Customer Spotlight – CBRE
For this month's Customer Spotlight we spoke with Mike Linn, metrology services manager at CBRE.
CBRE is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm. The company has more than 80,000 employees, and serves real estate investors and occupiers through approximately 450 offices worldwide. In 2015 CBRE acquired Global Workplace Solutions (GWS) from Johnson Controls. GWS is a leading provider of integrated facilities management solutions on a global basis. CBRE is ranked #214 on the Fortune 500 and has been included in the Fortune 500 in every year since 2008.
Our Interviewee – Mike Linn
Mike is the quality manager and deputy technical manager of Metrology Services. He is an ISO/IEC 17025 specialist and serves as a technical advisor for ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and National Association for Proficiency Testing (NAPT).
Will you please tell us about yourself and how you got started in metrology?
I got started in metrology in the Navy. I was at the end of Electronics Technician “A” school in 1985 and they were drawing names out of a hat for open ‘C” school billets. I distinctly remember when they drew out my name and announced the school I wrote down ‘cow’ school on my notebook with a question mark. I had no idea what ‘cow/cal’ school was.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the day I won the lottery. That one lucky draw put me on the path that I’m still on today. Metrology is one of the few military occupations that has a direct corollary in the civilian world, we even work on a lot of the same equipment.
Will you please tell us about your roll & responsibilities as the metrology services manager?
My primary responsibility is as quality manager and deputy technical manager. But like any small lab managers I wear a lot of hats: operations, sales, IT, janitorial and technician when needed.
CBRE is a large and diverse company that people generally associate with real estate. Can you tell us how calibration & metrology fit into the CBRE portfolio?
While CBRE is a very large company our lab is treated more as a small business, with our own P&L. It does seem rather odd that a real estate company would need metrology services, but CBRE is much more than real estate now.
We began about 25 years ago as a service offering for Johnson Controls International (JCI): Controls Division, supporting the automotive and battery divisions. We began branching out to 3rd party calibrations almost immediately, and eventually were migrated to the Global Workplace Solutions (GWS) group.
GWS was the “facilities management” team within the JCI Controls Division, and their focus was to work with large companies to manage their facilities. Take a large pharmaceutical organization, their primary focus is the research, development and manufacturing of drugs and pharmaceuticals. We would come in and take care of all the ancillary support services. Janitorial, pest control, cafeteria, and metrology.
About 3 years ago, JCI was looking to divest itself of its’ service and automotive groups, so it sold or spun off the automotive group and sold GWS to CBRE. CBRE has a footprint in a lot of large diverse companies and was looking for a way to expand it’s service portfolio to it’s existing customer base and GWS was a perfect fit.
Currently CBRE GWS has well over 100 calibration and instrumentation techs all over the world. Most are embedded at customer sites and operate the customers’ systems but there are a few like us who cross all industries and markets. We are currently opening another lab in the UK and expect to achieve accreditation there in the next 9 to 12 months.
You were with Johnson Controls, which was later purchased by CBRE, when they came on with IndySoft in 2001. Were you part of the software selection process that ultimately chose IndySoft? If so, do you recall any of the factors that lead to choosing IndySoft?
Yes, I was deeply involved with that. The primary reasons why we went with Gage Insite, as it was known then, was its configurability and at the time it was the only off-the-shelf system that could replicate from a central database to local laptops we carried onsite. This was before wide spread wireless internet access so our techs had to carry everything with them to be able to do their job.
I wrote an Access database application that used JET replication to manage our quality system and documents, but we needed something that could deal with the technical calibration aspects and didn’t require constant access to the database. At the time Gage Insite was the only one that could do that.
I’m sure in the 15+ years since you have been using IndySoft you have been approached by and done research on other software vendors, what have been the factors that have lead you to stay with IndySoft through all these years.
We were part of a large software review 5 or 6 years ago for a large pharmaceutical company where we reviewed 6 or 7 different software applications for use at multiple worldwide sites. Most are fixed packages that are designed by people who have no experience in running a lab and you get what they want you to have. The beauty of IndySoft is the configurability of the layouts and the workflows, we can design the software to (within limits) conform to the lab’s way of doing business, not be forced to change our system to match what some programmer designed.
You were one of our first customers to utilize custom scripting, how has that capability helped you to conform the software to your own needs?
We use custom VB and/or Pascal scripting in just about every activity in IndySoft. There are a lot of things we couldn’t do without it. For us IndySoft is more of a development environment with a database attached, I can pretty much get it to do whatever I need it to, in ways that are impossible in other calibration management systems.
You have gone through the ISO-17025 assessor training and are quite familiar with the standard. What is your impression of the 2017 update?
I tend to like most of the changes in the new revision. It’s less prescriptive and lets the lab (along with the customer) operate based on risk. That offers a trade-off in that it now becomes more subjective to the assessors in determining non-conformances.
Have you started preparations for getting the CBRE lab(s) accreditation updated to the new standard? If so, what has that process looked like?
We are in the process of review and gap analysis right now and expect to be ready for the new standard at our next assessment in Nov/Dec 2018.
Is there anything exciting happening in 2018 that you would like to share?
We are completing a roll out of IndySoft at a new pharma client were we won the contract over an incumbent large service provider and we were able to duplicate (and enhance) the existing system at 3 sites, so the customer saw no real change in the process. We were able to automate and streamline things giving a 20% time and cost reduction. This includes a call center log, dispatching and scheduling, and data collection of service activities for internal and 3rd party technicians, along with all the financial and KPI reporting. This roll out and it’s lessons learned will be the jumping off point for similar activities and much larger opportunities we are working on. No other calibration software package I’m aware of could do this.
Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.
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