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Navigating the future of FM

By Richard Sykes, SVP and President, ABM UK and Ireland

An ancient philosopher said that “the only constant in life is change”; that is truer today than ever before. The facilities management industry is responding to everything from technological advancements to evolving workplace dynamics; a plethora of changes which are influencing how we deliver our services. For me, there are three overarching considerations for the immediate and long-term, and the way businesses evolve and adjust to these influences will determine their future success.

AI and robotics

The world is talking about artificial intelligence with both trepidation and excitement. Forward-thinking FMs recognise the immense potential of technology to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and elevate service quality.

Smart buildings integration is at the forefront of this. From IoT sensors optimising energy consumption to AI-driven predictive maintenance, enhancing efficiency and sustainability credentials will top the list of priorities.

When looking at security and safety, embracing artificial intelligence is less of a commercial choice and more of a necessity. Intelligent surveillance systems which recognise anomalous patterns can alert security personnel to potential threats and emergency response systems can also be optimised ensuring swift and effective actions during critical situations.

AI algorithms can analyse patterns and anomalies in real-time, providing proactive security measures to prevent incidents rather than simply responding to them. The combination of AI and robotics in this domain has led to more robust, intelligent, and responsive security systems and it is something all security providers should be embracing.

Finally, data is and will be everything moving forward, but it needs to be consolidated. Customers are relying more and more on FMs to provide data that helps with sustainability efforts, provides increasing benchmarks and ultimately improves efficiency.

For us, this is a two-pronged approach: First, our focus on integrating service lines with individual clients means data is easily accessed rather than being disjointed from different providers. It also means efficiency objectives are met much more easily. Secondly, delivering this relies on using all the technology sources available to ensure the data output is consolidated, accurate, and compelling – including AI.

The EV opportunity

While Rishi Sunak pushed the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars back by five years at the end of last year, the zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) mandate still suggests that the vast majority of UK car sales will be electric in the near future, meaning demand for new chargers is still strong. The government target of 300,000 public chargers by 2030 means the UK has a gap of approximately 250,000 chargers to fill in six years.

This is an enormous opportunity and with a plethora of government initiatives and incentives to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, we are advising customers that now is the time to invest in infrastructure, especially as part of a wider energy solution strategy.

Likewise, EV charging stations present a unique opportunity for commercial property owners to generate additional revenue. By setting competitive charging rates or offering subscription-based access, they can turn EV charging infrastructure into a profit centre. This added income can offset installation and maintenance costs while providing a valuable service to tenants and visitors.

The evolution of customer expectation

Customers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate rapid progress on the ESG and DE&I front and that extends to the company they keep in the form of suppliers. Our industry can help or hinder that progress for customers and so it’s imperative we move forward at pace, ensuring we are leading so that prospects see us as good company to keep.

To deliver this, collaboration is key, which is why ABM has recently become a Business in the Community partner; joining the largest and most influential responsible business network, supported by His Majesty the King for over 40 years. We will continually take steps to improve and call on the knowledge and expertise of like-minded businesses to share best practice and innovation to work together for ethical and commercial success.

Secondly, the hybrid work model is here to stay, and facilities management must adapt accordingly. As more employees split their time between office and remote work, our industry will see an increased demand for flexible solutions that optimise spaces for both in-person collaboration and virtual productivity and this will be a continuing trend as the country adjusts to a new working world.

The near future is dynamic for facilities management in the UK and Ireland, with opportunity at every turn for those who are prepared to lead through innovation, sustainability, and a commitment to excellence.

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