No day is ever the same.
This is a safe summation of what work is like for most facilities managers. It’s unpredictable. Independent consultant Joseph Valencic tells Gregory Blondeau at Facility Executive that a day in the life of an FM can involve presenting budgets to a CEO in the morning and standing on the roof before noon trying to figure out a repair for an air-conditioning unit.
Although certainly not easy, the wide variety is part of the appeal of the job.
Blondeau enumerates more daily tasks facility management handles. These include overall planning for the facility, budgeting and financial forecasting, leasing property and selling real estate, buying equipment and hiring contractors, planning and managing facility construction and renovation, all with an eye on the health, safety and security of facility occupants and FM teams.
However, even as the role of FMs evolve and become more complex, the workforce is getting older and the pool of new talent shallower.
Raising the Bar, a joint report by IFMA and RICS in which more than 2,500 facility managers from around the world were surveyed, reveals the average age of the FM workforce is 50.9 years. A younger generation of talent needs to move through the ranks, bringing technology with them. And those in facility management now, with years of valuable experience to offer, should not only be open to and welcome that new technology but also learn how to use it comfortably.
Commercial property director Paul Bagust tells Facility Executive that FMs, regardless of the number of years on the job, need to develop new skills to keep pace with the digital evolution of the job’s demands. This will also mean greater interconnectedness and collaboration, requiring interpersonal relationships to be developed and nurtured.
Tony Keane, president of IFMA, is optimistic. He says that by supporting universal FM standards and practices, there will be a transformative effect on workplaces and the people who use them.
The message then: FMs need to embrace new technological tools while holding onto the traditional requirements needed in every job, such as interpersonal skills and people management.
All Hail Tech
Judging by the numbers, FMs are embracing technological tools. Nicholas Fearn at Internet of Business writes about a study conducted by Schneider Electric. It reveals 89 percent of respondents (about 300 US-based FMs) expect to see an ROI on their connected technology in the next three years, and 70 percent say technology will shape new policies within the year.
Those surveyed say that connected systems will deliver smart, productive and profitable operations, while helping to meet sustainability goals.
Sarah OBeirne at FMJ cites the results the annual FM software survey from Service Works Group. Roughly half of respondents say the greatest business benefit of FM software has been securing new and updating existing contracts. It does this by providing better data, confidence and transparency.
The study also reveals that more than half of FMs have integrated software with other systems to realize business efficiencies:
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software (73 percent),
- Finance (60 percent)
- Health and safety (63 percent)
- Building Management Systems (BMS) (57 percent),
- Energy management (53 percent)
- Environmental (56 percent) systems
- Only 50 percent of the respondents stated that they are integrating CAFM with BIM.
Technology can yield huge advantages for FMs, agrees Bruce Alperin, LEED AP and senior director of marketing for facility services in higher education at Aramark. Remote diagnosis is possible as is directing technicians to where they need to go with the right tools in hand to fix whatever problem has materialized.
Alperin says Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), Building Information Modeling (BIM) and data produced by the Internet of Things (IoT) — including everything from light bulbs to HVAC systems — is giving FMs a whole new toolkit.
Research firm Gartner put a number on that interconnectedness, forecasting 6.4 billion internet-connected devices in use worldwide in 2016. By 2020, that number will reach 20.8 billion.
And with connectivity, it’s plain to see how environmental sensors, energy meters and building automation can communicate with one another to deliver data, allowing FMs to proactively manage buildings or campuses.
Alperin lists a few examples of this data-driven connectivity in action:
- Trash cans can communicate when full, avoiding wasted human resources from checking them manually throughout the day.
- Irrigation systems report when the ground is dry and needs watering, dependent on weather conditions.
- HVAC systems regularly report room temperatures and measure consumption and costs, limiting energy waste.
Talking trash cans sound exciting because the IoT is a powerful conduit to a limitless realm of possibilities. Speaking to Internet of Business, Ian Hughes, an IoT analyst at 451 Research, says sensors connected to the IoT will benefit modern buildings. They will be able to evolve the use and capabilities of HVAC systems, for example, from simply responding to a thermostat to being integrated with the weather forecast, changing the degree of indoor heating or cooling in a more planned and responsive way.
Using the right FM software can make much of the daily job more efficient. Heidi J. Ellsworth at Facility Executive writes how FMs are using software for project data, work order/invoicing processes, customer communication and document storage.
Speaking specifically about roofing professionals, she says new technology can show FMs what’s happening on their roofs without them having to be there. Ongoing communication and visual reviews through contractors uploading photos and online videos in real time streamline maintenance processes and all of it can be done remotely.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is one of the major shifts happening in building design, construction and maintenance.
By representing 3D space from 2D data, stakeholders can see what a building will look like upon completion, what minor alterations will yield and project possible future upgrades.
Consider that a building’s life cycle can exceed 30 years, writes Erik Jaspers at Area Development, during which there will be times of operation and times of reconstruction. Building owners and developers would be well advised to solicit input from FMs early on. This could help minimize logistical errors and save money as FMs provide a fresh perspective of what the premises needs, the maintenance costs of certain design elements, and what could go wrong over time.
It’s the predictive and time-saving power of BIM that gives FMs real value. In Paul Teicholz’s book, BIM for Facility Managers, he points out how so much time is spent “locating and verifying specific facility and project information from previous activities.” BIM systems and models can help solve this through early-involvement with design, commissioning assessments, and asset data extraction for operations from the model.
BIM also completely changes maintenance tasks, writes Scott Adams at Facilities Net. The technology provides precise, user-friendly access in real time to the location of building components that require monitoring or replacement. This reduces lost time and effort spent trying to locate problematic parts and eliminates the guesswork of repairs. BIM solutions, he says, will be the key to efficient facility management for the foreseeable future.
Automation, CMMS, BIM and the IoT are powerful tools in the FM toolkit. So how does it all tie together?
Integrating FM software with other systems is a key strategy for cost savings Samantha Fuller, general manager at Service Works Global (SWG) for Asia Pacific, says. Reducing human involvement lowers labor and operating costs, and leads to increased automation savings.
In Australia, a survey by SWG and Facilities Management Magazine shows FMs predict technology will lead growth in the industry, with the most significant trends being in the use of:
- mobile apps
- whole-life asset costing
Technology is always moving and when it excels in one sector, it will likely be borrowed by others. Facilities industry leader Tom Buiocchi talks about “Uber-like software” will bridge the relationship between facilities managers and commercial contractors in the same way Uber connects those needing rides with drivers.
Every FM needs a solid emergency response plan. Robert Lang at Facilities Net calls emergency response vital for effectively managing facilities and suggests using an “all hazards” risk matrix analysis to identify normal and low-probability occurrences.
He says FMs can use this tool to formulate a proper action plan in an emergency. This is not a guidebook, but a tested strategy that has identified hazards and assigned responsibilities to team members within a choreographed framework of action.
Lang also warns FMs not to rely completely on first responders. They should build an “immediate responder” network of crisis managers at each facility instead.
Outsourcing Is a Tool
For busy FMs or those who play a more organizational role without an in-house team, the option to outsource is a useful one. Brad Shokes, senior vice president for the Integrated Facilities Management service line at JLL, heads up the Facilities Flex service for the firm. JLL provides this for companies and building managers that wish to outsource certain aspects of maintenance.
Outsourcing can help organizations improve productivity with reliable, transparent and agile solutions provided by experts.
This is something Phil Wales agrees with. Writing at Facility Executive, he says outsourcing can help cut costs for large facilities organizations. Outsourcing is also a useful means of updating technological standards. The decision is whether the systems will be in-house or outsourced. It’s not a matter of deciding whether technology will be used, Wales says, because technological processes are essential. The outsourcing decision is one about who controls the technology.