Like many sectors, facilities management is in the midst of a digital transformation. Technology is invigorating the world of building management and turning what has been a traditionally highly reactive function into a data-driven, strategic enabler delivering cost savings alongside improved service performance.
Almost every aspect of FM can be delivered more efficiently with the aid of technology to bring about enhanced benefits. What used to be a paper-based, long-drawn, costly and labour-intensive process can be made more accurate, simpler and more efficient with technology.
The power of data
The capture and visibility of data is a foundational element of digital FM; it drives better decision making, helps shine a light on inefficiencies and can bring together disparate and unrelated data sets to allow trends to be identified or detailed analysis undertaken.
The power of data lies in its ability to impact change. There are four main categories of data that will support the delivery of FM services:
- Descriptive: Highlights a particular trend
- Diagnostic: Sheds light on the drivers of a trend
- Predictive: Forecasts new trends
- Prescriptive: Influences new trends
Each subset provides insight into a different area of facilities management. As an example, descriptive analytics can tell you that eight of your 16 hot desks are currently occupied, while predictive analytics tell you this number will be 14 of 16 tomorrow based on past trends.
Adding to the bottom line
For facilities managers, there is an opportunity to produce more data-led strategic intelligence to deliver better business outcomes. This can impact everything from the human experience felt by those who are connected to the buildings or environments being managed through to improved profitability through labour efficiencies, controlled costs and reduced risk exposure. It can even help empower third-party vendors to be more efficient and proactive in their roles.
Top facilities management tech
In amongst the vast array of new technology and software available to help digitise the FM sector, there are some great products that can help re-invent the function on a digital platform:
Standardised daily surveys – there are apps available that help site-based personnel to complete site audits, QA inspections, compliance reports and even time management reporting. These are designed to offer a simple interface for the user whilst delivering the strategic benefits of improved documentation and audit trails and a real-time assessment of productivity and output. This holistic view means issues can be addressed quickly whilst driving increased accountability towards the end-user to deliver efficiently and effectively.
Real-time issue detection and communication tools – it’s critical for facilities managers to have the tools they need to identify and address potential problems before they become big issues. Using the power of a workforce already on the ‘shop floor’ and giving them digital tools to log building-related issues means there is a constant, real-time feed of insight. Whether a leaking pipe, a broken thermostat or a flickering lightbulb, the FM team are readily provided with the detail to resolve the issue quickly and efficiently.
Photo capture and management – when a picture can tell the story, it’s worth far more than a written description. There is a range of apps available that offer functionality to capture, annotate, send and archive images with full meta-data for audit purposes. This can help ensure the right resources are deployed to resolve problems and that any specialist equipment or replacement parts are available when needed. It also confirms a job has been completed; storing photos in a way that means they are searchable, filterable and ready to tell a story. This removes subjectivity, leads to transparent conversations and speeds problem-solving for all stakeholders.
Business intelligence reporting: advanced analytics are key to helping identify and illustrate micro and macro trends within and across locations. Bringing this data together into a centralised platform designed to help visualise data can help drive insight and force action. Building this dataset over a period of time helps to benchmark across sites and building types and even across workforce groups to inform performance and cost-centred conversations.
Smart buildings = smarter insight
In a connected environment, there are even more opportunities to aggregate data. Integrated technologies allow facilities managers to pinpoint what’s going on in every square foot of the buildings they manage to understand how it is operating on a day to day level as well as on a more cyclical basis. This can help managers understand the needs of a building, such as how space is being used or where a different approach could lead to cost or sustainable benefits.
In some quarters, there is a term used to describe the role of digital technology in facilities management – it’s called a ‘digital twin’. It’s an interesting term, leveraging on the ability of digital and data to work alongside human intervention to deliver the most streamlined and informed function possible. Whether FM is ready for digital twins is another question, but it certainly has options to embrace a more digitised future. If something can be quantified, it can be improved upon and so digital, without a doubt, has to be the way forward.
Data – it’s the engine that drives improvements, promotes efficiencies and generates cost savings. Delivering repair and maintenance work across social housing portfolios and for insurance-related claims is high-volume and varied work that can involve a huge breadth of jobs.