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The information age

RICHARD BLACKBURN
GROUP MARKETING MANAGER, IDOX

FM software needs to become increasingly agile to support changing roles.

The FM industry is growing at a rapid rate, and we’re seeing the profile of facilities managers raised as they take on additional management responsibilities for other services. As a result, mobile working and data granularity continues to be a focus – but so does the notion of combining it with a truly paperless FM function.

Customers at one of our recent user group meetings spoke extensively about their desire to extend mobile functionality across teams, and remove paper trails by eliminating service sheets, auto-uploading documents, and scanning relevant information. As a result, the desire for a one-stop CAFM system, where everything is under one roof and easily accessible for multiple stakeholders, has never been more real.

With CAFM Explorer 10, for example, teams have a central point of service that can trigger actions from other systems. The reporting dashboard is geared to the needs of FMs who need richer datasets to inform decisions around corporate risk and maintenance costs, or evaluate service provider performance.

Smart technology integration is likely to continue developing in scope and scale. For example, different systems will trigger actions and events, such as automated work orders initiated by building management systems, leading to more streamlined, efficient and compliant workflows.

GARY WATKINS
CEO, SWG (SERVICE WORKS GROUP)

FMs are waking up to the value of CAFM and automation.

SWG and FMJ recently conducted a UK-wide survey of FM professionals about their role, work and use of technology. The results paint a fascinating picture of the industry. While the market as a whole is buoyant, with an increased budget and a renewed drive towards efficiency, the survey found resistance to technological change among many. At the same time, more respondents than ever are using CAFM (77 per cent) – so how is this form of technology meeting current and future needs?

Core functionality remains the priority of a CAFM system, with 80 per cent of those implementing CAFM doing so to improve and streamline their reporting, followed closely by improving FM performance (76 per cent) and KPI/SLA management (70 per cent). CAFM introduces transparency into the workforce, with a trend towards removing barriers that prevent efficiency through automation. At some organisations, this can mean automated robots delivering blood around a hospital; more commonly, it could apply to automating job allocation by allowing the CAFM system to work out which is the most suitable operative in terms of skills, availability and location.

Transparency in contract management is also important, following the negativity and mistrust around Carillion and value earlier this year. CAFM can provide readily available information around contract KPIs and SLAs to allow real-time monitoring of service performance over one or more contracts. This can be measured against contractual obligations to manage performance deductions and bonuses, and also informs future contract negotiation. Job costings can be automated based on predefined labour rates, travel, materials and quality output to save FMs time and ensure quotes are accurate.

Mobile apps have been a trend for the last couple of years and will continue to be as CAFM developers focus on creating new functionality for these handheld powerhouses. At the simplest level, mobiles can be used to receive and log jobs – but now they can be used more strategically. For example, by marking jobs as ‘made safe’ or ‘temporary fix’, leading to more accurate performance measurements, or gathering a client’s signature and feedback on job completion to improve quality. Compliance and health and safety are also improved using mobiles via simple forms and checklists attached to the job – for example, ensuring the operative has completed a ‘working at height’ risk assessment, or warning of asbestos in the job location.

The survey found that 50 per cent of respondents believe technology is a challenge, something which FM software is going a long way towards resolving. Many new FM software trends involve simplifying advanced tech, such as augmented reality or building information modelling (BIM), making it more accessible to organisations. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents integrate CAFM with BMS to enable faults identified by the latter to be automatically logged as a job on CAFM. Integration with other sensors, such as in soap dispensers to manage refills or in offices to manage hot desks or room bookings, is so far less utilised, but the trend is growing. CAFM makes light work of managing all of this data and can make a real difference to a business’ operational efficiency.

While it is increasingly held that the wave of technology initiatives is overshadowing the focus on the customer and causing FM to lose an element of personalised service, the reverse is true. By embracing technology to perform long-winded tasks or those that require a high degree of accuracy, the FM team can spend more time using its skill and knowledge to create an environment that suits its occupants, promotes wellness and encourages productivity.

About Sarah OBeirne

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