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Academy For Workplace Excellence

A major trend in the Facility Management industry – Digital FM

Technology is a key trend that has been influencing Facility Management. The Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, smart workplace sensors, etc are revolutionizing where and how people work. These technological advances are also reimagining the way organizations plan, develop, and use facilities. The human experience and digital drive are two critical dimensions that organizations must address to become agile, create leverage, and stay competitive. Operational excellence, key innovations, and financial performance are also factors that influence the success of an organization. 

The digitization of the facilities management function is playing out across four dimensions: digitally-enabled FM services; employee productivity and retention; energy and sustainability management; and compliance. In all of these areas, leading companies are using computers, sensors, networks, and data to streamline existing FM functions and extend the bounds of FM into higher value-added activities. 

Below are some examples of implementation of Digi FM

End-to-end digital FM services

When functions and processes are digitized, companies find that almost any activity can be managed and optimized through benchmarking based on performance data. This applies to facilities management, too. Virtually all FM functions can either be moved onto digital systems or managed more efficiently using digital technologies, enabling FM employees to do their jobs better. Companies are using “end-to-end” automated processes to manage maintenance and repair, improve energy management, and provide employee-focused services such as concierge and other hospitality services. 

Data gathered via these computerized processes can provide greater transparency into employee preferences, facility usage, and drivers of cost so facilities can be managed more efficiently and clients can make better-informed decisions about capital planning, asset management, and facility services. One set of digital innovations for the FM function involves automating workflows. 

For example, if a plumbing repair is needed, the office manager can log onto an online platform to report the incident. From there, the process is automatic. A call goes out to an approved vendor to make the repair, eliminating paper orders and manual steps, such as locating an approved plumbing contractor with immediate availability. The system can also determine if the invoice price conforms to the contract price and, using benchmarking data, can show whether the cost of the repair is out of line with area averages. 

Finally, facilities management can use building usage and performance data—how many employees are on-premise and when, how much energy is consumed, how often paper towels run out in washrooms—to optimize operations and advise users on workplace efficiency. 

Some examples of digitization 

Meeting Room Monitoring 

There is widespread acknowledgment within FM that meeting room space is not efficiently utilized, and so the collection of accurate data around current usage levels can be used to drive changes in behavior to correct this. Motion sensors installed in a meeting room can track when the room is in use and if additionally, a sensor is placed under each desk space then the number of participants in each meeting can be estimated. Additional sensors can be used to take data readings on room temperature, humidity, noise, CO2 levels and power usage to build up a comprehensive picture of utilization and energy efficiency, as well as user wellbeing. 

Washroom – Usage and Cleaning Attendance Monitoring 

Cleaning is a high volume activity but with low margins, which makes it an important focus area for achieving cost and efficiency savings. Washroom usage can be approximated with motion sensors attached by the doors to the washroom or potentially on each cubicle, which provides higher fidelity usage data. This data can be used to provide responsive cleaning, making more efficient use of the cleaning staff time and provide a higher quality service. Washrooms that aren’t frequently used can also be identified and potentially closed which would make better use of the building’s space.

A metric has to be agreed with client re: number of users before a washroom is cleaned e.g. every 100 users. A message/alert is then sent to the nearest cleaning operative telling them of the cleaning requirement. Response times are then tracked as the operative signs in (using Attendance tracking devices) and confirm they have attended the washroom. This evidence-based tracking offers superior control over standard manual sign-in procedures.

Additional benefits include a reduction in wasted time by providing a more productive responsive service based on actual usage. Cleaning services can be flexed to enable agile working practices, as well as ensuring the FM remains competitively priced throughout a contract duration.

Washroom: Consumables Tracking (Hand towels, Soap Dispensers, Air Fresheners, Hand Sanitiser, etc)

Proximity sensors on dispensers can monitor consumable levels, and replenish based on real-time data. This can optimize (and often reduce) the number of checks and refills carried out by the maintenance team. 

Waste Bin Levels 

Proximity detection sensors can be used to monitor and create work schedules when bins need emptying. This provides cleaning efficiency improvements, as well as better client satisfaction.

Asset Maintenance

Condition-based maintenance for building assets such as air handler/fan units. Regular maintenance service checks are manually intensive and costly – often in hard to access areas that are not convenient to inspect. There is an increased risk to lone workers with ladders often required for access. Using simple retro-fit vibration/pressure differential sensors, it is possible to monitor the efficiency of an asset, predict time-to-failure, and service/replace parts only when necessary.

Some key advantages of digitization are

  • User security 
  • Dashboards – a comprehensive set of dashboard tools allow users to constantly track and visualize their data 
  • Reports – external reports can be configured and generated
  • In-flight analytics – configurable rules and triggers turn raw device data into meaningful real-world events
  • Workflow and Integration – actions can be attached to events to raise alarms, notifications
  • Cloud hosting – Anywhere/Anytime access to device data in near-real-time
  • Monthly Subscription Pricing Model 

The next steps for organizations

Within an organization, the FM team will need to assess their current capabilities and identify what will be needed to build on those capabilities as FM goes digital. Digital FM is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Each company’s requirements and resources dictate a unique mix of solutions.

To start (or complete) the transition to digital FM, organizations can: 

  • Ensure that their organizations have employees (or have access to employees) who are tech savvy and can think strategically and analytically
  • Focus on upscaling employee’s existing skills with courses from reputed institutions. This will benefit both the organization and the employee through operational excellence and career growth respectively.
  • Collaborate with FM, IT and HR to make sure they have the tools to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience for employees and contractors wherever they work
  • Invest in technologies and systems to evaluate, analyze, connect and track data that will drive intelligent business decisions.
  • Identify possible partners. For many companies, the transition to digital FM will require partnering with a service provider that already has the tools, technologies, and talent. 

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