Firms are on the hunt for tech-savvy facilities managers

As workplace management becomes more complex, FM is increasingly tech driven

May 07, 2024

The facilities management industry is facing a double whammy: its aging workforce isn’t very tech savvy, just as technology is becoming a bigger part of the job.

The average age of the facilities management workforce is 49 years old, a Facilities Management Association survey found. IFMA, the world’s largest industry body for facilities professionals, suggests that as many as 40% of facilities managers in high-income countries will retire by 2026.

“With not enough young workers entering the profession there’s a growing skills gap,” says Shane Betts, Head of Corporate Business for JLL Work Dynamics. “It means filling any FM role can prove challenging. But finding professionals with technology skills can be even harder.”

While the real estate industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, this is rapidly changing, with 56% of organizations planning to adopt technology for predictive maintenance, JLL research shows.

 “Employing and upskilling people with the desire and capability to use the tools available to deliver on strategic goals and improve experiences for building users is now an imperative,” says Betts.

The rise of IoT, AI and automation

The facilities management profession has been notoriously under-appreciated in the past, with much of its work going on behind the scenes. Now, as technology fuels more complex, agile and sophisticated facilities strategies, those fluent in its use are increasingly being sought out and recognized as vital to workplace success.

A recent survey by smart building tech firm Toggled, found while an overwhelming majority of organizations had implemented smart tech, 4 in 10 said they lacked dedicated, knowledgeable facilities staff to keep it running smoothly.

Meanwhile data analytics, machine self-learning and automation have all seen increased levels of investment in the last 12 months, according to the latest FM trends indicator from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

"Facilities managers who embrace technology are now able to automate some of the more onerous, repetitive tasks and add value with data-driven insights that transform building operations,” Betts says.

Take Royal London Asset Management, a leading UK investment firm, which experienced significant improvements in HVAC operations and energy efficiency by implementing AI-powered technologies. This delivered a record ROI of 708%, energy savings of 59% and reduced carbon emissions by up to 500 metric tons per year.

NOME Capital Partners in California successfully cut energy use by 45% in a multi-tenanted building using AI and algorithms to run HVAC more efficiently.

Other practical possibilities include creating decarbonization scenarios, better sustainability reporting, accelerating the shift from routine to predictive maintenance and improved work order response times.

In the war for talent, Betts says apprenticeship schemes and development plans are vital.

“Both workplaces and technology are changing rapidly. It’s not just about what’s needed today, but continually evolving to meet future needs,” he says.

The drive towards dynamic facilities management

The hybrid workplace, with its fluctuating occupancy rates, requires greater agility and more tailored solutions than the standardized routines of old.

“Fixed annual maintenance and reactive plans no longer cut it,” Betts says. “Companies are competing with the lure of working from home and their buildings need to earn the commute. Factor in net zero carbon objectives and dynamic, sustainable FM is the only way to successfully deliver.”

Dynamic cleaning based on actual use, rather than set rotas, is one established example of this in action.

Betts believes tech-skilled facilities managers are increasingly valuable because they can monitor and interpret the data from sensors, BMS systems and other proptech platforms, as well as apply practical technical expertise to their location.

“By accessing and analyzing historical and real-time data they’re identifying trends and patterns, forecasting space utilization, delivering predictive maintenance and provisioning optimum levels of service,” he concludes.

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