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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.


How to keep a sustainable building green text over image

How to keep a sustainable building green!

You may think that by operating in a sustainable building, your business has met its obligations in terms of helping to create a greener environment and that you can sit back and let the building operations in a sustainable way.

This is not the case. A sustainable building and business will require continuous attention to ensure it remains sustainable today, tomorrow and into the future.

Constructing or renovating a building to obtain the green building certificate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the first phase of becoming an environmentally friendly business. The next phase will require the monitoring of the business to ensure it continues to meet such standards.

This could entail monitoring waste levels to ensure it remains below a previously specified level. However, previously set targets can also be improved upon. The continuous monitoring of waste could help to identify areas where changes could be made that could increase recycling, which would decrease landfill waste and in turn lead to cost-savings, meaning both the business and the environment would come out as winners.

By monitoring and attempting to increase the company’s use of recyclable materials, more of the company’s waste could be found to be suitable for recycling.

From the outset, the business will need to identify how best to measure its operations, which would become a baseline and help to flag up any problems in maintaining its sustainability levels. It would also help to measure the success of any changes that are made with a view to improving the company’s sustainability.

A facilities manager (FM), who may be in charge of one building or multiple buildings, will need to deploy software to monitor the performance of operations in various locations. Some companies provide benchmark tools which can be utilised to measure the consumption of water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions from a single facility or a group of buildings.

This can be useful in determining whether there are some aspects of a company’s operations that need more attention, in terms of meeting sustainability targets, than others. This will allow the company to place its resources and attention where it is needed the most.

Some software companies monitor consumption levels and deliver the results on a 12-month average basis, while other companies can measure the performance of a company’s sustainability credentials on a day-to-day basis, which could help the business keep on top of issues as they arise and allow it to more easily pinpoint areas that need extra attention.

As well as using the latest software to help your business maintain its environmentally-friendly operations, a physical inspection of the facilities is crucial. Night audits are particularly useful. A simple walk through an empty building could identify machinery and equipment that continues to run overnight.

FM staff could then highlight areas of concern and review whether such equipment needs to run overnight or during the company’s downtime. By adjusting processes to reduce the amount of equipment that continues to run when a building is empty, efficiency could be increased by up to 20%.


People running up a trend arrow

Every FM manager should know these trends

There are a number of trends set to change the FM and services industry. By identifying changes that will impact the sector, managers can plan for, and even benefit from, future shifts in society and in how we do business.

Economic Growth
The shift in economic growth from the west to emerging markets in the east means industry players must do more to set themselves apart in what will become a crowded market with new competition. Multinational companies should ensure their products can be tailored to a variety of local markets, so they can capitalise on growth in areas with differing cultures.

Commercialisation
Trends in commercialisation will lead to greater competition and innovation, with industry players needing to ensure their customers stay relevant. It will be essential that managers understand key business indicators and how they can help customers achieve optimised performance. Two examples of this would be to use lean management techniques that cut needless processes or the data-driven six sigma method, which seeks to enhance customer satisfaction with continuous process improvements and low defect rates.

Ageing Population
An ageing population coupled with diminishing pension incomes are leading to an increasing number of people working until later in life, which is changing the workplace. When it comes to hiring and retaining staff, the FM industry will need to gain an understanding of the motivation that drives its staff, which will differ widely from generation to generation.

Furthermore, with a four-generation workforce set to become commonplace in European, American, Japanese and Chinese workplaces, recruiters will need to recognise the differences between these generations, along with the challenges and opportunities that this trend will present.

Technological Progression
Advances in technology, including smart security, robotics and sensors, will affect jobs, leading to reduced demand for low-skilled workers, while increasing demand for skilled staff.

Climate Change
Climate change will force most industries and societies to become greener, which could impact on supply chains and the design, maintenance and management of buildings in the future. However, climate change and the urbanisation of mid to low-income countries in regions prone to natural disasters will bring new risk to the industry, which must ensure it is adequately prepared for such an event. This could be by having robust contingency and continuity plans in place.

Health
Meanwhile, the growing focus on human health will lead to the redesign of buildings to encourage staff to be more active and to stave off lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes. This trend is notable for the industry, as almost a third of Europe’s FM revenue comes from the healthcare sector, but budget cuts could result in governments outsourcing more work.

Flexibility At Work
Lastly, the traditional workplace is changing, with companies of all sizes shifting to models that promote flexible, collaborative, innovative and productive work. This is demonstrated by the growth of coworking environments, homeworking and flexible working options that have become common across the world.

This trend can be used to help retain and recruit staff. A company can be more appealing for prospective workers by offering flexible working options. Flexible working will require managers to use online facility booking and management tools.

Trends that could impact the industry are wide-ranging, but the common factor here is preparedness, which could make the difference between success and failure.


magnifying glass in the centre of wooden people

Are you ready for these new recruitment trends?

As the world of work changes, so does the way in which employers recruit. Some changes may not stand the test of time, but the following just might.

Mobile-first indexing

A Google initiative designed to enhance our experience as online searchers and to ensure that Google keeps up with our habits. Google likes the fact that we say we will “Google” something and it wants to keep on our good side. Nowadays, more and more of us are looking for jobs on our smartphones and tablets, but some recruiters still don’t acknowledge this. This move is intended to change that.

No more written CVs?

Increasingly, recruiters, whether in-house or external, are placing their focus on more than just what we write in our CV. What do our social media profiles say about us? Do they portray us in a way that we’d like a current or prospective employer to see us? Employees may need to start doing the same sort of things that businesses need to do, creating their own personal websites and building a suitable 'brand' for their chosen career in order to get hired.

Make the company profile look the part

We may not have got to the recruitment equivalent of online dating sites as yet, but we do need people to “fit,” if we want the hire to be successful on both sides. The way we do this is to be honest yet attractive. To use a phrase that was very common back in the early 2000s, we need to make ourselves, “employers of choice.” We need to do this on our website as well as our social media profile pages and we mustn't forget all those job review sites either.

AI anyone?

Like it or not, artificial intelligence is not going away. It’s already in use in one form or another in the UK, in the NHS, for example, and in a number of industries. This is starting to impact on the types of job available, with analysts suggesting that it will create many more new roles than it will replace. It is also having a significant effect on the efficiency of candidate screening and accuracy of hire in the recruitment sector.

Flexible working

More and more of us are moving into freelance or self-employed roles. It’s beneficial for the employer because their costs are lower and beneficial for the worker because they have greater flexibility over their working hours and locations. There are plusses and minuses on both sides but focus on the positives.

Virtual Reality

Not only software for video interviews, but VR and augmented reality are now being used in recruitment. They enable candidates to take part in simulations of real-life situations.

Talent Relationship Management (TRM)

This is becoming more important in recruitment, but we shouldn’t forget our existing talent. There are many reasons to promote internally-developed people, however, we don’t want to forget potential new talent either.

The truth is, we need to use a wide variety of recruitment methods in order to hire the right people. We stand a better chance of getting the right people by staying ahead of the curve.


brain shape from technology lights

Which technologies are changing the FM industry?

The world of facilities management covers a whole range of different areas. This means there are many opportunities for technology to streamline operations for companies involved in this field. Geographic information systems and computer-aided design were some of the first technologies to make an impact in the FM business, but there are now many others.

Smarter buildings

One of the big things that have changed in recent years is the number of devices and sensors that can send information over the internet. These ‘smart’ or ‘Internet of Things’ devices are now used in many buildings, particularly for environmental controls. This means that thermostats, for example, can report back to a computer system that can control heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Similar systems can be used for lighting, ensuring that lights aren’t left on when a room is empty, for example. They can also be an integral part of building an overall smart workplace, allowing employees to ‘hot desk’ and make the best use of available resources, for example, or to automatically direct people to the location of a meeting. The system can ensure that a conference room is lit and at a comfortable temperature before the meeting starts and that any audio-visual systems required are enabled.

Wearables

Many people now have wearable technology like fitness trackers. It’s easy to see the benefits of these on a personal level, but how can they help with managing facilities? Using wearable devices can help managers to understand the pattern of employee activity throughout the workday.

Wearable technology can be used to collect data about how people move around a building, thus giving valuable insights into resource use and space occupancy as people go about their jobs.

Building information

Another thing that facilities management providers are turning to is building information modelling. This allows the creation of a digital model of a physical building. Why is this useful? It can help with space management, letting you work out the best way to fit people and equipment into the space. It also helps with making decisions about efficient use of the building, energy consumption and so on. It can also make it easier when it comes to refurbishments and redesign.

Recent moves are towards Open BIM, which means adopting common standards that make it easy to compare information about different locations. If fully adopted, this would allow information to be shared widely, helping to create ‘smart cities’ to promote levels of energy efficiency and space utilisation across a wide area.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is having an impact on many different areas of our lives and the FM sector is no exception. Along with machine learning and the smart buildings technology we discussed above, it can be used to analyse data in order to predict things like asset utilisation.

This means that equipment can be serviced according to its use, helping to prevent unexpected breakdowns of things like environmental plant. AI and ML technology can help to predict failures before they happen and therefore keep things running smoothly.


closed for Christmas

How to manage the office Christmas closedown

Right now, there are FM professionals up and down the country wondering where Santa's Little Helper is when you need him to help with those extra festive jobs. Not only do they have to ensure the workplace is looking lovely and cheerful, they often have to manage social activities in the building. Then when the last worker has left, they're the ones who have to restore order and make sure the building is securely closed down for the holiday.

Cleaning 

Evening functions in the premises play havoc with the cleaning routines. The functions often require extra cleaning to take place, but employees turn up the next day expecting the building to look as well serviced as ever. Many organisations now have a two-drink limit for any functions at their premises which has limited the worst - let's say messes - that have to be cleaned up. Still, it's a case of asking the cleaning company to be as flexible as possible, and that's best done some time in advance.

The quiet period over the holidays can be a good time for deep cleaning - again, something you need to arrange in advance.

Heating and ventilation

Heating needs to be adjusted so that it runs as economically as possible. If there are staff on site, such as cleaners or security staff, they need reasonable temperatures to work in. But there is little point in heating an entire multi-storey building for one security guard, and so they're usually provided with spot heating for the room they're in. After the holiday, it's a question of getting the building nicely warm, so that employees returning to work, dejected and probably broke, aren't freezing cold into the bargain. OK, they'll still be depressed and penniless, and spending their morning browsing recruitment sites, but at least they'll be warm.

Security

That lonely security guard with his turkey sandwich and oil filled radiator may be quite busy. Christmas is a key time for break-ins, and one of the facilities management jobs is to ensure that in the rush to get away, other managers haven't forgotten to secure their areas. So the last check is essential and alarms need to be primed for areas that won't be used.

It's also important too, to ensure that no one is sleeping off the after effects of the office party in one of the meeting rooms. Home alone is one thing, at work alone and locked in over Christmas, is quite another. For the same reason, toilets have to be checked, to ensure that taps aren't running.

Fire

A faulty light fitting setting fire to a paper lantern, or some tinsel draped over an overheating electrical device, are all it takes for a fire to start. So it's worth checking the decorations to make sure that none are interfering with any electrical fitting, or likely to fall onto radiators.

Finally, the FM manager gets to turn off the last light, lock the last door, eject the last party straggler and head off home for their own celebration. Silent night. Until the alarm goes off at 3 am and someone wants the key holder!


cleaning service

What do you need to consider when outsourcing your cleaning contract?

One of the key issues to consider when outsourcing a cleaning contract is to ensure that the new contract doesn't compromise the organisation's security arrangements.

Staff and contractors need to work in a safe and secure environment, and an organisation can suffer severe reputational damage if a failure in this area leads to a major security breach. As businesses focus on the threat of data breaches and cyber attacks, many fail to realise that physical security is an important part of data and online security. Robust access control ensures that unauthorised people cannot make their way into controlled areas such as server rooms and data centres.

It often falls to the facilities manager to remind the organisation of the steps that need to be taken to maintain security when a new cleaning company is brought on board. Hopefully, the cleaning company's attitude to security and the ability to prove that they are supplying vetted staff, will have been checked during the procurement process. However, given the inevitable turnover in cleaning staff, the checks need to be ongoing, with a process for ensuring that new cleaners are vetted thoroughly before they are allowed access to a building.

It isn't just the threats of cyber attack and terrorism that need to be taken into account. The security of staff working in the building, particularly if they are working late, and alone, is also a concern.

Checks on the legality of the contractor's staff

During any pre-contract checks, facilities management professionals need to ensure that their contractor's procedures are thorough and robust. Many firms rely on Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks. However, someone with a false ID, or who is using someone else's ID, can pass these.

The immigration status of new workers also needs to be checked and there's a potential fine of up to £5,600 for every worker who is working illegally. There are even higher fines if the illegal workers are being exploited since the Modern Slavery Act would apply in these circumstances.

So, thorough identity checks are essential if services such as cleaning are to be contracted out. Because outsourcing and contracting-out are now such a large part of facilities management, it's not uncommon for advertised jobs to stipulate management of contractors as a requirement. Recruitment of temporary or contract workers or management of a supply company are now required skills for facilities managers.

Continuing checks for contractors

Many FM professionals are considering introducing biometric checks. This is because, as with the DBS checks, ID passes are only useful if they are used honestly. The ID is frequently not checked if a worker is wearing the uniform of a contractor known to supply cleaners to the organisation. So it's easy for someone to impersonate a contract cleaner, for whatever reason.

Facilities managers need to ensure that processes and checks are in place to pick up this kind of risk to the organisation. Otherwise, the cleaning contract can become a weak point in an organisation's security arrangements.


5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

5 of the biggest FM technology developments to know

Facilities management is being transformed by technology, and that is both enhancing and disrupting the traditional business models that have dominated the industry until now. These are the five key technology trends that facilities management professionals must know about.

1. The Internet of Things (IoT)

One key development is the Internet of Things - the ability to add intelligence to physical items, to network them together and to have them communicate into central control points. This is revolutionising the way that buildings are managed. Physical information collected by thermostats, actuators or sensors can be pushed into a processing system which can then take decisions on how well the system is running, and what aspects of it need to be adjusted, in order to reach peak performance. The information collected can confirm humidity, temperature, light levels, sound, vibration, occupancy levels and all kinds of other data.

The facilities manager is able to view the building system as a whole and to manage it much more effectively.

2. Building Information Modelling (BIM)

When a building is being designed, architects need to be able to model the way that the finished construction will work when it is in use. Contractors and others need to use these models to estimate quantities and costs, and to draw up their own plans for how systems such as cabling, heating and so on will be installed.

BIM used to be a specialised tool, used primarily before the building was constructed. But the facilities management profession realised how useful these models would be in planning how buildings would work, and in modelling the building system as a whole. When linked to working documentation, such as floor plans, BIM can be a powerful management tool.

3. Developments in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

HVAC systems are some of the most expensive facilities to run, and this area has been the target both for cost reduction and for efforts to reduce the carbon output of buildings. New building automation systems can make these targets easier to achieve, through lower use of energy for heating and cooling the building.

Facilities managers can get advance warning of system elements that are about to fail, and can also pinpoint elements that are not working efficiently - for example, using more energy, or producing less output, than they should.

4. Maintenance streamlining through software

Managers are beginning to realise the benefits of adding maintenance schedules for systems or parts of systems, to an automated facility maintenance package. The software can create work orders and link them to the required documentation, in order to produce full instructions for contractors, and others working in the building. After the job is finished, the status can be updated in the software, and calendar reminders can be set for the next scheduled maintenance. This enables managers to plan workflow more evenly through the year.

5. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)

That's the official name for drones. Until now, these have mainly been used for filming inaccessible parts of buildings. However, in the future, we can expect to see the development of drones that can carry out jobs such as redecoration and repair. It will be a while before scaffolding isn’t needed anymore - but the sight of drones buzzing about buildings is going to become a common one.