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Tech trends

Following the country’s pledge to cut emissions as part of the Paris Agreement on climate change and ongoing pressure for organisations to work towards carbon neutrality, it’s not surprising that energy management was the trend that the majority (69 per cent) felt would have the most impact over the next 12 months. In fact, for the first time, budgetary pressure was not the most voted for key challenge (57 per cent), as this was also topped by energy management (61 per cent). The technology trend in second place was internet of things (IoT) / sensors / smart buildings at 47 per cent – jumping up from 33 per cent of the votes in Service Works Global’s 2018 FM survey.

The falling price of sensors and the growth in the consumer market (for example in wearables, Bluetooth trackers and home security) has meant they have become more accessible and low risk for FM, and are invaluable in both gathering data and helping to control the environment. For example, when integrated with CAFM software, a sensor detecting abnormal vibrations on an asset will send an alert which automatically creates a job and notifies the most suitable operative through a mobile app.

Interestingly, the third most voted technology was around workplace wellness, tying into the rise of sensors and smart buildings and their roles in improving employee health and productivity – but also no doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe at the time of this survey. One respondent felt the crisis would mark a permanent change to the FM profession, changing how workplaces are run in the future and cause organisations, once again, to re-evaluate the use of service providers; deciding whether it’s preferable to rely on external specialist resources, or to manage services in-house for tighter control.

Building information modelling (BIM) was considered by 35 per cent of respondents to be a significant technology trend over the next 12 months, and 19 per cent stated they were already using BIM. Service providers working on public or private sector projects were leading the way, representing 57 per cent of these BIM users. While 38 per cent of the total stated they were using BIM as a compulsory requirement, 52 per cent felt it made the FM function more efficient, providing easy access to accurate data and helping to understand the facility space. Of those not using BIM currently, 14 per cent were actively planning to use it in the future. One of the main barriers to adoption is said to be the cost and time taken to adopt the system, but only nine per cent felt that BIM research and implementation would take up too much of their time. The training aspect of taking on a new system was not reported as an issue.

As integration remains a key priority for FM, both in terms of a trend and the growing percentage of those using integrated CAFM software, the reliance on accurate data is clear. BIM provides just this, allowing the user to see the location of assets and corresponding details including work history, measurements of areas and details about any building aspect (such as type of material used in a wall and the pipework within). We will see the use of BIM continue to increase as more turn towards a data-driven FM strategy.

The results of this year’s survey have revealed that in order to progress in a competitive marketplace, data-led decision making is essential – when paired with a highly skilled FM team.

The industry has become more reliant on software like CAFM to collect, manage and analyse this data, and this in turn has paved the way for new services like BIM and IoT, for which some companies have created new data-specific job roles. While this provides the necessary insight and efficiency to drive positive business change, it does pose the challenge of ensuring a balance between technical IT skills and trade skills like electrical, carpentry and plumbing to ensure the work gets done, and to a high standard. In this rapidly evolving industry, we must be careful not to lose sight of the profession’s roots as we look forward to what FM could be achieving with new technology and systems in the near future.

A full UK report, including comparison with the Australia, will be published shortly. Email info@swg.com to request your copy.

About Sarah OBeirne

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