Insight Blog

New Technology Solutions for Today’s Facilities Managers

by Sami Barry
Facilities technology

As retained executive search consultants who specialize in facilities management, Helbling & Associates' consultants know that there are many things that keep today's facilities managers (FM) up at night. An item that leads the list is how to consistently leverage new technologies.

On May 20th, Building Operating Management hosted an excellent webcast titled “Leveraging Technology to Design Buildings of the Future”. A team from Schneider Electric presented on just what the title implies: utilizing new technology to craft smart building management solutions, and how to leverage this technology to improve processes, and reduce energy usage and costs.

Today’s owners and managers are faced with many challenges, including managing operating costs with leaner budgets, making sure aging buildings are “future proof,” and taking on more responsibility for energy efficiency and sustainability. There is an incredible amount of new technology in building management, which also means a wide knowledge gap.

“Knowledge of technology is a must for today’s facilities managers,” says Rick Nawoczynski, Senior Managing Consultant at Helbling & Associates. “This is one of the many ways in which they are expected to be adaptable. Facilities workers who have been passing out paper work orders for 20 years may have a smartphone or iPad handed to them, and be told they need to start doing everything completely differently. This is also a good example of the people skills FMs need, because they are responsible for convincing subordinates who may be nearing the end of their career to learn a new way to do things. It’s up to them to provide training, project the way things needs to be done, and get everyone beneath them to buy-in.”

FMs are charged with demonstrating results, and this can only be done by turning data into meaningful information. One challenge that comes with this responsibility is that many older buildings use several systems, and there is no way to analyze the overall data across all systems. A major focus of the webcast was the potential of current building management systems to “provide a wealth of data about a facility’s operational performance and energy use.”

As an example of a current system, Schneider Electric demonstrated the front-end software of their own SmartStruxure Solution, which can be used in schools, hospitals, office buildings, etc. The demo showed an interface that can adapt energy usage to a campus’s specific needs.

Some of the benefits of a system like this include:

  • Open protocols – Ability to integrate into lighting/power, fire and light safety.

  • Integration of disparate systems

  • Scalability/flexibility – Modernizing site in phases to minimize downtime.

  • Reports

  • Anytime/anywhere access, mobility in general, and mobile apps – Progress from dedicated work stations to mobile devices. FMs can receive and respond to alarms on the go.

  • Scheduling solutions – Equipment knows when to run and when not run, based on a calendar showing when the facility is scheduled to be closed.

  • Energy dashboard – Illustrates total energy consumption and ways you can or need to optimize to reduce energy usage.

  • Alarm system - Prior to sounding an alarm, the system prompts you to confirm that you executed existing procedures first.

Schneider Electric also summarized steps that managers and owners can take to streamline an action plan for implementing a building management solution:

  • Evaluate the current needs of the building.

  • Team up with a trusted technology resource to assist in developing a strategy.

  • Develop and implement a plan.

  • Train the facility’s staff on the new technology.

  • Maintain the system by performing regular checks.

  • Continue to evaluate and re-evaluate results.

In closing, the new technologies that are available today can be challenging, and FMs and building owners can expect a learning curve as these technologies are adopted. But current building management systems present an opportunity to optimize energy consumption, receive access to crucial data on the go, streamline multiple building systems, and demonstrate the ROI of system improvements like never before.