There are a number of delivery methods for organisations when it comes to repairs to our social housing. DLO, joint venture, multi-trade contractor (on standard SOR’s or price per property) or specialist contractor.
There have been various discussions over the years about the best method but most have concentrated at a high level – ie contract delivery across multiple trades.
I’d like to take us down to the individual trades. The point I want to make is that if the items being covered require specialist knowledge, a large specific van stock AND can be maintained to reduce reactive calls then the specialist contractor route is worthy for consideration.
There is little to be actively maintained for most trades and the van stock/parts (ie electric sockets, taps etc) are very generic. However for PVCu windows (and doors) the hardware is very susceptible to corrosion and friction. Failure is very expensive in context to the cost of the replacement part – especially if that part can be replaced within a maintenance visit – or at least from van stock on the initial reactive call.
The variety of hardware, even in a very well specified stock that has not had bolt on acquisitions, can easily run into hundreds of parts. If we want to keep the First Time Completion (or FVF, first viable fix) rate up then having a well managed van stock with daily replenishment is absolutely vital.
The systems to support the hardware decisions, purchasing, stock levels and replenishment need to be tailored through years of experience and investment in automation. This is just not something that we see in other delivery methods. The cost of the failure by not having this integrated capability is often swallowed by other more lucrative trades but this is not really acceptable.
Granted, extra overheads can be introduced when a specialist is utilised, but these can easily be removed through system integration as for example we do by exposing our booking system to clients. These problems are easy to solve compared to the complexities of the field delivery system and although important should not drive the initial decision process.
On balance it is possible to run a specialist trade through other delivery models but the true cost is often higher than expected, both in monetary terms as well as resident satisfaction. Many trades work extremely well in a multi-trade contract however, although a fairly low spend (in comparison with other trades the repairs/maintenance), the case for a specialist window repairs/maintenance contractor grows stronger with every day the items get older and the parts get harder to source. Marking items U/S (unserviceable) and moving the problem to the capital expenditure budget can only go on for so long.