Three technologies essential to FM
There are three technologies every facility manager needs to embrace to provide the best outcomes for their buildings, as SAMANTHA FULLER reports.
Too many facility managers are doing themselves a disservice. While cost and budget are priorities at the top of the list, the strategy of ‘speculate to accumulate’ is becoming somewhat lost in the industry.
With intense competition and growing demand for FMs to cut their bottom line, FMs need to demonstrate how they can add value to the business, rather than just providing enough to keep the building ticking over. One of the simplest and most effective ways of doing this is by embracing readily available technology.
Building information modelling (BIM) provides a rich, 3D experience, which includes digital simulations, and rehearsals of all stages of the design, build and operate process, stripping waste from processes and allowing for cost certainty. BIM also promotes collaborative working, allowing digital management and sharing of information by all partners, in which FM can play a key role.
Through involvement in the design stage, direct practical and strategic experience can improve a building’s layout and usability, as well as ensure easy access for asset maintenance. However, this process all too often stalls after construction and fails to migrate into the operational phase, where the majority of costs lie.
The data held includes schedules and blueprints as well as asset information such as cost, location, service life, carbon impact, maintenance, spares, reordering, substitution, serial numbers, warranty details and more, all of which is available immediately, with no input required from the FM team.
BIM can be combined with FM software, where it can be received, stored, combined with other data and analysed seamlessly, providing more reliable information to report to the board and for FM team operations. For example, if a fault is reported for a lamp, the engineer can see immediately if there is an access issue, check the type of lamp and the connections, thereby increasing efficiency and first-time fix rates.
BIM also allows FMs to make informed decisions through the whole life cycle of the facility around areas such as space use, floor planning, equipment and asset maintenance, energy consumption, and cost efficiencies.
Of course, BIM is just one system that can be integrated with FM software. Once the decision has been made to implement software, facility managers can generally recoup a return on their investment (ROI) within one to two years simply through a more efficient help desk, reporting and asset management.
Efficiency and cost savings can be further augmented through integration with other systems. While BIM integration is relatively small at present, coupling with other systems like BMS (building management systems) and finance is a growing trend.
According to the survey by Service Works Global and FM magazine, cost savings were reported by 20 percent more respondents when FM software was integrated with other systems, compared to those with stand-alone software.
Integration essentially creates a ‘best in breed’ solution, allowing all organisational software to seamlessly communicate without the need for human interaction, with the FM system at the core. On a large scale, this can create a level of automation that frees resources in other areas.
One example of this is Spotless at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, which has integrated multiple systems, including security, patient administration (including porterage and discharge), the nurse call system and even an automated guide vehicles (AGV) management system. This enables a string of commands to be passed from one system to another to speed up patient services and free up beds more quickly.
On a smaller scale, a fault diagnosed by the BMS immediately creates a job in the FM software ready to be dispatched to an engineer, and links to a financial system enable a complete record of all the costs around each job or asset to be accessible through the FM software. Data now only needs to be entered once, reducing duplication and error, saving time and increasing financial control and transparency.
Perhaps the most accessible, and therefore fastest growing, of these technologies is the use of tablets and smartphones allowing access to real-time, accurate data on the go. Vendors commonly develop their software to allow use with any mobile devices, enabling teams to use different handsets and models as availability permits, or even their own personal device as BYOD (bring your own device) continues to rise in popularity.
From an operative’s perspective, when working in a large, complex building such as a hospital or university, or across multiple sites, the ability to track a job or asset to a specific location using a mapping application, can significantly improve time management.
Access to route planners, maps or a visual representation of diaries can help to plan and prioritise their day based on the location of each job, thereby significantly improving productivity. From a business perspective, mapping enables the help desk to track and identify who, geographically, is the best placed (or closest) engineer to allocate the job to.
The advantages of this include faster response times, better resource and workload balancing, improved customer service and, most importantly, job optimisation through improved resource allocation.
JUMP ON BOARD
The tide of technology waits for no man, and all but the smallest organisations must jump aboard. While the initial costs of technology like FM software and mobile devices may seem high, this pairing of systems leads to great synergies – increasing efficiency in the FM and the wider organisation, as well as providing a faster ROI.
And as newer developments like the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR) are beginning to enter the mainstream, those working with rudimentary systems, or even spreadsheets, will ultimately find themselves left behind.
Samantha Fuller is general manager of Service Works Global.
This article also appears in the April/May issue of Facility Management magazine.
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