Emerging Technologies for Facilities Managers
Here’s what facilities managers need to know about the newest tech solutions.
By Regina Ludes
Facilities managers are constantly looking for ways to improve their operations while saving time and money, and they recognize that technology is the key to better, more efficient operations. While many facilities members are eager to implement new tech products, they’re overwhelmed by the different options available.
“They know they want something, but they often don’t know what that is until they see it,” said Matt Race, VP of Building Services with Avanath Capital Management and Co-chair of ConnexFM’s Technology Council.
The latest tech solutions for facilities managers range from artificial intelligence (AI) and building automation systems to data collection platforms and ESG software. Facilities managers who take the time to learn about the latest technologies can make smart decisions to improve their facilities for the long term.
What’s New in Technology?
New tech offers numerous benefits, such as optimizing energy usage, enhancing security measures, improving maintenance operations, reducing operating costs and, ultimately, increasing profitability, said Pablo Carvallo, CEO of Tobly, Inc.
“By leveraging new technology, facilities managers can automate routine tasks, reduce the risk of errors and free up their time to focus on higher value activities. This not only improves the facility’s overall performance, it also contributes to the greater economic success of the organization,” Carvallo said.
Several types of technology are already impacting facilities operations, including:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) training tools that can measure learning of individual participants. Courses can be adapted to suit each individual’s learning style and can be completed remotely without interfering with work schedules. Race said AI training has created more engaged workers in his organization.
Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors that monitor facility operations in real time, enabling facilities managers to optimize energy usage, reduce maintenance costs and improve safety.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) software that provides a digital representation of a facility and its components, enabling facilities managers to visualize, design and manage each facility more effectively.
Smart Building Automation Systems (BAS) that automates and controls building operations, which can help reduce energy usage, improve comfort levels and enhance security measures.
ESG software that allows users to review their company’s ESG initiatives and track their progress. The program also generates reports that describe which initiatives are currently in place and which ones still need to be implemented.
In addition, Carvallo said other emerging technologies may impact the industry down the road. Drones equipped with cameras and sensors can inspect hard-to-reach areas of a facility, such as rooftops and HVAC systems, eliminating the need for manual inspections. With faster speeds, 5G networks will enable facilities managers to access real-time data and analytics more quickly. Robots may become more commonplace around facilities as they perform menial tasks such as painting, window cleaning and repairs.
While these technologies are still in the early stages of development, Carvallo said facilities managers should explore ways they can be adapted for their own operations.
While facilities managers are eager to adapt new tech solutions, several issues may hold them back from fully implementing them, such as limited financial resources, inadequate staffing or lack of management support. “It may not necessarily be the cost of the technologies that is prohibitive, but the costs associated with implementing and integrating them into existing systems. Facilities managers need to carefully consider the costs and benefits before making decisions,” Carvallo advised.
Data security and privacy is another concern. Carvallo said before adopting new technology, facilities managers should take appropriate security measures to protect sensitive data. Make sure adopted technologies meet industry standards for security and privacy.
Race added many IT departments are stretched thin because they manage IT for all areas of their organizations. “Managers have to determine if they have the staffing capacity to implement new tech programs,” Race said.
If managers are unsure whether a certain tech solution is right for them, participating in pilot programs can help them evaluate the technology in a real-world setting. “Through these pilot programs, they can identify which technologies are working well and which ones need modification,” Carvallo said.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Attending conferences, networking with tech providers and fellow ConnexFM members and reading industry publications and websites can help facilities managers get a handle on what is available. Facilities managers can help their peers, too, by sharing their knowledge and expertise about the tech tools they use.
Race said he’d like to see more sharing of information between ConnexFM and affiliated associations, whose members may be familiar with tech solutions that ConnexFM members may not be aware of. “Even if a supplier works in a different industry, say the medical field, their product may be adaptable to another industry,” Race said.
Participating in the webinars and educational sessions from ConnexFM’s Technology Council can also help facilities managers understand the latest tech products. The Council also maintains an extensive database of businesses providing solutions and is developing a technology toolkit so facilities managers can evaluate, select and implement new software. Technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Facilities managers must remain engaged with the industry to know what is happening and how the newest tech tools can help their facilities perform more efficiently.
“You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes, that may not be a lot,” Race said. “That’s how the Technology Council can help. If we don’t have it, we’ll give you resources to look elsewhere.”