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CHICAGO-When Benton Harbor, MI-based Whirlpool Corp. was deciding how to manage its 1.1 million sf of distribution facilities throughout North America, the company’s real estate and finance groups needed to be speaking the same language. Jones Lang LaSalle believes it wrote a dictionary for disparate corporate constituencies with its Financial Alignment and Organization program, which it is attempting to patent in addition to using it with two other large corporations.

While saving Whirlpool 55% on its real estate costs in the first year and 40% over the next 10 years, the project Jones Lang LaSalle Treasury & Risk Management’s magazine’s 2001 Alexander Hamilton award for corporate finance.

Jones Lang LaSalle and Whirlpool used FAO for nearly nine months while exploring the benefits of outsourcing a logistics management function, the real estate needed and corporate finance implications.

“They were looking at various business alternatives,” Jones Lang LaSalle executive vice president Thomas Bomba tells GlobeSt.com.

However, as often happens, the finance department had trouble understanding what Whirlpool’s real estate department was recommending, and they also were getting conflicting message elsewhere, Bomba recalls.

“You could have a real good real estate guy, but that doesn’t make him a good corporate finance guy,” Bomba says. “A company’s real estate financing decisions seldom incorporate all the critical–and often conflicting–business objectives and agendas of the relevant stakeholders.

In Whirlpool’s case, it was decided that it would be best all around for the company to own the facility but outsource the logistics operations. “The final decision allowed the business unit to address its operating needs efficiently while reducing occupancy costs and increasing flexibility,” Bomba says.

Although lengthy, the process went relatively smooth because of the involvement of Whirlpool’s finance department. And while different departments might have trouble understanding each other, they may have more common ground than they think.

“Sometimes they’re in agreement and they don’t even realize it,” Bomba says.

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