The move from legacy systems to digital technologies is benefiting the FM industry

Ian Campbell, Technology Services Director at Grosvenor Services explains how

Growth in digital technologies

Technological advances have the power to change many aspects of our lives and there are many examples when a new idea or method has helped to re-shape the way we work.

Grosvenor - technology servicesIn the FM industry, we’re becoming more familiar with technological developments in the areas of machinery innovation, industry software etc. Now a new trend is emerging: intelligent data, which have been made possible by the explosion of digital technologies, and which have the potential to reinvent how we operate in the facilities management space.

Digital technologies are increasingly prevalent across most organisations, replacing stand-alone, single purpose legacy systems as they reach end of life, as more can be done with these newer, quicker systems. From surveillance systems to environmental systems, and from building management systems and fire safety systems, they are permeating all areas of a building’s operations.

Systems based on digital technology offer greater opportunities for convergence with others. Integration with other technology systems can deliver benefits beyond the original purpose for which the technology was purchased, and can have a powerful effect on the way facilities are managed.

Facilities managers under pressure

Intense competition and price pressure is pushing organisations to seek ways to become more agile and efficient. An effective working environment represents an enormous overhead and needs significant ongoing investment of managerial time and resource. FM managers are hugely stretched and can struggle to keep on top of the different services for which they are responsible. The more streamlined a company’s facilities management can be, the greater the operational efficiencies, and ultimately, the greater the cost savings for the client.

All digital systems generate data, or information, and this information, if properly exploited, can present the FM manager with new opportunities to help deal with these business challenges.

New ways to manage facilities

The bottom line is this information can give the FM manager a much clearer picture of what’s happening in their building. For example, a retailer could use the data generated by an existing security system to measure footfall and building usage, supplementing existing sources of information and enabling them to better direct cleaning services.

Another example of how systems could be used intelligently is by using data from access control systems to help reduce power or energy consumption. If a room is unoccupied, it won’t require the same level of heating or lighting as other rooms, which would make a big difference in a multi-storey office block.

Intelligent use of data is also helping facilities managers more effectively manage building maintenance, moving them away from a reactive model of asset maintenance towards a genuinely proactive approach. New technologies, along with remote monitoring and analytics, can now help organisations progress to an intelligent situation, whereby they can know in advance when a piece of technology service equipment is going to fail or deteriorate, and proactively manage the issue before it happens. This not only reduces expense, but also avoids the extensive delays in responding and fixing the problem, during which time the asset is out of action.

Each sector, indeed each business, has a unique set of needs, so the above examples are simply to highlight some potential impacts.  The diversity of solutions available is as wide as the range of businesses out there. The key is to first understand what it is you really need, then gain the support of an appropriate technology services partner to develop the optimum solution for your business. All technology systems produce data, but it’s what data you use and how you put it together, that can lead to operational efficiencies, and ultimately to cost savings.

Multiple benefits

When properly designed and carefully thought through, an intelligent technology-based solution can offer numerous benefits to a facilities manager. These include:

  • More effective asset management
  • Operational efficiencies from better building usage
  • Environmental efficiencies including less consumption of energy
  • Procurement efficiencies ultimately leading to greater return on investment

Of course the potential productivity revolution that could result will only happen if facilities managers hone in on the high-value data that can have the biggest impact. That depends on having a clear view and understanding of the broader needs of the business as well as the FM manager’s immediate needs. The pursuit of intelligent solutions is a choice. The facilities manager can choose conventional approaches, but if they do, they shouldn’t expect the powerful results that can come from intelligent solutions.

Capturing the benefits of new technology will not be automatic. But a new breed of facilities manager is coming to the fore who recognises the benefits of technology and understands that their role can be more than that of the traditional property manager. For those who are ready to grab the advantage, it is going to be a very exciting future.

www.grosvenorservices.com

Published in i-FM – April 2016