What Is Facilities Management? Challenges, Solutions, & More

What is Facilities Management? Challenges, Solutions, & More

Nivedha Sridhar, Director of Marketing and a founding team member at Facilio Inc. – originally published on Facilio Blog
Posted 11/11/2022

Maintenance isn’t exciting. For many, it’s a chore, something they’ll rather skip. Then again, think about it. Whenever you forget that growing pile of paper, broken lights, or even the peeling paint, you send a powerful message to customers and employees about how you care for the physical environment. Poor facility maintenance often marks the start of a downward spiral–a slippery slope you must avoid. But how? Enter facilities management: your ally in connecting people, processes, and systems.

The right facility management support services keep your property in tip-top shape, improves workplace quality, and increase employee productivity.

First, let’s go over the basics.

What is facilities management?

Facility management (FM) entails tools and services that ensure the sustainability, safety, and efficiency of built environments like grounds, real estate, infrastructure, and buildings. As an organizational function, FM integrates people, processes, and places to boost core business productivity and peoples’ quality of life.

You can start by streamlining one or more facility management components:

  • Lease management: Executes lease management tasks for a lease portfolio
  • Energy management: Track and optimizes energy consumption to conserve energy
  • Sustainability planning: Ensures environment, health, and safety (EHS) compliance
  • Real estate management: Oversees daily residential or commercial property operations
  • Occupancy and space planning: Allocates physical space inventory to occupants
  • Project management and budgeting: Streamlines workplace project expenses
  • Business continuity planning (BCP): Creates business disaster recovery policies
  • Emergency response management (ERM): Mitigates facility disasters with planning
  • Building operations automation: Controls heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

Information technology and facility management provide real business value, improved operational efficiency, collaboration capabilities, and even special event management, regardless of whether you manufacture products, operate production facilities, or rent commercial office spaces.

Why is facilities management important?

Enterprise planning no longer overlooks facility management initiatives. Companies don’t treat facility expenses as sunk operational costs anymore. Because they know their property management approach directly affects the productivity of the core business.

What facilities management can do is contribute to your organization’s bottom-line positively.

Drive strategic facility planning

Strategic planning sets clear-cut facility goals that pay dividends in the long run.

How can you make your property more eco-friendly?

For example, you can use:

  • Sustainable construction materials such as bamboo, cork, and linoleum
  • Efficient lighting sources such as light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)
  • Natural ventilation methods like thermal mass cooling or solar heating

Defining a purpose early on helps you get the resources (time, money, stakeholder buy-in, or staffing) to enable changes. Once you know what’s available, perform a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis or strategic creative analysis (SCAN) to find areas for facility improvement. Run your ideas by C-suite for approval and create a plan detailing the path to success.

An ongoing focus on strategic facility management gets you where you want to be.

Nail day-to-day operations

facility manager or facility maintenance specialist resolves issues such as jammed fax machines to leaky restrooms quickly with facilities management tools, which also help minimize disruptions’ impact on office activities.

So, what can you tackle with maintenance management systems?

Let’s take a look at the top facility management services:

  • Asset lifecycle management
  • Stock ordering and maintenance
  • Disruption-free renovation planning
  • Sustainability practice implementation
  • Physical asset inventory maintenance and management
  • Waste disposal management
  • Workplace and workspace cleanliness in the post-pandemic world
  • Risk management assessments and corrective measure adoption
  • Central services (reception, cleaning, and mail), planning and coordination
  • Facility and physical asset maintenance tracking (including scheduled maintenance, emergency repairs, and preventive maintenance)

Operational challenges are a daily reality, regardless of your industry.

Resource: Check out our guide to enterprise-wide facilities management and maintenance.

Put health safety and building security first

A safety-first culture keeps your workers safe and facilities secure. By assessing health risks periodically and enforcing safety procedures, facilities management helps you avoid workplace hazards. Moreover, you’ll be able to handle on-site emergencies and comply with health, safety, environmental health, and hygiene regulations.

Common facility safety issues evolve around:

  • Flashing
  • Plumbing
  • Gas system
  • Fire blocking
  • Circuit labeling
  • Erosion control
  • Drainage control
  • Electrical bonding
  • Roofing underlayment
  • Penetration air sealing

Keep your facility fully compliant

Creating a frictionless workplace isn’t just about fixing broken sinks but also complying with facility regulations.

Meet these facility compliance laws to:

  • Protect data privacy
  • Keep permits up-to-date
  • Support compliance audits
  • Meet anti-discrimination laws
  • Prevent equipment malfunctions
  • Standardize data governance workflows
  • Keep information secure with smart building management
  • Maintain building systems as per the master service agreement (MSA)
  • Comply with regulations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards

Types of facilities management

Businesses generally use two types of facilities management: hard and soft.

Hard FM services involve maintaining physical assets such as wiring, plumbing, elevators, fire safety, building maintenance, gas, heating and cooling, lighting, electrical, and mechanical.

Soft FM services include tasks done by people for occupants. Soft FM services include landscaping, pest control, catering, security, lease accounting, custodial services, waste management, and car parking.

Functions of facilities management

Ideally, you want smooth operations while creating a welcoming environment that boosts business efficiency. However, businesses are often in deep water because of the huge scale of operations. That’s why you need the right tools.

Now, you can handle the five facility management functions with the right software.

1. Maintain and optimize facilities

Cleaning, reactive repairs, and routine maintenance are tedious tasks without an asset classification throughout a facility. By tracking what needs service or replacement, a computer-aided facility management (CAFM) system unlocks the benefits of proactive maintenance. Plus, CAFM tools empower you to utilize property layouts to the fullest.

2. Create, adapt, and evolve processes

Facility managers don’t want people running cluelessly in case of disasters. That’s why they introduce processes into a day-to-day working environment. For example, where do you go to reserve meetings, check-in guests, or service requests? Facility management tools help you define and evolve these rules per the changing workplace environment.

3. Create an accommodating work environment

A poor workplace environment negatively impacts employee performance and talent density, precisely why you need facility management. You can make an environment conducive to productivity with facilities management.

For example, make desk arrangement coordination easy or even automate climate control solutions. Your customers and visitors will start loving your workplace too.

4. Manage contractors and projects efficiently

Whether you run one-off, short-term or long-term projects, facilities management helps you stay on budget. Plus, you can easily track contractor and subcontractor deliverables throughout projects.

For example, you can ensure contractors’ adherence to safety protocols and track the progress status of those contractual jobs.

Facility management answers all these questions with a connected computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

5. Integrate technology into infrastructure

Lastly, you wouldn’t want to miss the Internet of things (IoT) train. Connecting data to make smarter decisions is the essence of modern facilities management.

Building IoT efficiencies for facilities management is critical, whether you want to optimize predictive or preventive maintenance, spot real-time issues, or predict asset failure.

It’s time to ask whether facility management alone is enough to boost your commercial building’s utility. Not really; you need facility maintenance too!

Resource: Read our in-depth FDD evaluation guide.

Role of maintenance in facilities management

Commercial building maintenance involves servicing capital assets, commercial appliances, and areas inside a building. Facility technicians and managers ensure property safety, cleanliness, and readiness with the right facility management tool.

Capital assets: Machinery, research equipment, devices, and robotics

Commercial appliances: Boilers and HVACs

Building areas: Hallways, rooms, garages, and parking lots

Need a real-life example?

Imagine you run a product shipping fulfillment and distribution center.
Your facility has forklifts and conveyor belts to move products to shipping areas. Conveyor belts and forklifts will suffer wear and tear without scheduled maintenance. Plus, you need to replace ballasts and janitors to clean debris regularly.

The difference between facilities management and maintenance is that the former shows you the larger picture while the latter runs everything daily.

Types of facilities that use facilities management

  • Commercial buildings
  • Office buildings
  • Industrial facilities
  • Institutional facilities
  • Medical laboratories
  • Hotels, restaurants, and resorts
  • School and college campus

Facilities maintenance automation is necessary to ensure building systems work well together. Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

Why automate facilities maintenance?

Ensuring building systems work in harmony and extending building lifecycle is your ultimate goal. You can’t reach those goals without putting the facilities management department on autopilot. That’s why businesses are increasingly automating facilities management functions.

What is facilities management automation?

Facilities management automation uses ‘if this, then that’ (IFTT) triggers to initiate actions for different scenarios. It helps you do more with minimal human intervention. Facility automation technologies deploy an integrated facility management approach to help you:

Facilities management automation uses ‘if this, then that’ (IFTT) triggers to initiate actions for different scenarios. It helps you do more with minimal human intervention. Facility automation technologies deploy an integrated facility management approach to help you:

  • Set up periodic inspections
  • Run quality control sessions
  • Track resourcing expenditures
  • Streamline facility repairs quickly
  • Maintain records and send reports
  • Manage multiple sites from one location
  • Automate facility management workflows
  • Create and monitor all facility databases

Adopting automation helps you mobilize resources better and ensure fewer errors at facilities. Moreover, you can easily comply with local, state, and federal regulations while spotting internal or environmental hazards.

Finally, automated facility management systems help you manage building lifecycles better, resulting in greater profits and decreased liabilities.

Facility management technology

Automated facility management involves four technologies.

1. Artificial intelligence (AI): Monitors equipment, maintains equipment health records, and sends real-time alerts when tools go awry.

2. IoT: Interconnects facility devices for off-site monitoring and offers valuable insights into daily operations.

3. Smart buildings: Manages building environments, including lighting, climate control, mechanical systems, and daylighting.

4. Service automation: Ensures efficient repair and maintenance management and offers enhanced visibility into facility operations for decision-making.

5. Sensor technology: Spots air quality, equipment, and occupancy abnormalities to prioritize operational and maintenance decisions.

6. Utility tracking: Finds building management inefficiencies by pulling utility bill data, spotting waste, and showing optimization opportunities.

Free report: Grab your free copy of the 2021 global building and operations report from Frost & Sullivan.

Benefits of facilities management

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report shows that a disengaged workforce results in lost productivity of $7.8 trillion worldwide. If that gets you thinking, start using facility management to maximize efficiency at the workplace.

  • Easy asset management and tracking: Spreadsheets are great but unsuitable for asset tracking and management. They need you to connect multiple sources to gather information including offline and online invoices, maintenance logs, and purchase orders, annual maintenance logs, and purchase orders. Plus, you have to verify the data. With an integrated workplace management software (IWMS), you can easily connect and measure repair, supply, and other cost center performances.
  • Space usage optimization: Agree or not, your highest overhead cost is your physical workplace. Facilities management data is the best way to optimize or repurpose space usage. For example, FM data can help you decide whether to repurpose the unused space or upgrade the total square footage.
  • Efficient record keeping: Facility managers need data points like utility costs, asset costs, space occupancy growth rate, and capital improvement costs to track historical costs, trends, and changes.  A facility management system seamlessly manages all these data for better productivity analysis, budget planning, and real estate forecasting.
  • Effective business planning: Knowing the actual cost per square foot helps estimate workplace contribution to the business. Facilities management solutions provide in-depth insights into facility and utility costs for better business decisions like expansion planning.

Benefits of facility management software

1. Mobility and collaboration

2. Comprehensive asset registrar creation

3. Service level agreement (SLA) fulfillment

4. Asset and employee performance insights

5. Asset maintenance and repair management

6. Project planning, tracking, and management

7. Hot-desking or open-plan office layout creation

8. Third-party contractor and subcontractor management

9. Long-term building performance improvement planning

10. Day-to-day operations automation and environment tracking

11. Purchase order, quote management, and invoicing automation

Start maintenance before an outcry

Shrinking budgets and overworked facilities management departments often forgo regular facilities maintenance. Then employees start complaining, assets start breaking, and productivity slumps. You start losing thousands of dollars due to lost productivity. Don’t let the downward spiral of deferred maintenance trap you!

Nivedha Sridhar

Nivedha Sridhar is the Director of Marketing and a founding team member at Facilio Inc., an enterprise-wide facilities O&M software platform provider headquartered in New York. Nivedha’s career spans over 8 years of product, growth, and corporate marketing focused on enterprise IoT software and business cloud applications. Before starting with Facilio in 2017, she managed Global Marketing for an enterprise brand at Zoho Corporation.

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