Image taken during training exercise only.

Innovative Practices through Inter-Business Collaboration

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About the author : Paul Amato

Director FM Platform at Sodexo

Published on : 2/2/21
  • The pandemic imposed some of the greatest challenges many businesses had ever been confronted with. At the same time, it sparked a season of intense innovation and collaboration which saw many companies develop new and robust ways to operate in a COVID world.

    Many organisations examined how they could create more efficient ways to meet new demands and instilled new processes to optimise costs and productivity.

    Sodexo reviewed every sector, site and procedure to ensure our systems and processes could meet and, where possible, exceed new requirements. When COVID-19 first started to have an impact on our operations, I oversaw many of the new processes put in place, as we adapted how we managed facilities, assets, teams and projects, and ensured we were in good stead to formulate a robust COVID-safe plan for the future.

    One way we did this was by initiating a collaborative partnership with consulting engineers Norman Disney & Young (NDY) to develop an innovative solution in response to Sodexo’s global requirements for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 contaminated facilities.

    Sodexo team in COVID trainingWhen the pandemic hit, we ensured our people weren’t entering suspected or confirmed COVID-19 contaminated areas until certain criteria were met. At the time, there needed to be either a minimum period of 72 hours passed before entering a space where a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 had existed or a confirmed minimum of 12 air changes had occurred prior to undertaking any reactive COVID-19 surface cleaning before entering the space. Air changes within certain mining village facilities aren’t measurable, as these are simple structures with one door, one or two windows and no fresh intake air conditioning system. This posed difficulties and required an immediate review of how we handled cleaning and made the environment safe to do so.

    We needed a creative solution to ensure 12 air changes had occurred within facilities prior to undertaking reactive surface cleaning, as 72 hours was too long for the client to wait for facilities to be cleaned and be available for a new occupant to use. We wanted to be able to commence a reactive clean within a short turnaround time. This is where a strong collaboration came into play.

    Through our collaboration with NDY, we were able to create the Air Change Extraction System to enable quantifiable air changes for these facilities.


    Collaboration is an excellent tool to overcome adversity and improve upon processes already in place. Think of brainstorms for example. One mind works just fine coming up with ideas and creative solutions. But two minds? Three? That’s when you get to pool from a wealth of experiences, different areas and levels of expertise, and backgrounds to come up with something truly innovative and sometimes even ground-breaking.

    When businesses collaborate, they learn new things from each other. It encourages continued learning and growth. Through combining different people and teams, you can objectively look at how to improve processes or craft ways to avoid potential failures or hiccups along the way.

    Inter-business collaboration takes both businesses into new areas. Intra-business collaboration is also vital, and is what we experienced working with Sodexo locally and globally, with extensive input from our Operations, Project Management, local and global HSSEQ, and global technical services teams and infection control specialists. By combining these different teams within our business, and externally with NDY, we developed a strong coalition comprising of individuals and groups playing to their strengths. It’s a win-win and creates long-lasting business relationships moving forward and, for many, continued business results.

    Here are just some key benefits I’ve learnt during our collaboration with NDY and with Sodexo locally and globally:

    • Our knowledge and skills were amplified through learning new ways of doing things and by delving into spaces we wouldn’t normally operate in
    • Our network grew
    • Problems were solved through the input of others
    • We were able to fuel innovation through teams with different approaches to solving problems, different backgrounds and, subsequently, different ways of thinking


    Sodexo’s Air Changes Extraction System was developed in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis and has assisted in safeguarding the health of its employees, clients and consumers at Western Australian mining villages. This system solved the problem of lack of measurable fresh air flow within the mining village dwellings by placing extraction equipment outside the facility, and a small opening on the opposite end, to draw out and replace the full volume of air within the room at a known rate.

    The process ensured quantifiable air changes happened quickly, so we could commence a reactive deep clean within five hours or less, rather than 72 hours. This allowed rooms to be back in service quickly and meant clients would not face major operational disruptions.

    The new system has proven to be a fast and effective mechanical ventilation solution to proving calculated air volume changes in spaces where no new fresh air is inducted into a HVAC system or where no system exists.

    This new innovation demonstrated our commitment to safety by setting the highest possible standard for health and safety at our facilities, developing best practices to protect employees and the residents of villages.


    A culture of safety is paramount in all facilities management operations, which is why we place a significant focus on the company’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) platform to ensure our segments in Australia meet Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) objectives. It’s built into everything we do, and we will continue to set the bar for health and safety standards to assist in containing the spread of COVID-19.

    If we had remained complacent and accepted the state of the world with COVID-19 without rethinking our practices, systems in place, and our workplaces, we likely would have fallen behind.

    By adapting and recognising these challenges could be solved with a solution that considered all potential pitfalls, we were able to collaboratively create a unique solution which allowed us to operate safely, efficiently and cost effectively. 

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