Hard labour

posted on 5th April 2022
Hard labour

One of the biggest challenges for airports, airlines and handlers as traffic begins to revive is finding the right manpower when and where it is needed. ABM Aviation Services believes it has some of the answers

The most prized asset in any business, apart from a loyal customer base, is a workforce able to deliver a stellar service for clients. In today’s fragile and erratic recovery, it is proving hard and increasingly expensive for many aviation providers to plan, resource and deploy workers to meet expectations.
“It is a difficult balancing act as the industry ramps up,” said Dave Cauvin, commercial director at ABM Aviation, the large US-owned services and facilities management firm that provides a range of airport services across the UK and US including cabin cleaning, PRM, airport bussing and staffing solutions. “There is still a lot of uncertainty about the pace and shape of the next 6-18 months, and no-one is sure about the resource levels they will need.” There is also the issue of wage inflation as players struggle to attract talent to an industry that has lost so many people.
Cauvin, who is focused on re-growing ABM’s business in the UK and Europe, saw the firm’s work shrink significantly as the pandemic took hold. The company diversified into working for the UK’s National Health Service and supported a major Covid testing business with several labour solutions. Some of that work will remain; however, ABM is determined to play a greater role for airports, airlines, and handlers as a “partner that can be adaptable in providing flexible numbers of people to enable businesses to restore services in an efficient and cost-effective way”, he explained.
“A lot of people have been made redundant [at airport-based businesses] and there is hesitancy and there are difficulties about hiring on a large scale,” said Cauvin. “At ABM we have a pool of people we can call on and the ability to deploy relatively large numbers of people in a short period. It’s valuable to be able to flex numbers up and down at short notice. We have also been active in training our staff to have multiple skills; they can be cleaning cabins one day and performing Covid checks the next. This is a real benefit for ABM and our customers. In addition, we recognise our multi-skilled workers with excellent career progression, which helps generate staff loyalty.
“Supporting airports and others with labour provision is key to us, but because we have a wide range of services we see an opportunity for a true aviation multi-service provider with a single team,” continued Cauvin. These types of services have long been popular choices for in-sourcing – but “mindsets are changing. Airports have suffered and many are reviewing their operations; we can take some of the restart pain away.”
ABM is present at 20 airports in the UK and Ireland and is seeking to build on its footprint in these markets. “In addition, we are looking at opportunities to expand into Europe in the next five years, either through acquisition or through customer-led opportunities,” said Cauvin.
For a firm like ABM, which was formed in 1909 in San Francisco, the pandemic has raised the importance of cleaning at major buildings like airports. “There is a much higher focus on cleanliness and disinfection and it’s likely to remain the case, which is no bad thing,” said Cauvin.
“As we come out of the pandemic everyone is asking questions about the best way to work going forward,” he said. “At ABM Aviation our specialism is people and flexibility to help make the recovery process as seamless as we can.”