Airport owes its lush beauty to purchasing and maintenance teams
The management of Orlando International Airport is keenly aware that the airport is the first and last thing most travelers see when visiting the Florida vacation destination. To make that first — and last — impression memorable, the airport emphasizes a design theme called “The Orlando Experience,” conveyed through architecture, aesthetics and convenience amenities.
The experience includes beautiful tropical plants inside the airport and plenty of colorful, carefully manicured landscapes on the outside. It also encompasses the view from the Automated People Mover System as it travels from the main terminal building to four satellite terminals, over canals and waterways that are part of a water management and flood-control system. The environment of the airport is part of the branding of the Orlando community, reflecting the unique character of the central Florida environment. Promoting that brand is a responsibility the airport takes seriously.
Working behind the scenes to manage maintenance of the airport grounds, the aquatic areas and the indoor and outdoor plant life is a seamless partnership between the airport’s maintenance and purchasing departments. Seven contracts totaling $2.9 million annually cover grounds maintenance of about 1,200 acres at the airport, with most of the resources dedicated to maintaining the public image areas. Orlando International Airport is the third largest in the country in land mass (after Dallas and Denver), including about 14,000 acres in all, some of it grasslands and wetlands left in the natural state. Of the operating areas, outside firms maintain the grounds of all areas except those that involve contact with the control tower, which are maintained by in-house personnel.
The largest grounds maintenance contract is with P&L Lawn Maintenance to cover the site of the main terminal building. There is also an aquatic contract to manage the weeds and fish in the waterways (and therefore the bird and animal population the water supports, which helps to ensure safe landings and takeoffs). A $270,000-a-year contract covers maintenance of the expensive tropical plants inside the airport.
Management by committees
Cooperation is part of the Orlando International Airport culture, which is built around a “committee” structure, with stakeholders involved in discussions at every stage of decision-making. Committees include the Construction Committee, Procurement Committee, Professional Services Committee and the Design Review Committee. The structure provides a forum to deal with any challenges through communication.
The committee format provides ample opportunity to discuss purchasing issues before a contract is awarded. “We have had contracts for a very long time,” says Denise Schneider, assistant director, purchasing and material control. “We have refined the specifications to get what we need. There aren’t any huge issues here. We work hard to communicate with the user departments and get what they need.”
A couple of years ago, the maintenance and purchasing departments sat down to look at how the grounds maintenance contracts could be modified to save money while maintaining the same high standards. One decision was to reduce the number of annuals slightly while not sacrificing appearance. Also, the time cycles were extended on tree trimming and mowing, and the amount of fertilizer was reduced. “Purchasing supports maintenance in that area,” said Patrick Eby, maintenance department manager of contracts. “It was up to us to see what we can live with, and we came up with a pretty fair percentage of savings.” The contracts had been set up with unit prices, so that cost savings could be realized by extending the service cycle times without changing the contracts.
“We monitor those contracts and work with maintenance to look for opportunities to save dollars,” said Schneider.
Green aspects of greenery
Environmental awareness is also part of the fabric of Orlando International Airport, which occupies the site of a former tree farm. Commitment to being environmentally responsible was part of the original design when the facility opened in 1981. The airport was also developed to accommodate low maintenance and operational costs.
The Orlando airport uses extensive mulching to control weeds and drought-tolerant plants to minimize the need for irrigation. Reclaimed water is used for all irrigation. The airport complies will all regulations about the use of chemical pesticides. “Especially with our aquatic contract, we have specifications about what can leach into the groundwater,” said Eby. “We have introduced carp into our waterways to eat the weeds, which also saves on the use of chemicals.”
The airport is operated and managed by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA), which consists of a seven-member board; five are appointed by the Governor, one is a member of the Orlando City Council and one is a member of the Orlando County Commission. An executive director appointed by the authority manages the airport system.
Anderson is editor of Penton’s Go Pro/Government Procurement.
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