Facility management involves juggling numerous tasks and their associated data. Therefore, combining facility management and IoT seems like an almost perfect idea.
Having access to all the relevant data in one location can improve efficiency and performance, but does have its drawbacks.
In this article, we’ll look at how IoT has the power to transform facility management.
What is Facility Management?
At its core, facility management involves overseeing a facility and its staff. This is true whether it’s a hospital, restaurant, hotel, or factory.
Regardless of the industry, we can break the responsibilities of a facility manager down into the following areas:
- Communication. A facility manager communicates between employees, customers, and suppliers. It involves ensuring the satisfaction of all people using the facility.
- Managing labor. Similarly, the manager will allocate tasks to employees and track their productivity. They will also assist with hiring new staff when needed.
- Maintenance. This involves overseeing maintenance of the facility (equipment, resources, etc.), forecasting workload, and monitoring energy usage.
- Project management. All facilities can break their workloads down into projects. The facility manager must plan these and manage teams for current and future projects.
- Safety management. This means performing risk-assessments, identifying safety concerns, and ensuring they’re dealt with.
In short, facility management boils down to one thing: monitoring and tracking data. Even labor can be defined as data when we think of it in terms of productivity and project completion.
The Challenges of Facility Management
Being a facility manager means capturing, analyzing and understanding data to improve efficiency. As a result, there are some clear challenges that facility managers face.
Collaborating in real-time
Modern technology allows for real-time collaboration, even across different facilities. Depending on the seniority of the facility manager, they might have to manage teams across multiple sites.
Old systems cannot communicate in the ways we need them to. Managers are expected to use email and phones, much like they did 20 years ago.
Cloud computing and other IoT systems enable real-time tracking and communication across data-processing tools.
As mentioned, facility management involves maintaining equipment and resources. Part of this involves identifying aging equipment and repairing or replacing it.
In the past, this required manually checking equipment regularly and relying on early warning signs.
Facility management and IoT combine perfectly in this regard, as connected systems allow managers to use predictive analysis and data capturing systems to gather relevant information.
A facility manager captures and processes vast amounts of data. It must remain accessible and safe for future use, which in itself presents a challenge.
We could look at facility management as an example of Big Data, which we’ve discussed extensively elsewhere.
Gathering and storing data means potential delays, loss, and miscommunication. All these issues can be avoided by using IoT technology.
Team coordination means effective communication. It’ll often utilize different technologies, such as phone calls, instant messaging, video conferencing, and email. Switching between different tools results in lost productivity and confusion.
One study found that switching between communication tools – and the constant connections they enable – resulted in greater instances of employee burnout.
Facility management and IoT can combine into one consolidated communication platform. While this would still enable constant communication (if desired), it at least removes the issues of confusion and miscommunication.
Part of a facility manager’s role is safety management, but this also involves protection from security risks. While the manager won’t necessarily develop a security system, they’ll likely oversee its implementation.
Traditional methods involve password protection, firewalls, and two-factor authentication.
Bringing in IoT technology allows for more secure methods, such as biometric IDs, blockchain security, encrypted authentication, and more.
Facility Management and IoT
Juggling all this data is a difficult task, and without the right tools it’s easy for some to go missing or to be ignored.
The basic purpose of IoT technology is to connect sensors and devices to a centralized data processing location. It allows for more efficient data capture and analysis, which makes it perfect for a facility manager.
Here are some of the key ways that facility management and IoT combine to make the job better.
But first, check out this video for a brief discussion of the benefits of facility management and IoT.
IoT technology incorporates sensors to capture data. This might be something as simple as a thermostat or something more complex like operational sensors on production-line equipment.
Sensors enable predictive analysis based on preset patterns. In turn, an alert can trigger the system to deal with the issue without human intervention.
A factory makes ready meals, which involves producing and combining different elements. One machine makes a sauce while the other cooks potatoes. They must produce at the same rate to ensure no loss of ingredients.
Combining facility management and IoT technology would mean connecting the machines to productivity sensors. A sensor detects that the sauce machine has made too much. It sends information to the automated system, which halts production while the potato-cooking machine catches up.
Reduced operating costs
Collecting data through IoT technology means superior cost analysis. Sensors can detect information like facility usage and footfall, which is then used to predict future demand.
A hospital has an overflow ward that isn’t always in use. Footfall and power-usage sensors could analyze area usage and demand. In turn, this information allows a facility manager to set up power and heating cycles so they’re not turned on when the ward isn’t in use.
IoT technology ranges from CCTV cameras and RFID sensors to GPS tags and ID beacons. Many of these enable a better understanding of the threats a facility faces and aid decision-making.
A factory producing and shipping high-value goods always reports losses during audits. Management unfortunately suspects theft somewhere along the production line.
Fitting packed goods with RFID sensors would trigger an alert when they’re removed from a room, or GPS sensors would allow the stock to be tracked even after it’s left the facility.
More efficient work processes
Facility management and IoT come into their own when we look at workplace efficiency. So far, we’ve mentioned automation and risk management, which boil down to improved efficiency.
But IoT technology can also improve employee working practices through predictive analysis and stock tracking systems.
An employee works on a production line combining elements of a mechanical device using screws. When they run out of screws, they must wait for the dish to be refilled.
Weight sensors or productivity trackers could set up an automatic refill process when the screw dish gets low. This means less downtime for the employee and better productivity.
Another example is lorries shipping goods. Fitting all lorries with GPS sensors allows facility management to track their movement and for automated systems to plan the most efficient route to their destination.
Understanding Data in Facility Management
Regardless of the industry under consideration, a facility manager needs data to do their job properly. Luckily, IoT is about streamlining data capture and analysis.
To do this, we use a range of devices, many of which were mentioned briefly above.
Let’s take a look at some more in detail to understand how facility management and IoT technology work together.
RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is the technology used in your work badge. It sends data from a card to a sensor using radio waves.
RFID tags enable:
- People tracking/security access
- Asset tracking
- Location monitoring within a 150 ft. range of a sensor
Beacons use Bluetooth technology to connect to nearby sensors. In turn, this can trigger a certain action or process once a beacon enters a location. The most common uses include:
- Tracking people (such as patients in a hospital)
- Equipment monitoring
- Tracking of high-security assets
Sensors are the most common IoT technology. The basic technology isn’t new, but the wireless and battery-powered capabilities are. Facility managers use sensors for security, safety, and much more.
You’ll find IoT sensors for the following:
- Moisture or humidity (for example in food storage)
- Motion (for example to detect someone slipping or falling)
- Chemical or gas detection
Data on its own is an almost meaningless concept. We can’t really understand it until it’s been processed. In the past, a facility manager would have to do this manually, but now we have efficient data analysis tools.
Connecting all the above technologies to a single piece of software allows it to centralize the data and convert it into reports. These might be cost, HVAC use, productivity analysis, machine use and lifespan, and much more.
Facility managers can then access this data through graphs, charts, spreadsheets, or any other method that works for their industry.
Final Thoughts on Facility Management and IoT
Facility management and IoT are one of the most obvious combinations for this kind of technology. The role relies on data, and IoT technology enables better data collection.
While facility managers will always exist, we will likely see their roles reduced in the future as a result of greater automation based on IoT technology.