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New Technologies Bring Facility Management Into The Future

New Technologies Bring Facility Management Into The Future

A property's biggest and most important asset is the people who use it. Today, more people are focused on the user experience -- having their needs catered to as quickly, pleasantly, and efficiently as possible. It's also no secret that managing a facility, whether a school, hospital, or apartment complex, has become more difficult. Concerns about carbon emissions, rising energy bills, and the need to stay up-to-date with new advancements make keeping a facility running at optimum efficiency a daunting task. Fortunately, several new technologies promise to make it easier for facility managers to deliver the user experience their clients want, while adequately meeting the new demands placed on them.

The Rise of the User Experience

In the recent past, facility management was treated as a way to maintain and manage a passive asset. Any automation was largely focused on hardware, and centered purely on crisis mitigation and keeping facilities up and running. Now, there's a distinct shift toward creating value for end-users. The average customer expects to have a positive experience, requiring a management style that is more service-oriented than purely maintenance-oriented. To this end, new automation strategies focus on creating unified ways to manage workers, building systems, and users, all while keeping facilities running and meeting sustainability goals.

Avoid Downtime with Smart Devices

Nothing is more frustrating -- or more likely to frustrate clients -- than avoidable downtime. New smart devices, like smart chillers, automatically monitor performance and can send an alert when they begin operating at less than 100% efficiency. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and knowing that things are beginning to go downhill can help save on repair costs, avoid lost productivity, and keep users happy. Best of all, it's no longer necessary to take measurements by hand -- these devices automatically report data, so workers can better use their time where they are really needed.

Learn with Integrated Workplace Management Systems

In the initial stages, automation isn't always all its cracked up to be. In order to successfully use artificial intelligence, it must first be taught the data it needs in order to function. While using AI and machine learning can be a tremendous help when it comes to making informed decisions, this takes time. Integrated Workplace Management Systems help this process go smoothly by monitoring and recording data across a wide variety of metrics. They can feed this data to algorithms, and, in turn, help save valuable time and reduce transcription errors.

Let Computers Handle Design

Renovations and building layouts are one of the most challenging aspects of facility management. Figuring out efficient uses of space, establishing and directing traffic patterns, and getting the most out of a building are all time-consuming tasks, especially with manually drafted polylines. Spacial recognition programs can help save time by letting managers get a fast, accurate view of how space will be utilized by end-users. Software can create different floor layouts that facilitate communication and collaboration between different departments, optimize efficiency, and allow one part of the property to continue as usual while changes occur in another. Making adjustments for all of these factors used to take skilled technicians hours to do by hand -- with computer-generated models, it requires just a fraction of the time.

Try a "Soft" Retrofit

Roughly 80% of a building's costs over its lifetime come after it's already built. While re-fitting an existing building with updated hardware can be helpful from a cost-saving and sustainability perspective, the greenest and least expensive hardware is that which has already been built -- is it less wasteful to keep using an older, still-functioning refrigeration system, or pull it out and install a brand new one? Some owners are understandably reluctant to adopt extensive hardware updates, particularly for systems that still work, but new software can help trim costs and improve sustainability, without the waste and expense incurred by hardware retrofits.

The Downside to New Technology

While these advancements offer immense value in both money and time savings, they do come with one significant caveat: they can't be implemented overnight. Learning how to appropriately integrate and use them takes time and commitment. This is particularly true with new technology that relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence. When it comes to learning algorithms, the end result is only as good as the data fed into it. It's vitally important to have the right infrastructure, willingness, and ability to obtain good, usable data at the outset. Without these, junk data in will yield junk data out.

Keeping on top of new technologies and changes in the facility management industry is challenging, but it's a challenge that yields plenty of rewards. Working toward a positive end-user experience, meeting sustainability goals, and allocating talent where it can best be used all make for happier clients and more profitable real estate portfolios. No matter the type of building, compound, or campus involved, facility managers stand to benefit by incorporating new software and machine learning advancements into their daily operations.

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