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Technology-led approach driving change to contracted PPM


11/12/20 | Rebecca Drewett

FSI Business Strategy Director, Paul Bullard, joins PFM's panel of industry experts providing their thoughts on how contractual obligations are changing with the increased use of remote monitoring technology.

Within all aspects of FM service delivery, the contractual obligations relating to each area frequently include requirements for planned and preventative maintenance (PPM), which are seen as essential to maintain operational status.

This, of course, needs to be structured to cover all essential compliancy requirements and the two should be relatively easy to combine. However, with the increased use of remote monitoring technology and greater understanding of how this is influencing the running of facilities, we asked industry experts how this was changing the approach to PPM.

First to offer an opinion was FSI business strategy director Paul Bullard, who says: “In these times of reduced occupancy and mothballed assets, where runtime, reliability, or predictive strategies can deliver a very effective means of maintenance, there is a real opportunity to explore a shift from traditional periodical regimes.”

He further states that there is a move away from high levels of scheduled or planned activity occurring in the FM industry.

“However, this is still highly influenced by the detail within the actual maintenance contract itself. Many of these contracts still mandate strict periodic routine activity,” Mr Bullard continues.

“Another factor is how, technically, the remote monitoring is occurring and who has access to the data. Some assets may be monitored by a manufacturer driven service, but what happens to this post warranty?

“If the data is collated through the building management system, is it readily available to the people who need it?

Alternatively, is there monitoring achieved by a third party IoT platform connecting data from wireless sensory deployed for various purposes?” he asks.

With data coming from so many sources this can be a very disconnected experience, but CAFM or IWMS systems were introduced to provide a master data source for property and asset management.

The traditional PPM is very easy to track within a CAFM/IWMS system and, being a calendar task, it is created and then driven by the system empowering the FM with full control of the asset lifecycle.

“When considering alternatives to the periodic maintenance regime we must allow the FM to maintain the ownership of their asset data and maintenance activity by connecting and aggregating the many data sources into a single hub. Indeed, the ‘I’ within IWMS has never been more suitable.

“Integration is key in the effort to move away from the calendar task and to allow the FM to approach alternative strategies, whilst maintaining control of their facility,” says Mr Bullard.

Further opinion is provided by Artic Building Services managing director Paul Lucas, who highlights the effect of artificial intelligence (AI), which is being integrated into HVAC systems to improve performance and reduce their impact on the environment.

“This can be managed remotely in real time from any site and under the current climate, even from home,” he continues.

“AI-driven HVAC systems are integrated with smart sensors that monitor the conditions in the building and make instant adjustments to ensure that indoor environment quality is maintained efficiently.”

Mr Lucas further states that FMs can remotely build business-focused maintenance schedules and/or bespoke, condition-based regimes to direct their maintenance efforts more accurately and to reduce the overall environmental impact of maintenance provision. Optimising an HVAC system and controls package can often lead to around a 30% reduction in energy consumption, he continues.

“One study found that AI-assisted HVAC systems created an average energy saving of 41% when compared with standard systems. Monitoring AI-driven HVAC systems remotely will avoid human intervention while saving energy, cutting costs, and reducing the volume of carbon emitted.

“Embracing this new technology will allow FMs to be much more proactive and take a coordinated approach when it comes to plant performance. Establishments such as data centres and hospitals that house business-critical plant will find that if they are serious about reducing carbon emissions, this is the way they will have to proceed in the future,” Mr Lucas concludes.

Our final comment is provided by LitmusFM partner Karl Cundill, who states that the use of remote monitoring is allowing operators to take a different approach to the delivery of their PPM operations, through an approach which allows for more condition-based maintenance. This brings a level of greater flexibility and a more tailored approach that suits the needs and use of individual facilities.

“For example, an establishment with an air conditioning system might have historically done regulatory checks on the system every six months as part of their PPM programme. If they installed remote monitoring, they would then have sensors installed on the fans, and if a fan started to vibrate unusually it would alert the sensor that it needs closer examination or assessment.

“Therefore, the PPM programme can become much more based on the operational condition and performance of each asset,” he continues.

“As remote monitoring is technology-led, it can be easily integrated into the current operation, meaning users can rest assured the technology will flag when the condition of an asset is starting to deteriorate. It means operators could scale back the level of standard inspections and checks, through the use of the remote monitoring systems and sensors to manage maintenance as and when needed,” says Mr Cundill.

Thoughts from our three industry experts support the view that the increasing use of technology continues to influence changes within all aspects of the FM sector, as a growing number of companies and their FMs seek to maintain or improve levels of service delivery. Providers of these solutions have seen an increase in business this year, in many instances, as FMs adapt to the Covid-19 virus and the changes this has driven in the majority of facilities.

One of the many questions emerging from the various developments this year is whether the technology-led approach will continue to accelerate when conditions return to more normal levels next year, and PFM will continue to monitor and report on these and all developments within the FM industry to keep readers up to date.