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Operational Advantage

Facilities Management

04/03/21 | Rebecca Drewett

CAFM continues to help FMs meet the challenge of COVID, while the data produced can be harnessed for the future monitoring and wellbeing of buildings, assets and people. FSI's Business Strategy Director, Paul Bullard, joins FMJ's panel of experts to discuss.



In March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic became a frightening reality as lockdowns became prevalent across the world. The CAFM industry went into overdrive, with vendors repackaging their products as safety essentials that would help bring organisations back to their workplace.

Many of these solutions addressed the situation - with temperature screening, cleaning schedules, and socially distanced space planning. While these all provided immediate solutions for a workplace, as time moves on businesses are beginning to look at using smart and sustainable technology to enhance their facilities services.

Driving this requirement is a desire from the industry to make use of data to make automated decisions. With such a raft of information available, we must ensure that we are using the data to add real value to the operation.

Enormous volumes of data are collated in CAFM systems, but the usage has traditionally been retrospective reporting or perhaps some dashboard rationalizing various KPIs. While these can look very attractive the content is always looking back, never forwards. Artificial intelligence has been a hot topic to discuss in recent years, however, there is still much scepticism in terms of the effort and investment required to achieve the desired results. This can be overcome by identifying realistic outcomes and focussing on simple achievable use cases that deliver value to either the customer experience or in terms of reducing costs. By identifying key pieces of data and applying some basic algorithms we can do some very simple things that can dramatically alter our operational delivery.

For example, when a CAFM system is initially set-up it is usual to set estimated time and cost values against planned maintenance activities, such as the servicing of a chiller. As time moves on, the maintenance activity will be regularly carried out on the chiller and from the mobile workforce team employed we can collate accurate time data on the time taken by the engineers who carry out the work. So, if we had estimated a planned maintenance task takes eight hours, it may transpire it has never taken longer than four hours. The CAFM system can be configured to automatically update these estimated times to better resemble the actual time taken.

Now resource planners can prepare for a job that takes four hours and not eight and have recovered significant time. When we consider the volume of tasks that are planned daily, we have a great opportunity to dramatically increase the efficiency of our workforce.

Next, we can think about the ways that our CAFM system informs and escalates around the contractual Service Level Agreements (SLAs). We may take a Priority 1 call, relating to a major fault on a particular piece of plant. The CAFM may be set up to provide a warning as we come close to the four-hour fix time limit, perhaps an escalation is sent to the contract manager with one hour to go so that they can jump on the situation.

In reality, we can be much smarter about this. The historical data can tell us that, of the last 10 times that this type of asset had this fault, the engineers have been unable to fix the problem in less than three hours. Being aware of this information significantly changes how we view the SLA as unless we start work on the problem within the first hour of the fault being reported we will most certainly fail to meet the target.

Similarly, a call is logged for a particular building on a Tuesday, and it’s raining which through a coincidental sequence of events has previously resulted in the attending engineer being unable to gain access to the premises. With this data to hand, the visit can be pre-empted, and the situation avoided. If a specific part or tool is often required when a particular task is reported the system can learn from this recurrent data and ensure that the attending engineer is provided with it before their visit, dramatically increasing our first fix performance.

For the future, my recommendation for facilities management is to proceed with caution. Across all industries, we have seen enormous artificial intelligence projects falter due to being unrealistic in their size and implementation as they were too broad in scope and definition. By being smart and focused with our data we can create great improvements In FM delivery and provide an enhanced level of service to our customers.

Taking small measured steps, filtering out the unimportant data, and identifying value is fundamental in the delivery, and subsequent use, of successful data analytics



As organisations prepare to open their workplace doors post-lockdown, the new work-from-home status quo is driving business leaders to evaluate their corporate real estate footprint. Can we deliver the same, if not better service from satellite or co-working locations? What investments must be made to ensure operations aren’t impacted by hybrid or blended work models? While a proportion of companies may opt to downsize, the redistribution of space to regionalised ‘hubs’ seems to be paraded as the most suitable option for many. The stark reality being that each building will likely require different levels and types of occupancy, service delivery and control.

Easing this new pinch-point for FMs managing multiple suburban locations, a few disruptive suppliers have developed new cloud technology to begin ‘Uber-ising’ delivery.

Mirroring most service-based industries, FM has not escaped the increasing pressure to deliver more for less. And this is where technology will achieve the biggest transformation. As a CAFM user for 20+ years, and fed up with the compromises of using proprietary CAFM systems, we set about building our own. Appointing a CTO, investing £1 million and three years later, DMA has created its own proprietary system, BiO. This free to use service management system for our customers is anticipated to overtake outdated CAFM systems in the future.

One of the benefits of smart tech, and the transparency that comes with it, is customers are getting exactly what they pay for. Automating processes that other customers more efficiency, flexibility and choice when it comes to how they engage and manage their service provider(s) or inhouse FM teams is also a bonus. Digitalising the supply chain will enable customers to get closer to their service providers and the person who actually delivers the service. It will also promote best practice and consistency across independent service providers.

For FMs relying upon legacy CAFM solutions, systems integration is crucial for the future workplace. Talk to your service provider about the steps they are taking to better integrate and ‘talk to’ other FM systems to ensure that data is accurate and readily available. Leading on compliance across multiple sites relies on this as the future workplace transforms.

Intelligent data
Across all organisations, large or small, there is one commonality that links us all; the need for greater efficiency and transparency when managing data. In the building maintenance space, handheld technology with apps that integrate with and connect the entire supply chain puts the customer and engineer in direct contact. Data is then instantly shared between parties, and information can be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device.

FMs need this vital information at their fingertips whenever and wherever they are. And as tech-savvy millennials join the workforce, intuitively competent with technology, they are going to want and expect this level of transparent access. Historically, even the simplest of tasks required FMs to make contact several times with service personnel. Booking an engineer for example, would involve multiple phone calls between the two parties, not to mention all the phone tennis tracking each other down.

Technology in the FM sector is heading towards that of the logistics industry. Driven by the popularity of internet shopping, logistics companies have re-engineered their entire business to deliver goods even on the same day. Gone are the times of waiting in all day for your parcels. In the engineering world, we will soon release ‘smart scheduling’ that will automate job planning for our engineers and even ‘buy-as-you-go’ options too. In other words, cut out the middleman and give customers the freedom to use and view services independently online.

Automation is helping to ensure business remains as efficient as possible in the ‘new normal’. Minimising the number of people involved in the simplest of business processes is critical, even after a pandemic. That said, under the right circumstances, that human touch will always be important for service businesses, of course, but automated technologies will enable service providers to deliver great customer service at increasingly lower costs and who wouldn’t want that?



Without data, decisions are just opinions. As FMs avoid the race to the bottom with increasing competition and high customer expectations, data-driven decision making can make the difference and deliver a significant operational

advantage. Since the pandemic began sites have become more difficult to run due to social distancing, remote teams and potentially furloughed staff; data is the valuable resource to keep sites running. CAFM plays a key role in this, with improved reporting cited as its main benefit, just behind improved FM efficiency according to the FM Tech Survey from SWG in partnership with FMJ.

As CAFM evolves to keep pace with requirements, it’s easier than ever not only to capture the information but also analyse it. This can be done through customisable on-screen dashboards showing live data such as deadlines, costs and workload across the team, or downloaded to MS Excel or Power BI for further drill down and trend identification. And, FMs don’t need to be a whizz in these programmes as some CAFM vendors, like SWG, will create the templates so the user needs only select the date range or filters.

Integration of CAFM with other systems for data sharing is a common way to improve data accuracy and improve efficiency. Where respondents of the FM Tech Survey 2020 reported their CAFM saved them money, 83 per cent had integrated it with at least one other system. BMS integration is the most common, leading to automation of some common tasks.

When the BMS identifies a problem, it can report it to the CAFM so ware which in turn will automatically create a work order and dispatch it to the most suitable operatives. This means a problem can be remedied before it causes the asset to break, costing less money and time than performing a full repair. It also means if there’s less resource for visual inspections, or even nobody on site during a lockdown, there’s less danger of damage going unnoticed and preventing the normal functioning of the site.

This increased data-led mentality has allowed BIM to grow in popularity. Without a CAFM system the data would be overwhelming and unusable, but specialist CAFM vendors will work with their clients to extract what’s relevant. This includes details of every asset and system installed, saving FMs hours in populating an asset register from scratch. This data can be combined with 2D / 3D BIM models as well as the existing data in the CAFM software to provide unparalleled insight into the whole site. From this FMs are able to gain accurate measurements of any area without a site visit, find out the materials used in the floors and walls, and even view hidden systems like wiring and HVAC to avoid damage during maintenance or renovation.

On receiving a work order, the engineer can check the BIM model on their phone to see the asset’s location, be informed of any access restrictions like a required permit or an enclosed space, and also view asset data such as service history, warranty details, parts and serial numbers. This level of insight comes into its own in maintaining service during the pandemic, helping reduce travel and improving first time fix rates at a time when the FM team may be working with reduced capacity and under social distancing measures.

As businesses plan for lockdown easing and employees returning to work, many are looking to space management modules within CAFM software to plan social distancing, create shi patterns to reduce footfall, and manage cleaning.

This goes beyond just visual layout planning and puts in place safeguards to help stem the spread of COVID-19. For example, CAFM can produce a list of employees who were working on a day when COVID symptom were identified at the workplace, so they can be contacted and self-isolate pending negative test results. Cleaners can be notified to perform a deep clean of the area, which can also be scheduled after each shift-rotation to prevent cross-contamination. Without data, these actions become much more challenging and arduous, and lead to a less safe and stable workplace. Decisions based on hard data are more compelling for senior management sign off, giving the team more leverage when it comes to doing what they know best.



Over the last year CAFM systems have become ever more important to facilities managers dealing with changes in their estates planning. Incorporating additional cleaning, reduced occupancy levels, rotas and staggered entry and exit times are just some of the challenges that are now part of the day-to-day, while also maximising the potential of spaces.

As we start the gradual return to workplaces, social distancing remains a key priority to keep people safe. CAFM software can be configured to allow staff to book resources, desks, or meeting spaces before travelling to the office. Systems administrators can easily turn on or off spaces available to book, offering piece of mind, ensuring sufficient space is maintained and supporting other policies such as staggered start and finish times. Crucially, ‘check-in and check-out’ capability can provide details on where and when sta have been within facilities, supporting government guidance.

It can also provide data on space occupancy. You can also drill into the data to understand how frequently particular facilities are used to maximise efficiency. In the current environment, by having access to CAFM analytics about all aspects of your facilities, such as work order response times, allows for more proactive planned maintenance and associated costs can be more accurately budgeted for to ensure tighter control. Risk assessments and action checklists can be set up for teams carrying out work to answer a defined list of questions, capturing essential and auditable data for reporting adherence to government guidelines.

With home working still the case for many office workers, CAFM can help keep track of IT equipment allocation. For those on site, it can track new equipment that has been purchased to support safety in the workplace – screens, automatic hand sanitising units, temperature gauges and air quality monitors.

Software will support efficient management of stock, giving real-time analysis and full details of stock, and supplier information and levels for automatically triggering restocking. For example, ensuring your business has optimum supplies of hand sanitiser, face masks and other PPE. It integrates with your help desk to allocate stock to both reactive and planned work orders, improving your efficiency and preventing overspend.

Using data and analytics from your CAFM system can help to plan and draw insights about any aspect of your facilities to make better informed decisions, plan ahead and increase operational success. With this kind of tool, you can design and maintain dashboards of your information for powerful business intelligence and easier reporting, pulling your most important data to the surface, ensuring you can put strategies in place to tackle the coming months.