Sodexo carries the torch

Sodexo chief executive officer of mining, Asia Pacific, Paul Cooper.

Morris Corporation was Australia’s largest privately-owned company in the world of hospitality and facilities management until it was purchased by Sodexo Corporation in November 2017.

Though the Morris name no longer lives on, its legacy subsisted after the acquisition, as Sodexo maintained the vast majority of the company’s contracts, as well as all 1200 employees.

Morris’s quality-of-life services in the Australian mining and oil and gas industries were well known, particularly in eastern Australia.

The company delivered employee-focused solutions to the mining sector, including the implementation of a respected pre-employment work readiness program for Indigenous workers that returned full-time roles for 90 per cent of participants.

It was the work in this area that netted Morris the 2017 Australian Mining Prospect Award for Community Interaction, won just prior to the company’s merger with Sodexo in November 2017.

Another achievement for the company pre-acquisition was the development of the Collinsville workers’ accommodation village on the outskirts of Collinsville, Queensland, which included facilities such as a bar and gym.

The work programs and the Collinsville Village survived the transition to Sodexo, which regarded Morris as a good fit for its culture and values, according to Sodexo chief executive officer of mining, Asia Pacific, Paul Cooper.

“There’s a lot of activity in Asia and Australia and the business was looking for opportunities to expand the footprint when Morris came across the desk,” Cooper tells Australian Mining.

“It was a company that was very closely aligned to our culture and our values, and although it was a smaller company focusing more on the Tier 2 clients, they did have a couple of Tier 1 clients as well, which showed that they were able to operate at the next level above where the business had evolved from.”

There was a lot of overlap between the two companies despite their differing sizes. Both companies were founded as family-run catering companies in 1966, for example, and both possessed a commitment to Indigenous communities and the development of sustainable local business.

Due to the prevalence Morris had amongst Tier 2 companies, Sodexo identified an opportunity to buy in on the expertise in this area. The acquisition also allowed Sodexo to consolidate its status as a facilities management leader in the mining industry, putting space between its competitors and opening up investment opportunities.

“Quite frankly, it’s proved to be very successful. The business case has played itself out in textbook fashion; we’ve retained all the client contracts that were up for tender over the transition period, we’ve integrated the business, taken a comprehensive review of systems and processes, and chosen a best fit for business,” Cooper explains.

“We didn’t take the approach that Sodexo’s systems and processes were superior. Where it made sense we adopted what Morris had.”

Sodexo’s adoption of the pre-employment work readiness program is a good example of this complementary approach. Since the acquisition, Sodexo has integrated initiatives from the program into its own to create two bespoke initiatives.

The Morris work readiness program developed into Sodexo’s Ready to Go program, which focuses on people who already have previous work history and demonstrated skills and abilities that are therefore able to move into the workplace in a shorter period of time.

Sodexo’s second program is tailored more towards people without the necessary experience and skills who are put through an intensive five-week program.

“Morris was very much punching above its weight to roll out a program like it did. We’ve benefited from implementing that into Sodexo’s business,” says Cooper. “We haven’t taken anything out, we’ve just expanded on it.”

Looking to the future, Sodexo is focused on developing innovations for facilities management in the mining sector, particularly in the automation space.

This includes developing a bespoke, integrated facilities management IT system with Microsoft, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) solutions across the existing client base.

Sodexo plans to pull ahead of the curve to meet the needs of its increasingly autonomy-minded Tier 1 client base. Automation is after all an industry with key applications not just for the mining bottom line, but also for the kind of quality-of-life services in which Sodexo specialises.

“Digital technology and innovation is only going to improve quality of life for our own people working in remote environments but also for our clients and the residents of the camps, villages and towns that we actually look after,” says Cooper.

“We’re really trying to make a remote mining and oil and gas experience as close as home to possible.”

The 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards will be held in Brisbane on Thursday October 10. Nominations are now open.

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