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Digital developments

However, a degree of AI has perforated the industry in the form of software integration. Almost three quarters of those with FM software are now integrating it with at least one other system such as building management systems (37 per cent), finance / procurement (24 per cent), health and safety (24 per cent) or space management / CAD (15 per cent). Integration allows the systems to communicate with each other and securely share data, promoting accuracy as information only needs to be keyed in once. This data sharing streamlines processes for a facilities manager as the system gains a degree of autonomy. For example, when the BMS identifies a fault, it is reported directly to the FM software and raised as a job. It is then allocated a priority and dispatched to an operative who has the required skills, works in the vicinity and has availability in their schedule.

Despite the government mandate for building information modelling (BIM) on new public sector projects, less than 10 per cent of respondents stated they had integrated their FM software with BIM data – although all of these were public sector organisations or service providers working in the public sector. BIM is still a key trend, but has fallen slightly down the rankings from the 2016 survey from fourth (45 per cent) to sixth (41 per cent). FM self-service now tops the list (56 per cent), highlighting the trend of FM trying to outsource some of its more monotonous tasks in order to focus on more strategic gains. BIM, though, does just this. 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. It 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.

Over and above the strategy chosen to meet the core business objectives, the facilities team must not forget the importance of workplace culture and the value of a change management process. The fear of losing employment to robotics is very real for many and may jeopardise attempts to implement such technology, despite its ability to willingly take on unpleasant tasks or work anti-social hours. How will office staff react to the replacement of their usual, familiar workspace with a hot desk? Even within the FM team, the value of new processes must be embedded to ensure value and longevity. Take BIM, for example. While it can dramatically reduce maintenance time, it is only as good as the data it is built on and operatives must be trained to update the system as second nature. Everything an FM does relies on accurate, timely data and without this there can be no progress, whether there is money available for investment in new technology or not.

About Sarah OBeirne


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