Understanding facilities management through a service lens will help take it from the basement to the boardroom, says MARCUS ZEUSCHNER.
As the service assurance manager for BAE Systems Australia, Marcus Zeuschner is leading the redesign of the property and facilities management capability for the defence contracting giant.
And his goal is simple – to elevate those capabilities from the basement to the boardroom.
“With my team, we’re looking at how we make the shift from a product focus to service excellence and I see there are many parallels with facility management – moving FM from that ‘basement’ scenario focused on technical expertise into areas where it can drive strategic value for a business,” Zeuschner says.
“So what I’ve been doing here with BAE, and especially the facilities function over the last two years, is to understand its role within the business. Why does the function exist? What are the value drivers from that capability, and how do these generate value for the business? That’s my passion.”
While Zeuschner comes from an engineering background, he believes facilities management has evolved to need both ‘front of house’ and ‘back of house’ expertise. “The number of people coming into this area without a technical background is very evident now. Front of house very much demands soft skills, the ability to connect with stakeholders or clients and anticipate their needs.
“They can then work with the back of house teams to devise systems and innovations that provide the environment in which operational groups can excel.”
A project Zeuschner is championing within the FM group at BAE is the concept of stewardship. “I took inspiration from the ABC’s War on Waste. We’ve recently targeted our consumption of disposable coffee cups; many of our facilities have internal catering facilities and we’re looking at ways that encourage not producing the waste in the first place.
“This is a real customer-facing and engaging activity, and something FM would have never done before – they’d just be behind the scenes and ready to deal with the outcomes. But embracing stewardship has helped our FMs to connect with people beyond just fixing light bulbs or broken toilets. It helps drive a sense of social responsibility; that’s a value add we can provide.”
Zeuschner grew up in the north-eastern Victorian town of Wangaratta. Captivated by aviation, he considered joining the Air Force, but a diagnosis of partial colour blindness put paid to that.
“I was good at maths and science and working with my hands, so engineering was a natural fit for me. I started a course in Ballarat, but it wasn’t right, so I pulled out and got a job back in Wangaratta, which paid for flying lessons. I couldn’t get into the RAAF, but I had an ambition of becoming a commercial pilot.”
But when work in Wangaratta became harder to find, Zeuschner came to Melbourne. “I got a cadetship with Hawker de Havilland when I was 19. I worked all day and studied my engineering degree at night.”
When he was newly married, and with his wife expecting their first child, Zeuschner went back into the corporate world, joining defence contractor Tenix, which was acquired by BAE. All told, he has worked with BAE in various roles for 14 years.
“The big turning point in my career was in 2012 when BAE gave me the opportunity to start studying again. It was a master of systems support engineering, a course developed by Cambridge University, RMIT and the University of South Australia. It had never been offered anywhere else in the world at that point and it was aimed at helping businesses make a shift from products to product service systems. This exposed me to the field of academic research called ‘servitisation’ and that really launched my career.”
This article also appears in the April/May issue of Facility Management magazine.