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What is facilities management?

What is Facilities Management

“An organisational function which integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business.”        

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) ISO 41011:2017

In plain English, Facilities Management (FM) is all about looking after your buildings and people. There are many disciplines and services that fall under the umbrella of FM, but what they all have in common is that, though they are not a key business function, they are essential to ensure the smooth and efficient running of the business.


Outsourcing Facilities Management

The most effective facilities management is often outsourced to an external company, where customers can benefit from supplier expertise, volume savings and simplified management processes. These benefits decrease when there are more suppliers involved, so many companies choose a bundled or integrated solution.

The benefits of outsourcing FM are certainly not lost on a growing number of successful companies. In fact, according to MTW Research’s Facilities Management Market Analysis, the UK FM market was broadly valued at £100 billion in 2016 and is predicted to increase by 2.8% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in 2017. These businesses are reaping the benefits of spending less time and money on non-essential tasks, reducing spend on wages, human resources and other overheads. As a result, they are free to put their money, time and best people behind the core revenue-generating tasks, secure in the knowledge they are supported by a solid infrastructure and industry experts.

But what is facilities management, exactly? Which services are commonly outsourced and why would your company benefit, now and in the future from partnering with a facilities management provider?


The benefits of outsourcing FM

The key benefits for FM customers can be summarised as follows, depending on the number and type of services outsourced:

  • Non-core overhead services taken out of your hands, allowing your organisation to focus on revenue generating activities
  • One point of contact and invoice for all your infrastructure and support services (unless more than one FM provider is used)
  • Access to staff, expert in managing soft and hard FM services
  • Reduced demand on internal HR and payroll teams
  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Simplified channels of communication
  • Access to equipment and technological solutions often too expensive for one company to adopt
  • Greater flexibility to control staffing levels according to demand

To learn more about the benefits of outsourcing your facilities services, discover more in this blog post – Understanding the key benefits of outsourcing your facilities services


Scope of Facilities management


Facilities Management Infographic

Outsourced FM has successfully been used in a wide range of sectors including the public sector, retail, professional services, technology, healthcare, logistics, manufacturing and education to name a few. The areas that FM services look after vary widely depending on the size of the company, its type and the sector in which it operates.  It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Some organisations will only require a single service solution, whereas others will be looking for a bundled services offering or total facilities management solution.

For example, a company operating fulfilment from one warehouse, moving non-volatile goods in and out, might only require security and cleaning staff, alongside health and safety monitoring and compliance services.

A larger and more varied organisation, like a shopping centre or multi-site logistics company, might require a combination of soft and hard services, adding building maintenance, communications and technology infrastructure, catering, grounds maintenance, pest control and customer service to the mix. Companies operating in more complex environments, such as utility generation, food production or transport, would have a wider health and safety scope and require more specialist services.

In these larger environments, the benefits of using a single supplier are amplified, as savings from economies of scale kick in. The customer benefits from a more simplified process and the FM provider can build up knowledge of the company, tailoring services for improved efficiency. An FM supplier can also amalgamate demand from all of its customers, creating a large, attractive user base that utility suppliers will compete for, delivering the lowest possible prices.


Soft and hard services

The FM industry separates services into two broad categories – hard and soft.


Hard FM Services

Hard services relate to physical items, from a door lock to a whole building. This can include:

hard services - facilities management

For a greater understanding of hard FM services, visit Arthur McKay for a more detailed explanation.


Soft FM Services

Soft services are those that involve the management of people to carry out services, for example:

Soft services - facilities management

There will often be overlaps, of course. Security is a good example, where the hard aspect is making sure locks and entry systems are working correctly and the soft part is providing trained security staff to perform patrols and checks on staff and visitors.


Staffing and management

Embracing the FM model means that these crucial infrastructure issues are managed by an organisation expert in all these fields, so you receive better service and support, with fewer headaches. The FM company can also move staff between different sites and different customers to smooth out peaks and troughs in demand across its portfolio of customers.

An important aspect of outsourced FM is that the provider employs the staff performing all these duties, another time and cost-benefit for customers. Training and development is also handled by the FM provider, which will be more proficient as it can invest more in training facilities and staff in the knowledge that the cost can be spread across a number of customers. These benefits will be greater if a single FM provider is contracted for all services.


What does a facilities manager do?

The facilities manager is at the heart of an FM service, making sure that all the disparate support and infrastructure functions run smoothly. For many companies, the role of the facilities manager will be occupied internally. However, with the demand for TFM (total facilities management) solutions growing each year, this position is more commonly being fulfilled by the outsourced FM provider. Ideally, they will need a broad base of experience in site or office management; human resource experience is useful too. A successful facilities manager would have a blend of many of these core skills and traits:

  • Relationship-building and communication skills
  • Proactive thinking with the ability to multi-task and prioritise
  • Time management skills
  • Leadership, team working and motivational skills
  • Procurement and negotiation management
  • Competent writing skills with the ability to communicate technical information
  • IT skills
  • Technical understanding of soft and hard service delivery
  • Passion and desire to deliver constant excellence

Facilities Manager giving a team briefing


How will the Internet of Things change FM?

Increasingly all sorts of devices are internet aware, not just computers and mobile phones, and this will change the way that facilities managers operate their services and the benefits they can offer customers. Internet-enabled devices can send more accurate and timely information to a central monitoring service and also to each other. This intelligence can be used in a variety of ways to boost performance, increase efficiency, reduce costs and create more streamlined working practices.

IoT examples in facilities management


Increased monitoring capabilities
Take fire alarms as an example. Currently, a hard-wired system can alert a monitoring station that there is a smoke or heat build-up in a certain area, so that the fire service can be alerted and sent to investigate that general area. In an IoT environment, that will still happen, but there is more scope. A heat or smoke detector could alert neighbouring devices and check that they are seeing an increase in heat or smoke as well and, if not, deduce that either the fire is very localised or that the triggered detector may be faulty.

Detectors could also collectively monitor heat levels, deduce the direction of a fire’s spread and operate sprinklers and close automated doors to better control it. Fire crews will be directed more accurately to the seat of the blaze, collateral damage will be greatly minimised and staff and firefighters exposed to less danger.


Greater data analysis
The other major benefit of IoT is that all sorts of different items can be connected and aware, so more data can be collected and analysed to benefit the customer.

For example, heating systems could identify temperature differentials in buildings, then raise or lower the heating in certain zones to achieve uniform temperatures and the most efficient running costs. They could also identify individual faults before they are obvious to the human eye – forming part of an efficient Planned Preventative Maintenance programme to again save time and money.

Soon a huge variety of monitoring devices will be connected to each other, including drones for building inspections, security and simple maintenance tasks. It’s likely, therefore, that wider benefits can be extrapolated, that even the developers of these systems haven’t foreseen. FM providers will be keeping a close eye on these developments and will likely embrace and utilise the value of IoT-provided data faster than organisations who are still trying to manage their infrastructures themselves.

For more information on the IoT trend in facilities management, discover more in this blog post – IoT in FM.


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