenance plan to get the best possible lifecycle out of them.

Back in the day, it was fine to have a handwritten report, or hand someone a piece of paper with information on it. But expectations, and regulations, have changed, particularly with reference to safety and essential services. We now require a much higher level of input, record keeping, reporting and evidencing.  

There is a lot more accountability for people in roles like mine, and I cannot imagine how I’d do this role today without the support of software like FMI.

How have those changes impacted the skills required to do the job?

While once the job was all about being able to repair things, now, however we have a lot more administrative work around when are we going to fix something, who is going to do it, how long will it take and how much will it cost. It might frustrate some, but I see this as being something really empowering, and great for understanding the business. It also enables professional growth and development.

Our maintenance teams can go in, see what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how long it should take. This creates an opportunity to see what it is to manage, rather than just fix things, which helps people to create clear pathways and options for career development.

One of the great advantages of FMI is you don’t need a Uni degree to work with it, it is so intuitive that people who haven’t had a huge amount of experience on the reporting side of things can still learn so much by getting into that space. Particularly for those just coming into facilities management from something like a trade. They will soon be able to say “hey I can do this, and I know how to manage the data.” It really does create valuable opportunities.

There can be a degree of fear around adopting technologies like FMI, people worry sometimes that it’s going to steal their job or diminish it in some way. But it’s not about replacing people or taking opportunity away, on the contrary, it’s a change that improves the way we work, providing support to make the job easier and more effecient, and it often makes the team look great.

I can really see my team starting to develop their skills and enjoy doing so! For example, when work is completed, whoever did the work will provide information to the original requester. It is amazing to see how much their communication skills are improving, just by being involved in that part of the process.

That feedback loop helps them to really enjoy the interaction in their area. Feedback comments are regualr such as  “that’s great, wow that was fixed fast, thanks for helping” which provides real and positive reinforcement for the work the maintenance team are undertaking.

I firmly believe it’s an essential tool for facilities managers now, to make sure we’re meeting all our obligations, and giving us the ability to collect as much data as possible then report on it.

How do you see the role of facilities managers changing in the next decade?

It’s not enough anymore to be seen as the people who just fix things. We can’t just fix something that’s broken and let someone else worry about the admin, it just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The hands that know how to repair things must be the same hands that know how to input data, use the software that supports it, and then run the reports. The expectation that team members can use platforms like FMI it is one that will become even more normalised over the next decade.

The facilities manager isn’t there just to maintain things either, the role is moving into much more, such as contractor management, asset management, and as mentioned, reporting, and how all this information can be used for planning and maintenance scheduling. Increasingly too, it is service-based, with more emphasis on managing people and communicating effectively. We have to be able to communicate and bridge the gap between hard and soft skills.

I must admit I feel like I am in the twilight of my career now, however I like to think I’m progressive and willing to embrace change. However, I don’t make changes for the sake of it but I’m always looking for ways we can improve what we’re doing. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are in your career, it’s about always finding ways to learn and improve and then having the tools to get you where you want to be.

How has using facilities management software impacted your skill set?

Using FMI software has helped me to grow in my understanding of what I can do. We can be really good managers, but what makes a really great manager is the tools we use, and how, then how well, we use them.

There’s so much expected in our roles now, and with FMI, I can easily stay on top of it all, can watch in real time how issues are dealt with, how they were solved and what the cost was. I can go into meetings with insight on what the issues and problems are and speak to them with confidence, I couldn’t do that anywhere near as well before I had FMI.

I feel like I can turn up to a CapEx meeting with a clear understanding of how our budget needs will work over the next year, which is just such an reassuring feeling.

There’s so much power within the functionality of FMI that it helps me to be the best manager I can be. Mostly because I’m now in touch with every aspect of running the facility and its maintenance programs.

I can analyse reports, look at particular areas, and see aggregated data that allows me to identify trends which can help with planning. Having that level of visibility helps to develop a greater understanding of specific demands or indeed gaps while not losing sight of the bigger picture, this is what helps improve us as managers.

How does using facilities management software support service delivery?

It helps to strengthen the whole process really. In the early days of facilities management, it was often just using perhaps an email or a note to submit a request, it was so easy for requests to be lost, overlooked, or just forgotten and then there was little to no communication around outcomes. Using FMI really takes that out of the equation, I say to people that sometimes, I may fail to keep my promises…. but the software never does.

Once a request is in the system, it is definitely going to be dealt with, and throughout that process there will be communication, and a defined outcome. It’s really helping us to get things done and it also helps with building a better team culture as the communication builds trust amongst departments. We do what we say we are going to do. 

The nurses and clinical managers have enough to think about, and it gives them peace of mind that if there’s an issue, they just have to open the app, and there will be a result in a very short time with the appropriate communication around progress.

We have an active feedback loop now, which is another layer of accountability because we know for sure if work was completed properly and in a timely manner.  

What do you love about working in facilities management?

As a healthcare facility, we are often caring for those in the twilight of their life. It is so important that they have a great facility, that they are comfortable, secure, and well looked after, and that their family and friends, and even community can trust us to be the best we can be.

Being able to provide support, and a great environment for people who most need it and their families is something I really love about what I do, knowing I am able to make someone’s day better.

The goal for us is to ensure our facility is available for the community, and able to support the health of the community today and well into the future.

I personally also love the variety in my role. If I open FMI right now, I can see a range of work orders, jobs and tasks, and none of them are necessarily related. I love to see that and start thinking about how we’re going to solve various problems when we have so many diverse tasks and work to do.

It’s not just carpentry, plumbing or electrical, it can be anything, and that always makes for an interesting day!