Managing a commercial property is a complex job. Reducing costs, maintaining margins, ensuring smooth and safe operations are all problems that keep facility managers awake at night.
The latest digital technology is helping to tackle these challenges by leveraging big data, automation and computer networks to improve levels of control and efficiency available to facility managers.
Here are three technical innovations that are enabling a healthy, safe and cost-effective workplace.
Most modern facilities already have building management systems that allow central control over things like heating, ventilation and emergency systems. What’s been missing is the ability to optimise these systems using feedback from the local environment.
That’s the central promise of big data, which refers to the huge data sets that require new methods to analyse and make sense of them. In buildings, much of the data will come from the Internet of Things (IoT) – the vast network of Internet-connected sensors, controllers and other devices that help make the building intelligent.
Examples include lights that dim when no-one’s nearby, windows that automatically change their tint to reduce heat and glare (or to let in more light when it's overcast), and systems that help employers track worker hygiene. When this information is relayed to a central 24/7 command centre, it can be run through powerful analytics software, helping managers make better decisions on everything from safety and cleanliness to energy efficiency.
Big data is only going to get bigger: McKinsey estimates an economic impact of up to $11 trillion from IoT by 2025, with operations management and predictive maintenance at the top of the list.
Colleagues who don’t wash their hands are making us sick – literally. Poor hand hygiene is a leading cause of office sick days, costing the Australian economy up to $5 billion per year.
Electronic monitoring has been found to be effective in improving employees’ handwashing behaviour, according to a recent US study. When healthcare employees were monitored using radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking chips, a large increase in handwashing compliance was observed. Handwashing rates dropped after the tracking was stopped, highlighting the importance of ongoing monitoring.
Other types of workplace environmental hazards, such as dust and chemicals, can also be monitored and mitigated. With the help of sensors and other smart devices, the latest industrial hygiene management software allows facility managers to perform sampling and exposure monitoring, identity hazard hotspots using reports and alerts, and track corrective actions.
Performing inspections on multi-storey buildings can be risky and expensive, especially in bad weather. Drones – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) – can help facility managers safely identify maintenance issues in hard-to-reach areas.
These include outdoor areas such as rooftops, facades and gutters, but smaller camera-equipped UAVs can potentially monitor indoor areas such as vents, ceilings and lift shafts. A drone equipped with a thermal imaging camera can help with evaluating a large building’s energy efficiency levels, identifying thermal hotspots where insulation is inadequate or even where a window was left open.
According to a recent Gartner report, the value of the global drone market will exceed $11.2 billion in 2020, with industrial inspections making up 30 per cent of commercial drone business.
As facilities become bigger and more complex, we can expect to see a flood of new tools and technologies that give facility managers much greater control, visibility and compliance over the infrastructure they manage.
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