What is facilities management?

The management of facilities works to ensure that facilities are adequately safe and comfortable for the people who occupy them.

Facilities management encompasses a wide range of disciplines and roles. At its core, facilities management ensures that the facilities of the environment are in harmony with the people who occupy the facilities. Success hinges heavily on an environment where people are safe and comfortable, from a workplace to an industrial space and an apartment complex.

The most important aspects of facilities management are health and safety. First and foremost, people must be protected. Dangers can include unsafe ventilation or toxic air, a climate that is too hot or too cold, machinery that is outdated and liable to break or function improperly, improper fire detection and protection systems, improper signage that indicate exits and safe escape routes, and insufficient infrastructure.

Outside of health and safety, there are operations and costs that are also at stake if facilities are not properly managed. For instance, ageing hardware may be easier to replace or repair before it has completely broken down, which can halt or delay operations and contribute to revenue or productivity loss.

A facility manager also supports people in office environments, which can affect productivity and morale—some aspects, including office arrangements, are subject to codes and regulations that can significantly affect safety. Business continuity plans and emergency planning are also crucial to maintaining operations, continually gathering and analysing information, and avoiding downtime. It is also crucial to oversee the layout of the office, including access to bathrooms and drinking fountains, seating arrangements, any possible damage to infrastructure and managing space utilisation.

A facility manager oversees people and organisations, and space and infrastructure. People and organisations include roles like marketing, accounting, hospitality, HR, ICT and cleaning. A facility manager also oversees space and infrastructure accounts for workplace, construction, leases, occupancy, maintenance and furniture.

There are different business functions that require facilities managers—at the core, they are meant to keep everyone under their control safe and alive. There are two levels at which a facility manager should operate. First, tactically, which oversees understanding of space, business risk, costs and services. The other is operationally, which oversees the cost effectiveness of a corporate environment for its occupants.

  • Fire Safety: Fires can contribute to loss of life, loss of productivity and loss of assets. The facility manager should always have a solid plan in place, communicate the plan clearly and ensure that the necessary tools are there to quell any fires or provide methods for escaping safety.
  • Security: Facility managers oversee the protection of people and assets, which includes security hardware, cameras and possible physical safeguards like security guards.
  • Business continuity planning: In the event of a fire, theft or a complete failure in business operations, facility managers need to have a plan that can help the business continue with the least possible loss of time and disruption to operations. This may include a recovery site, backup power, backup software or backup hardware.
  • Maintenance: Facility managers need to ensure that the proper maintenance is promptly applied to ensure safety and smooth operation—this can include anything from lighting replacement to upkeep of the building itself, painting, decorating, necessary repairs, plumbing and compliance with building regulations for safety purposes.
  • Environment: Organisation is necessary for environmental health and safety. Employees could fall ill, have health issues related to unsafe conditions or become injured if something isn’t safe. Not only does this interrupt operations and risk all around safety, but the company is put into a position of liability and insurance issues.
  • Space changes: Equipment changes, turnover and an increase in staff can always lead to a change in the office layout. Facility management should be careful to not carelessly lay out an office; there are regulations to comply with. For instance, there needs to be a necessary amount of space per staff member, the building must adhere to fire marshal code, there needs to be signage to indicate exits and safety routes, the temperature must be well controlled, the room needs to be properly ventilated, the area needs to be well lit, and there need to be available arrangements like drinking water and bathrooms that are maintained.
  • Cleaning: An unclean area can be a liability, and it can also lead to poor employee morale. Cleaning is typically undertaken outside of business hours, and it is necessary to perform proper cleaning of surface areas, carpets, bathrooms and bins at certain intervals during the week.

Implementing technology into facility management has never been more important. Ideally, a workplace management system will drive decision making by gathering data—it falls to the facility manager to identify and implement the technological systems that will be best for the facility and help make the most informed decisions.

A facility manager should be diligent in researching different software options, calculating cost and ROI, weighing the benefits and needs, and understanding the capabilities of certain software. Consider the latest technologies and how they can integrate into the software.

A good example of a technology that can be integrated are network connected devices, or the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices can gather data automatically and send it to facility management software, which can then generate reports and spot data trends that may be worth exploring for data-based decision making.

IoT devices can include:

  • Carbon monoxide sensors: watch carefully for this toxic gas in the environment to avoid injury or death.
  • Water and power consumption: tracking usage to eliminate waste and promote sustainability.
  • Thermostats: automatically adjust temperatures and keep them at a steady rate to eliminate further waste and promote climate control within an environment—this can include the temperature inside an office or an ideal climate for a room full of machinery.
  • Motion sensors: utilise the ability to turn lights off or on depending on whether or not there is a perceived human presence.
  • Fire detection systems: quickly detect and deter fires before they spread too far or cause irreparable damage.
  • RFID trackers: track the movement of people throughout the building and limit access to certain areas.

There are also trends in facility management software:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI): Predictive analytics can provide present and future insights into necessary decision making. Damaged or declining equipment can be detected and repaired or replaced before it breaks down. Human error can also be reduced, as AI can speed and make the decision making process accurately. AI systems can also gather information on resource usage, performance, satisfaction and employee performance.
  • Cloud computing: Software is quickly migrating to the cloud, and facility management can only become easier with access to data and software from locations outside of a local network or server—work is portable, data is portable and facilities are easier to scale with more available storage and analysis space.

Learn more about facility management software with ServiceNow. We provide excellent software services that can streamline your facility management practices and promote growth and innovation, from aiding with facilities maintenance to promoting safety and security to your staff and operations.

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