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Tech trends

FM is undergoing a cultural shift in creating new strategies that balance technology and trade skills, according to new research carried out by Service Works Global, FMJ (UK) and FM magazine (Australia). Gary Watkins, CEO at Service Works Global, presents a preview of the UK results

The survey asked FM professionals across all industries and levels how they are using technology in their roles, the direction of their company’s work and if they feel tech is supporting them as much as expected – or if it’s more hype than helpful. The survey results paint a picture of a profession that is comfortable but cautious with expenditure on new software. Almost a third (30 per cent) had received an increased budget in the last 12 months to facilitate expanded service delivery, to meeting growing client expectations, and to enable investment in technology. With just three per cent of UK businesses relying on a paper-based system for managing their facilities, CAFM software is trusted to help schedule jobs, manage resources and produce reports.

The results showed respondents continued to use their CAFM systems for FM fundamentals such as planned maintenance (84 per cent), reactive maintenance (84 per cent) and asset management (76 per cent), but also expressed a desire for more software functionality to support them further. Nearly half (43 per cent) only rated their software as ‘satisfactory’ and a quarter of decision makers stated they were looking to change their system because it lacked the required functionality (48 per cent) or was out-dated (39 per cent). A third said that they wanted their solution to integrate with other systems but were unable.

With many looking for new software, and some looking to make a first-time purchase, there was a clear theme in respondents’ comments. “Technology is the future of FM”, one respondent wrote, “but CAFM products need to be [planned and researched properly] rather than thinking it will be the saviour of contract services.” With so many products on the market, it’s essential to devote the time to understanding what problems an organisation is having and what functionality different software applications have that can solve these. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ product as each company faces a unique set of challenges.

The survey highlights that it’s key to check that a vendor is continuously developing and evolving their software to prevent it from becoming outdated. A cultural shift may be required of any new software implementation, whether its CAFM, sensors or BIM. This change will be required in terms of implementation, training and use of the new systems, and also with regard to understanding the data generated and knowing how to manage it. “The focus needs to be not only on the technology, but on the analysis of the data, and how to turn that into useful information to drive behaviours and operational efficiencies,” commented another respondent.

With pressure on FM teams to work faster, work more accurately and save money, the importance of data has never been greater. In order to improve data accuracy and scope, 78 per cent of respondents have integrated their CAFM with at least one other system such as finance, BMS or health and safety software. Integration allows systems to securely communicate and share data, promoting accuracy as information is only added once, so the chance of human error, and the time spent administrating the systems, is vastly reduced. In fact, of those who reported that their CAFM had allowed their company to save money, 83 per cent were using an integrated system.

Integrating with a BMS, for example, allows significant time savings for the help desk, as well as faster response times for operatives. If the BMS identifies a fault, it is reported directly to the FM software and raised as a job automatically. 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. This degree of autonomy in the system significantly reduces time spent doing admin, and instead, allows focus on improving service provision.

Despite the concerns around automation replacing workers, only four per cent felt it would have a negative impact on their role, but none of these respondents were automating any processes. Those who were, felt that it was a part of FM’s future and that it would be valuable in freeing FM resources.

About Sarah OBeirne

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