Makarand Kulkarni, Reliance Retail

Makarand Kulkarni, Reliance Retail

The spread of COVID-19 across the globe and its repercussions within our country itself stands testament to the severity of the crisis. This pandemic has manifested with various challenges due to its impact on the health of the population and followed closure of shops, offices and travel restrictions imposed due to lockdowns. To make the situation worse migration of working staff to native places has made it difficult to arrange the required manpower for operating essential services.
To ensure that the business is supported through FM solution such as upkeep of equipments, cleanliness of the premises of stores and sites which have become currently functional based on the relaxations given by the government in the lockdown and unlock period, Reliance Retail has taken various measures to ensure deploying resources to ensure optimum availability of equipment’s, soft-hygiene and effective sanitation of the stores and sites. The biggest learning from this critical period is the management’s ability to embrace a whole host of newer measures and operating standards, not only for the safety of employees and customers but also to maintain business continuity. This COVID-19 pandemic has called for a renewed view for hygiene and overall facility management to adapt to the new set of challenges through differentiated services.

It is quite evident that the staff won't be coming back to work under normal conditions. Without a vaccine in the immediate horizon, organisations will have to reopen the doors of the office while COVID-19 is still in the picture and this may last up to the fourth quarter of 2020. The company’s HR department will be playing a pivotal role for re-organising how we work, travel, congregate, eat, move and connect; with the sole purpose to ensure that the new rules will have to be designed in a way that protects staff’s health.
Our transition plan mainly will evolve around initially deploying only the roles that absolutely need to be in the office and those who have their own vehicles and rest will operate from home as they’ve already been provided with necessary hardware and IT connectivity support. Secondly, those operating from the office will have temperature checks while entering the premises, sitting with increased the distance between workspaces, strengthening hygiene procedures with frequent hand wash, wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, avoiding face-to-face interactions, etc.
For staff working from home the company has implemented processes for "digital sanitation" that will ensure a high degree of hardware security, preserve multi-factor authentication and, if necessary, keep VPNs up and running.
While providing the FM services to retail stores and sites (distribution centres), the focus is mainly to ensure the health safety of the customers and staff. Given this, Reliance Retail deployed the following  measures:
1)      Identified suitable disinfectant which is approved by WHO and USEPA for effectively neutralising the Covid-19 virus.
2)      Planned and deployed three-pronged action for disinfecting the stores/sites:
a)      Express deep cleaning services: This service is provided for stores that have reopened based on the relaxation of norms by the government. The activities include carrying out deep cleaning of the complete facility using specialised disinfectant, including areas which are inaccessible within the premises. Also carrying out other pest control services to check breeding of rodents and pests. Only after this is completed, the stores are handed over for normal business
b)      Scheduling a disinfectant service every two-hour: Cleaning of floors and all the high and low touch points using specialised disinfectants
c)      Special sterifume services:  This service is provided when suspected Covid-19 positive customer has come to our store and at a later stage informed to us by the government agency as part of contact tracing. In this complete store is sanitized using specialised disinfectant by fogging /misting the complete interiors of the store premises.

3)      Ensuring timely payments to housekeeping and maintenance staff and providing additional incentives in terms of daily ration for deployed staff
4)      Providing training to housekeeping staff on usage of specialised disinfectants, social distancing, personal hygiene and usage of PPE’s
5)      Developed and deployed handsfree hand wash station and contactless sanitizer dispensing units
6)      Created and installed apparel sanitizing rooms using UV lamps
7)      Developing a process along with lifts and escalator vendors for contactless operation of lifts and escalators
8)      Developed revised SOPs for disinfectant services keeping in view the high standard of hygiene and social distancing required to combat the spread of Covid-19 virus.

Technology cannot prevent the onset of the pandemics; however, it can help prevent the spread, educate, warn, and empower those on the ground to be aware of the situation, and noticeably reduce the impact.

In view of the contagious nature of the Covid-19 virus, it is pertinent that the workforce maintains social distancing, avoids unnecessary travels and performs contactless operations. The pandemic has forced us to expedite the technological innovations and automation systems that were in the pipeline and look for new innovations that were essentially not required normally. Following are the key technological innovations and automation systems facility management service providers will be developing

1)      Paperless check sheets: Digitisation of check sheets is very essential to maintain minimum contact and social distance. Due to travel restrictions in, carrying paper-based check sheets from store/site to offices or from one department to another is very difficult. The movement of the paper-based check sheet was required for validation/certification. By introducing the digitised check sheet, the validation can be done online on real-time basis and it enables the analysis and corrective actions of various parameters recorded on the check sheets.

2)      Online monitoring of equipment parameters: The facility manager ends up wearing so many hats. With limited hours in the day, he needs to keep a tab of various aspects and monitor regularly. In this scenario, getting real-time alerts for events that require his attention will be a boon and this will improve his productivity and allow him to focus on other important aspects. The online monitoring will provide alerts on water leak, changes in temperature or humidity, or other unusual events. With this timely proactive corrective action can be initiated rather than wait for the complete failure of the system

There are two major challenges going forward, as given below:
Availability of trained manpower: There will be an acute shortage of trained housekeeper and technicians due to the development of digitised check sheets, online monitoring system, etc. The existing available resources need to be trained and made ready to handle various check sheets.

Deploying of cost-effective solutions:
Despite the initiation of the “unlock” phase, there are still certain restrictions that exist. As a result of which companies have not been able to deploy their full workforce.  There are industries and unorganised sectors not operating with full potential causing unemployment or partial employment. This will result in a shortage of cash amongst the population and there already is reduced demand for products and services. This will cause a reduction in revenue for most businesses. Due to which the industries may not be ready to invest more money in automation. Hence it is very pertinent that FMs come up with cost-effective sustainable solutions for future operations.

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