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”.


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.


Blog - Catch 22

Crown Commercial Service Framework for Non Clinical Staff selects Catch 22

Catch 22 is delighted to confirm that we have been selected for the new Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Framework for non-clinical staff across the NHS and a wide variety of governmental and public sector organisations. The new Framework, which comes into force in August, sees our continued association with the CCS, in its various guises, that began in 2006. Indeed, Catch 22 has been supplying support staff to the NHS since its inception in 1982 and our appointment to the Framework underlines Catch 22’s continuous commitment to delivering excellence. Organisations able to take advantage of the benefits of the Framework include the Emergency Services, the education sector, civil service and government departments, amongst many others. Clients can select their suppliers with confidence, knowing that rigorous compliance criteria have been met and that costs are transparent throughout the process.

Catch 22’s managing director, Vince Parker, said “Being selected for a position on the CCS Framework reflects the high standards we continue to achieve and improve in our service. It is very gratifying to have those efforts acknowledged in this way and we look forward to offering our services to a wider NHS and public sector audience.”


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.


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.


office and computers

The link between good office design and productivity

Open plan is the design of choice for many facilities management companies, but new studies have shown that these large open spaces can have a negative impact on productivity.

Those workers whose roles require a quiet environment can be disrupted, which results in an output decrease. The study also shows an increase in absenteeism and a costly high turnover of staff. So what makes a good office design and happy and productive staff?

Here are 7 things to consider:

Ask your employees
Your employees know best, so involve your staff in design decisions. Once you learn more about how they work and how they think, they could work smarter, and improvements can be made to encourage maximum output from the whole team

Little things can go a long way
Whilst your staff may dream of bean bag seating and games consoles aplenty, this is not a suitable workspace for most businesses. There are some small luxuries you can offer, however, that will make your staff feel listened to and appreciated, as well as improving their experience at work:

-       Childcare services
-       Vending machines
-       Subsidised canteen
-       Doctor / Dentist clinics
-       Green / Outdoor areas
-       Games rooms
-       Communal couch areas
-       Massage chairs
-       Dress down Friday
-       Bring your dogs/kids to work day

Renew your tech
Use software to automate systems, freeing up more time for staff to do more productive jobs. Make sure you have a dedicated IT person or team to fix software and hardware bugs, so your staff don’t waste valuable time trying to work things out.

Consider noise levels
If ten employees are on the telephone, ten phones are ringing off the hook and ten people are trying to have a meeting, is this a productive workspace or pure chaos? Consider separate meeting areas, soundproofing ceiling tiles and using fabric screens to offer privacy to those who need it. Glass walls may be the solution for your accounts team or anyone else who may require a quiet environment to reduce distractions and improve concentration.

Make light and airy spaces
Make sure your staff have access to fresh air and natural light. This will reduce fatigue, eye strain, the spread of viral infections, headaches caused by artificial lighting and absenteeism. Introduce plants for better air quality.

Movement breaks
Ask your staff to relocate some of the items they use often. This will force them to get up from their workspace frequently and move around. Sitting or standing in one position for prolonged periods can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health. Simply moving around will rejuvenate fatigued workers.

Ergonomics
Speak to your facilities management department about reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. Some of the usual methods are as follows:
-       Wrist supports for use with mouse and keyboard
-       Screen/monitor supports for posture
-       Footrests for comfort and blood flow
-       Replace telephone handsets with headsets
-       Ergonomic seating to encourage an improved sitting position and posture

Feeling happy and contented at work is contagious, and these simple steps could have a significant impact on your working environment, resulting in higher productivity and more satisfied staff.


blurred retail store

Why digital transformation is now coming to retail FM

The death of high street retail is probably somewhat exaggerated, but its transformation is happening now - and FM leaders need to be at the forefront of this change. 

"Legacy" FM is a set of attitudes to facilities management, firmly entrenched in the past, and making no effort to recognise today's digital revolution, which is changing retail FM rapidly and forever. Legacy FM consists of keeping old facilities in their traditional configuration, and ignoring or refusing requests to adapt the space to changing consumer demand. If systems need replacing, the cheapest option is always adopted, but in general, change is seen as something to be avoided at all costs.

The cost will always be important, but so is the investment, because retail business success requires spaces that consumers can relate to, and will make a point of visiting. Innovative companies that see a different future for retail are prepared to make this type of investment, but when it comes to recruitment, they need FM professionals who can match their vision.

FM companies will increasingly be partners to these game-changing companies, providing flexible and exciting locations that engage the customer. Tracking sensors, electronic in-store messaging, interactive kiosks and mixes of real-life experience with software provision are all going to be needed.

The new FM mindset is more flexible about building systems, too. Previously, systems were rigid entities that were difficult and expensive to change, without replacing the entire infrastructure. These days, with modular and intelligent building systems, parts of the system can be swapped in or out - provided the FM professional understands this new approach.

But perhaps the major challenge going forward is going to be integration with digital systems. In retail, the challenge from online will be met head-on by providing the same services as an online store, but adding value to them. Sure, you can buy your new drill online, but only when you order or buy in-store will you get the tutorial from a professional showing you how to use it. People won't want to carry lots of stuff home - but they will want it delivered later that day. So logistics systems will have to be integrated with store systems, and in some cases, delivery vans will need to be located nearby, for immediate pickup and distribution.

Another of the key changes in retail will be the integration of entertainment and eating into the retail environment. Some branches of Next already contain Costa coffee shops within the store. Large malls such as Westfield have cinemas, live music and other forms of entertainment, as well as a huge choice of restaurants, diners and cafes, and even spa and wellness areas. All of this calls for facilities management that is able to cross boundaries and service very different kinds of activities. New FM systems also integrate advanced security and monitoring systems, to ensure that the retail space is safe for both customers and employees.

The simpler, self-contained legacy systems of the past didn't have to deal with this kind of complexity. But the FM jobs of the future will go to those FM managers who can thrive in these kinds of multi-functional retail spaces.


young female worker holding glasses

How younger workers are reshaping the FM industry

Commentators are beginning to divide younger people into two distinct groups. There are the "millennials" that we hear about all the time. This is the generation that grew up with IT at school and then took to the internet in droves. Their working life has always involved the use of technology. But there's an even younger group, called Generation Z - the smartphone generation. They expect all of their interactions to be available via a phone and the phone dominates their use of media and their internet interactions.

As baby boomers reach the end of their working lives and retire, the recruitment demand for skilled employees (including FM professionals, of course), is soaring. But companies looking to recruit Millennials and Generation Z are going to have to provide the kind of workspaces that these new employees want, to attract the right kind of talent. What does this mean for facilities management companies?

Engage, inform and involve

One of the key differences with the new workers is that they expect to be engaged, informed and involved. The FM industry has sometimes had a "command and control" attitude, where pragmatism was the key virtue, and carrying out instructions without questioning them was the norm. This isn't going to wash with Generation Z. They will want to know the reasons that things are being done in the way they are.

They won't automatically respect greater knowledge either. After all, in the age of the Youtube video telling you how to do practically everything, knowing stuff doesn't have the cachet that it used to. Instead, they'll respect how FM managers apply that knowledge.

This is particularly true when it comes to values. In the past, FM professionals weren't expected to have a set of guiding principles. With the rise of concern for the environment, facilities management is far more political than it was in the past. Generation Z is going to want work that is meaningful, and not in contradiction with its values and beliefs.

How to recruit the best

Mobile phone technology is second nature to "Zs", and with the increasing use of voice technology, its place in FM should be assured. So if Zs go for an interview with a company that has paper-based or PC-only systems, they're going to feel that they're entering the Dark Ages.

It's surprising how much potential candidates can glean about a company's attitude to technology simply from the recruitment process. A paper letter, with a map and directions for an interview, tells the potential recruit that the company is unlikely to be involved in anything innovative. Clunky email attachments aren't much better. These people will be setting out for their interview with a phone, so companies need to make sure that their profile and methods are completely mobile-friendly.

And importantly, even when Zs are starting at the bottom, they want their contribution to be recognised. So as well as recognising teamwork, managers skilled at recruiting and engaging this age group make a point of recognising their individual contribution too.


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.