Covid delivers mixed lessons to FM supply chains


  • Coronavirus,
  • Procurement

01 February 2021


The pandemic has severely impacted organisations’ ability to procure sustainably, had a negative effect on FM supply chain partnerships but has also changed some things for the better, including faster decision-making and technology uptake.  That was the conclusion from a panel debate involving the IWFM’s London, UAE and Nigeria regions held on 19 January, reports London region chair Cathy Hayward.

“The pandemic’s impact was swift and severe and was compounded by Brexit. It put paid to our long-term focus and we moved more to a ‘here and now’ tactic,” said Steve McGregor, managing director of DMA Group, a property services provider in the UK. “We stockpiled where we could and procured ahead of schedule in our construction work but we faced inevitable problems around the availability of PPE and other essentials. It meant that we prioritised work such as client’s compliance.”

Barry Clarke, COO of Msheireb Properties in the UAE, resorted to widening his vendor selection. “Some relationships with partners became strained as I would buy products elsewhere on the market when I needed to.”

Despite that, in a poll of the 200-strong webinar audience, 88 percent said it was very important to foster existing relationships with good suppliers while 57 percent said they would increase the number of vendors to ensure the availability of items if the pandemic continued.

Wole Olufore, managing director of Alpha Mead FM in Nigeria, said the pandemic forced his workforce and supply chain to upskill. “We typically completed a lot of work manually. The pandemic has increased the use of technology to reduce contact with people which has improved the way we do things. It’s created opportunities for our sector.”

McGregor from DMA agreed. “Despite the challenges, Covid has improved some things for the better. The increased adoption of technology and flexible working, for example, together with faster decision-making.”

But the sustainability agenda has come under threat during Covid, said Clarke. “It was sometimes difficult to maintain our sustainability standards such as the quality of materials and materials with minimised packaging.”

There is a cost associated with sustainability, acknowledged McGregor, but the pandemic has allowed people to depend less on dwindling resources and more on renewables and recycling. It’s enabled our supply chains to become more resilient as a result.”

The session ended with some interesting audience questions around whether the pandemic would see global supply chains ‘decoupled’. McGregor, who previously worked for catering giant Compass Group, said that it could result in multinationals preferring local partners who could be more flexible and adaptable when under pressure.

Watch the full webinar recording here >