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Manpower upsizes maintenance division; Hinchcliffe wants to shed ‘janitorial stigma’

Published:Tuesday | July 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM
CEO of Manpower and Mintenance Services Limited, Audrey Hichcliffe, wants the company to shed its person as a 'janitor' and evolve as a maintenance operation.

Manpower and Maintenance Services (MMS) Limited is tweaking its brand to reflect the addition of new business lines which CEO Audrey Hinchcliffe says are intended to smooth out lumpy revenue flows.

Manpower is now targeting the business process outsourcing sector for its full suite of maintenance services, saying two major contracts were secured at companies on the north coast, each to begin before September.

Manpower's newly created 'Full Facilities Maintenance Services' arm includes maintenance management, post-construction renovation and cleaning, power washing, window washing, air conditioning servicing, and cleaning of vents and ducts.

"We have plumbers, painters and electricians, which we have registered with us to make sure they are properly certified," Hinchcliffe said.

Manpower has long offered maintenance services, but it remains a fragment of the business, alongside other minor services, while cleaning brings in four-fifths of revenue. The company has been losing cleaning contracts as companies cut costs in a flat economy. And Hinchcliffe is responding by rebalancing the company's revenue mix through specialised services.

cleaning, the primary source

Manpower is heavily dependent on bank overdrafts in a climate where clients no longer pay mobilisation fees and may take as long as four months to make the first payment on their contracts - leaving the company's cash flows vulnerable.

Still, cleaning is to remain the company's primary source of income. Manpower has had contracts for more than 20 years in the health sector, with facilities such as Spanish Town Hospital and the Tony Thwaites Wing at the University Hospital at the West Indies, and has long worked with local banks and other companies. Hinchcliffe says she will continue to compete around "quality" in those segments, but is adding new services for added value at "competitive" rates.

"We are stigmatised as a janitorial company," said the businesswoman. But: "We are now advertising ourselves as a full facilities maintenance services company," she said.

That also includes painting, plumbing and light removal of material/equipment - all of which make use of resources already available to the 25-year-old company founded by Hinchcliffe.

revenue mix to change

Manpower has more than 200 client locations and still earns 80 per cent of revenue from cleaning, with the other one-fifth earned from pest control services, maintenance, human resource training and business support services. The revenue mix is expected to change over time as the company rolls out its bundled maintenance services.

The diversification, said Hinchcliffe, is driven by clients who ask for more. Pest control, for example, was added five years ago in response to client requests.

"A client will say, 'You clean the place but we need pest control; we need a wall painted, a pipe fixed'. We do the research to find out if is this the only client" ahead of a new service roll-out, said the CEO.

The investment in the maintenance arm was not disclosed, nor did Hinchcliffe say just how big she expects the new operation to become.

Another new initiative for Manpower is the direct sourcing of cleaning chemicals and toiletries, which has previously been done through third-party suppliers in Jamaica.

"We have now appointed a purchasing officer at the beginning of July and he is now sourcing overseas," said the Manpower boss, who noted that it should solve the problem of unreliable, and pricey, local volume supplies.

Garth Hinchcliffe, business development manager for Manpower, also disclosed that the company is weighing a long-term plan to enter into the manufacture of cleaning chemicals but said the idea is in its early stages and needs time to germinate. Based on the company's analysis so far, he said supplies that retail for over $500 locally per unit might cost about $100 to manufacture and could boost an area of the business that is showing promise.

Manpower doubled revenue from its supply of toiletries to its clients from $20 million to $40 million last year, said Garth, and could grow even more under direct sourcing of supplies.

Outside of its technical operations, Manpower is also now in the business of short-term facilities rental, which leverages income from unused space at its complexes in Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay, and which is expected to add $5 million in sales in 2015, up from $3 million in 2014.

For a minimum of four hours for events such as board meetings and training sessions, rental costs start at $6,000.

Manpower owns the Kingston complex but operates from leased space in Mandeville and Montego Bay.

Garth said that new capital investment in the company includes spend on IT, human resources in the form of accounting and HR managers, and a new call centre to provide client feedback.

The company also plans to increase its current fleet of leased vehicles from 13 to about 20 by yearend - this based on new business already signed - and plans to widen its maintenance offering.

"I can say to you we were in a real slump, in terms of revenue - maybe for the last three to five years. Now, because we have been offering all these additional services, we are now back into a growth pattern," the CEO said.

She declined to share the company's total turnover or otherwise indicate Manpower's size.

Manpower employs about 1,200 workers under contract and 40 permanent staff. Subsidiary company MMS Placement Agency Limited specialises in the placement of janitorial staff but will also provide other general workers.

Manpower also provides training through its Institute of Workforce Development, whose programmes are certified by HEART Trust/NTA.