Construction site sun set with crane silhouette

The construction industry will hit digital tipping point in 2020

The construction industry has not always been renowned for its innovative approach or its eagerness to embrace digital change and business transformation. However, recent research in the field suggests that 2020 could be the critical year in terms of digital transformation for the construction sector, as challenging areas such as supply chains, productivity and risk management are gradually being addressed.

A new industry report was commissioned by Causeway, a UK construction company, with the aim of assessing how digital innovations were being adopted across the construction industry. The report involved a survey of 200 key decision-makers in the building industry in the UK, including Birmingham City University, Eiffage Kier and Atkins.

The findings of the survey show that 54% of respondents agreed that the construction industry has been relatively slow in the uptake of new technology and the integration of new digital practices. However, despite this acknowledgement, the survey did reveal that there is an optimism and a growing appreciation that investment in digital technology can have a positive effect on business.

70% of respondents reported a positive impact on the project and operational management, with improved flows of data and information. 58% felt that the investment in technology had an impact on recruitment and jobs, with success in attracting and also retaining essential new digital talent.

Advances were also realised in commercial performance, with 54% reporting workforce productivity improvements, 56% reducing their operating costs and 43% seeing business win rates increase. The supply chain was another area to see a positive impact, with 48% feeling that relations within the supply chain were stronger.

There are still challenges in the industry, as respondents reported in the survey. It was felt that there were key areas to be addressed for the industry to really move forward and fully embrace digital transformation. Firstly, there is a need to have a standardisation of technology in the supply chain to aid cohesion. The workforce is another area which requires focus as there is a necessity to develop a new workforce that is digitally driven and diverse.

Lastly, there is a need to increase profitability so that continued investment in the digital transformation is possible. Phil Brown, the Chief Executive of Causeway, cited this as one reason why the industry has lagged behind technologically, specifically mentioning the cycle of low-productivity and low-profitability as challenges to the industry.

Notwithstanding this, an encouraging 81% of respondents in the survey reported that they would, in fact, be making greater efforts to implement digital changes and improvements to their businesses in the construction industry within the next 12 months. In order to fully embrace the technologies and digital transformation, it is necessary to harness and employ web-enabled, intuitive, mobile technology that allows data to be easily accessed and shared on the front line and all the way through the business.

Time will tell exactly how and when the industry fully embraces digital transformation, but as Phil Brown says “in today’s mobile and digitally-enabled world, success will increasingly be found”.


hands holding a heart with medical white cross

These healthcare trends are changing FM

In this time of economic uncertainty, the healthcare industry is not alone in facing the dual challenges of change and increasing costs. Taking a strategic approach to the often extensive real estate portfolios owned within the healthcare industry and optimising the efficiency of facilities management is vital in order to stay ahead.

Here, we take a look at some of the current healthcare trends affecting facility management.

1.      A high level of merger and acquisition activity is changing the approach to construction and real estate

In the past few years, the healthcare industry has witnessed unprecedented M&A activity, which has led to several cross-industry collaborations with non-traditional healthcare providers, faith-based organisations and pharmaceutical companies. Such consolidation is creating mega health systems, all of which will require a fresh approach to facilities management.

2.      Operating margins are tightening as costs-per-patient increase

While it is a constant source of political debate, it remains the case that healthcare providers are continuing to face cost pressures and the continuing need to balance patient care with tighter and tighter budget constraints. Improving outcomes for those at the receiving end of healthcare services, of course, remains the key priority across the industry, off-set against the need to find creative ways to reduce costs wherever possible. Facilities management is not immune.

3.      As the healthcare system evolves, traditional hospital networks could become obsolete

The many changes happening across the healthcare sector will undoubtedly mean changes to the approach taken towards real estate and its future management.

For example, the merger of different institutions combined with an increase in service provision from other providers is likely to mean a reduction in large all-encompassing hospital buildings as we see a move towards greater use of ambulatory surgeries, emergency clinics and micro-hospitals based within local communities.

With the aim of reaching local residents easily and addressing their health issues early within their local community, the hope for the future is to reduce the number of people developing acute illnesses which then require expensive treatment in a large, centralised facility. From a healthcare perspective, prevention is better than cure and most patients would prefer to receive treatment near their own homes. As such, the provision of localised facilities is likely to be a welcome progression for the future.

In addition to, most importantly, improving the overall patient experience, smaller outpatient centres are less expensive to build and maintain than traditional, larger hospital buildings. However, the management of such a diverse portfolio of buildings in various locations brings with it new challenges in terms of the ongoing management of each facility.

4.      The risk of hospital-acquired infections is still real

While receiving treatment for other health issues, there remains a risk of patients picking up further infections through simply being in a healthcare environment. As a result, there is a duty on those responsible for the management of buildings to look at what can be done with the physical environment to reduce the risk and spread of infections.

This may include the design and maintenance of buildings, from ventilation systems through to interior design.

Fresh thinking and embracing new technologies will be key to the future of FM in this industry as it supports the health of the population.


white drone in sky

3 Tech innovations transforming facilities

Technology is having a huge impact on many aspects of our everyday lives and so it comes as no surprise that technological advances are now also transforming facilities management. Three technologies in particular - drones, robots and advanced access control - are leading to rapid changes in the way in which facilities managers are planning and implementing security in their buildings. white drone in sky

Ensuring that the occupants of the building for which they are responsible feel safe, secure and content is a primary concern of any facilities management professional. Embracing technology to improve security and tackle issues is a forward-thinking and efficient approach. However, it’s vital to be aware of the challenges new technology may bring, and how best to deal with them.

We have taken a quick look at three state-of-the-art approaches to building security and the issues surrounding them.

1. Drones

Drones can provide unrivalled views of an area which would simply not otherwise be possible. They can easily and effectively be used to conduct thorough security patrols. Equally, the technology may also be used for other non-surveillance purposes, such as roof-top inspections.

However, their availability and ease of use which is so advantageous is also a potential downside. Just as drones can be used internally to monitor a building, they could be used by others external to an organisation for more sinister purposes, such as spying or for gaining illegal access to computer systems.

With the ever-increasing number of drones - commercial and private - in operation, it is essential that those working in facilities management understand this technology and the advantages and risks that it can bring.

Thankfully, where drones may pose a security risk for a building, there are detection and monitoring systems available. These will sense the presence of drones within a designated area and enable suitable responses to be taken.

2. Robots

No longer limited to futuristic sci-fi films, the use of robots is becoming a very real option for security, providing additional ‘eyes and ears’ and a very visual deterrent for anybody considering committing a crime.

Last year, a New York City airport became the first major airport in the country to deploy a robot security guard. Robotic security guards have been used in places such a stadiums and shopping centres but, to date, have been met with mixed emotions.

Concerns have been raised as to the capability and accuracy of artificial intelligence. However, there is no doubting that the technology is constantly improving and is here to stay. Robots are certainly a technology trend for anybody working in facilities to keep an eye on.

3. Advanced Access Control

The access control market is another technology predicted for explosive growth in the coming years. From an increase in the use of biometrics to facial recognition, the technology surrounding access control is becoming more and more sophisticated.

Like many other new technologies, there are privacy concerns surrounding the use of personal data and the willingness of people to use this to gain access to places of work. However, those in favour counter that such technology is already widely embraced by mobile-phone users.

Whether or not this technology is appropriate for a particular workplace could well be a cultural issue that those working in facilities need to consider.


Engineers in the sun

How to protect workers when the temperature rises!

Employers are expected to provide a reasonable working environment for their employees. The recommended temperature should be set at a minimum of 16°C, or 13°C for work requiring heavy lifting. Heating and cooling systems should be provided if a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained, for example, fans should be used and windows should be opened to allow air to circulate if needed.

Employees should never be in a situation where they are too hot. The appropriate shade should be added if any team members are sitting in direct sunlight or in the vicinity of objects that give off heat, for example, machinery or other equipment. engineers working in the sun

In a warm atmosphere, sufficient breaks should be provided to allow staff to cool down. They should also have access to cold drinks, for example, many businesses provide water coolers or vending machines for the comfort of their workforce. Depending on individual circumstances, it may also be appropriate to introduce a system of working in order to limit exposure to extremes of heat. This could include job rotation or moving workstations. It may also include flexible working patterns.

Heat-related illnesses can increase the number of accidents at work. High temperatures in the working environment can cause lethargy and lead to poor concentration, which increases the potential for personal injury in the workplace. Extremes of temperature can also give rise to poor judgement and this is especially risky when employees’ jobs require them to operate machinery or work with tools or harsh chemicals.

Facilities management can oversee conditions in the workplace and can make recommendations for improvement. Some companies may require specific advice, particularly if workers are exposed to extremes of temperature. If employees are experiencing ill effects due to the working environment, then the situation requires urgent review to ensure that the relevant precautions are taken.

Conditions may require close monitoring and any incidents must be recorded as outlined by health and safety legislation. Monitoring or medical screening may be needed for workers who have certain illnesses or disabilities, in addition to any women who are pregnant. This is of particular importance when exposed to extremes of temperature and medical advice may be necessary.

A visible focus on the safety of all employees can only serve to enhance the firm's reputation and employer branding. This, in turn, may enhance applicant volumes for new positions. For those already in-role, there will be a sense that their welfare is regarded as a high priority and retention rates should improve as a result. Overall, a strong focus on working conditions creates a more positive working environment for everyone within the organisation.

It is important to remember that illnesses caused by temperature increases can affect office workers too, in addition to drivers and staff who are based on site. It is essential to ensure that all workers, whether exposed to sunlight or extremes of temperatures, benefit from safe and comfortable working conditions and that any risks are managed.

Ultimately, it is vital that any firm is proactive when it comes to temperature management and that the in-house risk assessment systems are fully effective.


24/7

What the 'on-demand' era means for facilities management

New digital platforms mean that changes are afoot for the building industry, especially when it comes to some of the traditional processes that have been used in facilities management for decades. With digital platforms come on-demand requests, which can mean a better (and cheaper) service for the companies that own a building or facility. But how can firms in the facilities management industry adapt to these changes and make on-demand jobs work for them?

What is on-demand?

Businesses have long been able to book certain aspects of their operations 'on-demand'. That includes catering, IT support and even people. On-demand generally refers to booking something online at short notice and not having to book it as part of a longer or larger contract. 24/7

With the rise of digital platforms, specifically built for companies to find facilities and building services, those in charge of booking the work are now able to book actions such as repairs quickly and easily. They can be given full costs, track delivery of the required materials and even make changes to the job where necessary.

What are the benefits?

These platforms certainly make life easier for the company booking the work, as they can take advantage of competitive pricing, guaranteed timeframes and tailored jobs. Buildings themselves are becoming ever more complex with the addition of AI and smart technology being just one example and the use of innovative building materials being another [1].

The result is that many building management jobs are becoming rather more niche. Digital platforms can make it easier to link the right person for the job and ensure the right materials and parts are ordered in time. On-demand services are also preferable for small businesses who can pay per service without the added cost of a subscription.

Some of the more advanced platforms can even be populated with specific information such as staff working hours and skill areas. This means that jobs can be booked by cross-sectioning who is available via an easy to use online booking system, which can find the right team or individual for the job.

What this means for the facilities management industry

These platforms are primarily used for ad-hoc building management and repair jobs, but they can also be used for booking jobs with companies with which you have a contract or ongoing relationship. In fact, bespoke versions of these platforms can even be used by larger businesses and organisations, such as universities, who can book jobs with their own in-house facilities management teams.

These platforms will hold building services companies to account as they'll need to ensure that staff is properly trained and skilled in key areas, so in that way, the platforms can motivate facilities and building firms to stay on top of training and recruitment. It also means that jobs need to be finished on time and can be tracked and priced more easily.

The use of on-demand digital platforms can ultimately be of benefit not just to the companies looking to book facilities management services, but also to those businesses that offer their services too as it forces them to continually strive to improve.

[1] https://www.viatechnik.com/blog/advanced-buildings-construction-industry/


Stress at work

How FM managers can tackle stress levels

In such a fast-paced industry, with ever-evolving demands, pressures and seemingly never enough hours in the day, it is perhaps unsurprising that Facility Managers are reporting increasing stress levels.Stress at work

Of course, many jobs are stressful and stress isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but recent research has found that for facilities managers at least, stress levels have tended to increase over the course of a career. This could be attributable, in part, to increasing seniority and additional responsibility, but it may equally be symptomatic of the fact that facilities management is a demanding industry, with a variety of challenges and on many occasions, limited budgets and resources with which to work.

Indeed, many Facilities Managers are increasingly being asked to provide better results with less money and support. In such a competitive marketplace, there is always the fear that if you don’t perform optimally, someone will be waiting in the wings to take over.

That is not to say that everything about the industry is negative; quite the contrary. Many Facilities Managers report enjoying and thriving on the challenges inherent in the role. There is also a school of thought that suggests that stress itself is not necessarily a bad thing, it is how we respond to this stress that is key.

If harnessed correctly, stress can be used to your advantage and help you to excel. Stress is a natural reaction left over from ancient times when it allowed us to be on our guard against wild animals or other dangers. The heightened awareness and racing pulse it can trigger prime the body to fight or flight as needed. Of course, if prolonged, neither of those elements are ideal for your longer-term health.

However, recognising when you are stressed and identifying how your body is naturally reacting to it is a vital first step in dealing with stress. Instead of getting carried along on a wave of adrenalin, step back from the situation and recognise that although important, it is not a case of life and death. This can help give some much-needed perspective.

It is also useful to appreciate why you are having a stress response and to potentially capitalise on the focus and clarity it can give you. Long term, chronic stress is not helpful, but short term, it can be harnessed to allow you to focus more closely on the task at hand and solve problems quickly.

Another useful tip is to recognise your personal reaction to stress. Do you fight, flight or freeze up? Try and track your behaviour and then see if you can alter your pattern to have a more beneficial response to stress. Think of a time where you were challenged or stressed but worked through it to solve a problem or overcome a hurdle. Remember ways in which you made a stressful response work in your favour and then strive to replicate this every time you feel yourself entering a stressful period.


Why councils are bringing FM and other services back in-house

Why councils are bringing FM and other services back in-house

First rolled out under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, with the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering, the outsourcing of public sector services gradually gained in popularity. It subsequently transitioned into a frenzy of outsourced contracts throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Simply put, outsourcing is an arrangement in which a public sector organisation or local council allows a private company to run a particular service on its behalf. Everything from leisure centres and libraries to IT services and facilities management has been outsourced, with varying degrees of success.

Outsourcing giants such as Serco, Capita and Kier built business empires on delivering services on the public sector’s behalf. Promising huge cost savings, improved performance and increased efficiencies, private companies took on a range of valuable contracts, to mixed reception.

While many outsourcing partnerships have worked very well and delivered valuable savings, there have also been some notable disasters, where not only have services been poorly delivered, but they have ended up costing public sector organisations dearly.

Against this backdrop, there has been a shift in the attitude towards outsourcing, with contracts not being renewed and many services being bought back in-house.

In this age of austerity, public sector bodies need to manage their budgets more closely than ever before and this has brought the spotlight to bear on outsourced contracts. Councils, in particular, simply cannot afford to sign up to lengthy contracts that may not deliver the cost savings they so desperately need.

In fact, a recent report from the Association for Public Service Excellence has found that many local councils are planning to bring outsourced services back in-house. Known as insourcing, this will see councils take back control of elements such as catering, waste management or building services.

For many councils, insourcing provides a great way to save costs and become more efficient. Ironically, this is exactly what the outsourcing of services was meant to provide in the first place.

The same report from the APSE also found that nearly 80% of councils believe that insourcing will allow them to be more flexible, with two-thirds hoping it will save them money.

In addition, insourcing can provide better pay, working conditions and benefits for employees, as well as improving relationships with unions. It can certainly be argued that by running services themselves, councils can ensure that public money is kept in the local economy, ensuring that they work with local businesses where relevant to help fuel the local economy.

However, it is not always the council’s choice to insource. In some cases, private companies are walking away from deals as they no longer see them as profitable.

However, some councils are really turning the tables and going a step further, setting up their own trading companies to help drive further revenue which can be put back into frontline services.

It certainly seems as though the heydays of outsourcing are drawing to a close, with a marked shift to insourcing. Whether this trend continues remains to be seen, but for the time being at least, insourcing seems set to become the dominant approach.


business people lying on floor in circle

Sodexo says these are the top FM trends to watch for

Due to technological advances and the need to create more sustainable lifestyles, FM teams are generating improved personal and work environments. Safer and smarter environments are being developed by looking at people’s needs and fully understanding those needs.

From technology to recruitment, here are the top FM trends to watch out for:

• Augmented reality glasses are next level tech. Technicians and engineers from various industries are using augmented reality glasses in many ways, including communication, live video and for information and problem-solving.

• Chatbots are becoming more and more popular in the modern workplace. Automating the chat function on your company website is becoming the norm as chatbots can offer 24/7 support to your clients. Using artificial intelligence to answer your customer queries is the next step in offering around the clock support. Chatbots learn as they go, building a catalogue of expanding data and knowledge.

• Ultraviolet lights at certain wavelengths are fighting bacteria, viruses and other harmful microorganisms. Killing mould and bacteria could reduce issues faced by schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other public establishments. When bacteria is exposed to UV light, it is unable to spread or infect.

• Attracting the best talent in facilities management is proving to be an uphill battle. A limited number of young people are going down the FM route, leaving a shortage of skilled workers seeking blue-collar roles. More could be done to introduce apprenticeships to school leavers and perhaps graduate programs could be considered for those completing university degrees.

• Retaining talent is a challenge in many industries. Consulting and engaging with staff are great ways to make your employees feel listened to and valued. Goal setting and assisting your staff in achieving their goals is a key principle in retaining staff. They can then work towards progression in the industry and will appreciate loyalty and investment from their employer. Treating employees well will guarantee good employee reviews which, in turn, will attract the very best talent in your industry.

• Remote monitoring from a 24/7 call centre, 365 days a year will save your clients valuable time and money. System failures, alarm responses and general issues can be dealt with and resolved remotely, without the need for an engineer or technician to visit the client’s sites.

• Building analytics is an innovative FM trend. Systems are customisable and can monitor building control equipment. They can also collect data on output and energy savings, as well as performance.

• Green buildings, also known as living buildings, are growing in popularity. Living buildings are generating their own energy using solar panels, wind energy and other renewable energy. Many occupants of living buildings grow their own produce and operate a swap and share scheme.

• Waste-free buildings produce their own energy and generate minimal waste. The buildings and occupants work together with facilities management teams to achieve sustainable living.

• Wellbeing buildings are the trend of the moment in FM circles. Everything from the paints, carpets and furnishings are ergonomically designed for the benefit of the building’s occupants.


Signs that you're ready for a new job

Signs that you're ready for a new job

How is it that on the weekends, you can wake up naturally at the crack of dawn, shower, get the kids ready and be all packed up in the car ready for a fun family day out? Yet by Monday morning, you’re hitting that snooze button harder than a cricketer hitting a six.

If this resonates with you, it could be time to consider your next career move. Feeling unenthusiastic and down about work is one of the first signs that you’re unhappy and ready to burn out.

It could be possible to relight the excitement you felt when you first started your job. If you’ve allowed your disappointments to mount up, you could try to tackle some of the issues you’re facing and make positive changes. Conversely, you may have learned from previous jobs that you’ve already gone too far down the road to turn back.

Either way, here are some things to consider before you update your CV and start to circulate it amongst your favorite recruitment agencies:

Signs that you’re ready for a new job:

• As you’re setting your alarm in the evenings, you get that overwhelming feeling of dread. When the morning comes, you are not motivated to get out of bed and find yourself pressing snooze as many times as you feel you can get away with.

• Both leaving the house early and arriving home late are getting in the way of much-valued family time. Your work commitments are beginning to have a negative impact on your social life and on relationships with friends and family.

• You’re fed up of the commute. Sitting in traffic for long periods of time at both sides of the day is making you resent your job.

• Your workload is expanding and you’re feeling overloaded. You’ve been given more responsibility, but you have not been given the financial compensation that should come with it.

• You no longer feel challenged and you’re bored. The long working day is becoming a drag.

• Your impeccable sickness record is suffering, and your level of absenteeism is increasing. You’re feeling stressed which is causing health issues.

• Your manager lacks motivation and support which is letting the team down. You feel they won’t be going anywhere fast and have concerns about personal progression.

• The company isn’t moving with the times which is affecting sales; you’d prefer to work with a forward-thinking company and a more innovative team.

• You feel that opportunities to grow both personally and within the company are limited.

• You don’t feel like you fit in with the company culture and want to work somewhere with like-minded people who have the same objectives as you.

• You receive your first negative appraisal, which could indicate your dissatisfaction and lack of enthusiasm at work is not going unnoticed.

If you can relate to one or more of the above, you may be ready for a new challenge where you can set goals and push yourself to reach them. Now could be the perfect time to grab a new opportunity with both hands and get that spring back into your step.


Blog - Catch 22

Catch 22’s 12th Charity Walk Challenge

Catch 22’s 12th Charity Challenge is next week!
 
We started these walks in 1997 and this year we are taking on The #SouthDownsWay!
 
This year the #walk will take place on Wednesday, May 1st – Saturday 5th. Vince and Simon (with Don’s organisational assistance!) are tackling the 100 miles from #Winchester to #Eastbourne. Simon will make it, although Vince is not sure his metal knee will last all the way. But 50 odd intrepid walkers will ensure fun is had and money raised.
 
(It's not too late to join us, although you need to sort out your own travel and accommodation. One night in Winchester, #Petersfield, and #Midhurst followed by three in #Brighton, ending with a big celebration in the Good Companions in #Brighton on Sunday night.
 
If you would like to sponsor us, head to our Just Giving page - https://bit.ly/2Uzm7xy
 
As always the main charity is the @Lords Taverners
Simon is walking for Burning Nights CPRS charity; you can read more about CPRS and donate here - https://bit.ly/2vmGrrC
 
Thanks very much in advance!