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Location, Location, Location

Managing multiple operations can be a logistical nightmare, but one supplier has tips on making it work efficiently

Working in 76 countries around the world, it might seem that ServiceChannel has mastered international operations.

But international facilities management isn’t just about working in more than one country. It’s about managing thousands of local municipalities, hundreds of state/provincial governments, and in some cases, even regional regulations.

Many of ServiceChannel’s customers are multinational, so David Markowitz, Senior Director of Product Marketing, has a good handle on the challenges faced when a company crosses borders.

“If you have multiple locations, and things need to be maintained, how do you find contractors, manage work orders, plan repairs and organize billing? You have to be able to track to make sure workers show up, and correct invoices are submitted and paid. You must also have the business intelligence and analytics to track the spending, identify outliers and manage the complete life cycle.”

While managing international store locations can indeed be challenging, it is a growing trend as retailers pursue multinational expansion. Markowitz provides a road map for some of the key hurdles.

1. Navigating varying codes and regulations. “Every country is different,” Markowitz said. “And every country has different requirements, even on the same issue.”

That may mean you need to submit a statement in the UK to define risk management. It might mean navigating a series of different requirements for the types of insurance required and the amounts that need to be held, which can vary by country – and even sometimes by state or province.

“A lot of countries have health and safety requirements that include audits and inspections of stores, and these vary broadly,” Markowitz said. “It’s important to have a consistent and comprehensive approach to inspections that incorporate what is needed at the local store level to meet different requirements.”

2. Paying in multiple currencies. Whether handling a contractor’s invoice for a repair or making a payment for much-needed insurance, being able to operate in multiple currencies is a must.

3. Accommodating different language and time zones. For a company that operates in New York and Tokyo, the time difference is 13 hours. “Time zones are a big thing,” Markowitz said. “When something comes in during off-work hours, how do you handle it? Can you track it automatically, or wait?”

Multiple languages also create challenges for any system used to manage or track maintenance issues. “Companies located in multiple countries must allow people from the same company to log into one system, but provide information they need in their language,” Markowitz said.

4. Finding subcontractors. Markowitz advised finding a global service provider available not only in the locations you already occupy but in planned expansion areas. “How do you find contractors in some of these local jurisdictions? That can be an issue.”

5. Coping with degrees of industry expertise. Operating in multiple countries means store maintenance experts may deal with varying degrees of knowledge. “In the U.S. there is a pretty good infrastructure set up,” Markowitz said. “PRSM offers a lot of educational resources. In Europe, there are not as many resources.”

6. Meeting infrastructure challenges. While Europe and much of Asia are on par with the U.S. in terms of technology, as global expansion continues, some retailers may have to face this obstacle.

None of these issues are insurmountable and many retailers have found success. Markowitz said that making the change from one English-speaking country to another is a great place to start with international expansion.

Technology has helped make international expansion easier, seamlessly navigating multiple languages and currencies. “This is not as big of a leap as it might have been 10 years ago,” Markowitz said.

By: Sandy Smith

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