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Facility Management Trends & Challenges For 2021

Facility Management Trends & Challenges For 2021

2020 caused a lot of problems for the facility management industry, many of which managers had never had to confront before. The pandemic has shaped everything from cleaning procedures to emerging tech, to interior decorating trends, and brought a heightened awareness to the role that buildings play in public health. As we get ready to head into 2021, here are some of the new -- and continuing -- trends and challenges facility managers are going to see:

1. Remote monitoring.

Millions of people were pushed to work from home if they weren't furloughed or laid off entirely. This resulted in three things: a scramble to create more robust systems to handle so many people working remotely, a push for heightened cybersecurity, and the realization that remote technology can have beneficial impacts on sustainability and costs, as well as health. Even as people begin to return to work next year, the ability to keep an eye on things from a distance has hundreds of applications in facility management. Sensors help with inventory, security, equipment monitoring, as well as functions as simple as lighting and ventilation. It's likely that remote monitoring and Internet of Things tech is going to continue to occupy a significant niche in facility management.

2. Artificial intelligence-led maintenance.

Preventative maintenance can save facility managers major headaches and expenses down the line, but it's easy to see why it so often gets pushed to the side. Proper preventative maintenance pulls employees off of other tasks, takes time and labor, and means throwing parts away before they've completely worn out, all of which can seem really wasteful for something that isn't an emergency. AI-based predictive maintenance helps cut down on this waste by collecting data from sensors and accurately determining when parts really need to be replaced. Some algorithms can even analyze behavior over an asset's working life, and send alerts when it needs to be maintained or repaired.

3. Sustainable (yet breathable) buildings.

This is both a trend and a challenge in one. For years, new builds emphasized their energy efficiency -- which generally meant being heavily insulated and sealed up tight to avoid wasting heating and cooling power. Now that there's a push for better ventilation, there has to be a compromise between bringing outdoor air in and keeping it from sending the electric bill through the roof. While builders will be responsible for facing this challenge in new construction, facility managers will have to bear the brunt of it in older buildings. This is another area where remote monitoring technology can help, by using sensors to optimally balance temperature, humidity, and fresh air, as well as guiding maintenance for ventilation systems.

4. Shifting from software to platform.

Facility management software helps managers keep tabs on virtually every aspect of their operations, from work orders to inventory, to to-do lists, and more. As the IoT, AI, and remote sensors gain a larger presence, facility management software is shifting from a tool to a comprehensive, user-friendly platform. Soon, managers may be able to handle everything from within a single seamless digital interface. This is especially true as the older generations of facility managers near retirement. Younger generations are more accustomed to technology and have high standards for the software they use. Expect to see facility management platforms adapt to provide more intuitive, attractive user interfaces that are able to operate across devices -- from computers to tablets and cell phones.

5. Security, security, security.

COVID-19 created some unique security challenges. Now, not only did facility managers have to worry about unauthorized people getting access to buildings or other assets, they had to worry about keeping people out if they failed a health screening. With more employees working and monitoring things remotely, there were more opportunities for cyberattacks. As technology becomes more advanced, interconnected, and ubiquitous, the need for strong cybersecurity just becomes greater. Attackers are getting more sophisticated, and facilities need to keep pace to keep buildings, people, data, and other assets safe.

6. Cost.

As was hinted above, some of these trends are going to come with added costs. Remote monitoring and IoT devices cost money to buy, implement, and learn. Greener, healthier buildings mean initial costs for upgraded HVAC systems and insulation and ongoing costs for electricity. AI-led preventative maintenance is still going to cost money to implement, even if it saves in the long run. Facility managers have always had to balance expenses with efficiency, operations, and comfort, and that isn't going away any time soon. If anything, the new emphasis on ventilation and healthier buildings will only add to the challenge. 2020's pandemic had a big impact on facility management, but it isn't the only factor guiding things going forward. A continued push for sustainability, advancing tech, sophisticated cybersecurity threats, a generation nearing retirement, and the desire for greener buildings are all guiding trends and challenges for the industry. As the IoT and AI become more abundant and integrated, facility managers are likely to see more and more of the center of their job on software. Fortunately, builders and software developers alike are forging ahead to help managers handle these shifts smoothly.

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