Maureen Ehrenberg 2017-09-14 12:45:07
In 2012, a freezer failure at Harvard University-affiliated McLean Hospital severely damaged one-third of the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples, potentially setting back research by years. More recently, in spring 2017, British Airways’ computer system failed, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded in airports around the world. What did these catastrophic events have in common? A failure to get the basics right. For facility managers, “the basics” means uptime and responsiveness — responding to service requests in a timely manner. Whether you’re part of an in-house team or working for a service provider, you can’t achieve your higher and more strategic FM goals unless your building operations are firing on all cylinders. At McLean Hospital, the freezer was protected by two alarm systems and manual thermostat checks twice a day. However, the thermostat malfunctioned without triggering the alarms, allowing the internal freezer temperature to rise to unsafe levels over three days before someone noticed. The British Airways computer crash arose when reportedly a poorly trained contractor unplugged a power source in a data center and plugged it back in without proper protocols — damaging critical servers and power connections. Events like these are a reminder of FM’s critical role in business outcomes, and what can go wrong if we take our eyes off the ball. With a strong foundation of operational excellence, you can focus on the bigger picture: creating a total productivity experience (TPE) for employees. Productivity, after all, is the goal of all we do as facility managers. The holistic workplace experience we create regarding comfort, ease of access and a responsive, customer-focused service all contribute to TPE. THE TOTAL PRODUCTIVITY EXPERIENCE Our industry is being transformed by new ideas and dramatic changes in the world of work. A growing focus on well-being and the workplace as a tool for talent recruitment, employee engagement and competitive advantage are bringing new potential to the FM role. However, that potential won’t be realized if buildings aren’t operating smoothly and effectively. Data and digitization are transforming entire industries and turning business models inside out — and affecting FM practices, too. The business environment has become hyper-competitive, requiring businesses to turn on a dime. Top talent is at a premium, and today’s multigenerational workforce has new expectations for the office as a place that can inspire, engage and enhance productivity. If your organization is reinventing itself at the strategic level, it can’t afford to have workers who are distracted because the office is too hot or cold, the elevators aren’t working properly, or food and service offerings are missing the mark and don’t support the way the workplace should be utilized. When a business is investing heavily in transformation, your C-suite executives may be quick to point out that real estate is a cost center. Optimizing for efficiency and productivity is key to maintaining the credibility and value-add of the FM team. FIVE STEPS TOWARD OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE In the pursuit of operational excellence, the ideal is flawless execution and efficiency. The following are some steps you can take toward operational excellence. 1) Optimize organizational resources. Excellence is a journey, not an end point. In FM, that means using continuous process improvement and innovation to optimize your FM role and your skills (and those of your team) so that you can, in turn, optimize use of other resources. One place to start is by benchmarking your FM data. IFMA’s BEX (Benchmark Exchange) and BOMA provide excellent online benchmarking tools that offer data on nearly every aspect of FM, including industry-specific data. Glaring gaps? Those point the way to improvement. Don’t hesitate to get creative. Say your organization wants to undergo a rooftop study of its many retail and corporate facilities to inform capital planning. Instead of sending workers up on ladders to assess conditions, you could deploy drones and operators to remotely survey each rooftop quickly, safely and cost-effectively. One company that took this approach saved US $30,000 per rooftop, preserving budget for other priorities. 2) Invest in your facilities. As an FM professional, you know that appropriate investment not only helps facilities retain their value, but can also create a more positive and engaging environment for employees and visitors. It all comes down to prioritizing your capital investments and creating a business case to support each investment. For instance, say you’d like to use smart building management software to improve operating efficiency, reduce energy costs and to anticipate and mitigate equipment malfunctions before they happen. However, you first need to upgrade your legacy building system to more modern equipment. Instead of upgrading all systems, you could build an initial business case for replacing only the HVAC system and adding a smart building management system. Those investments would likely reach break-even energy savings within two or three years. They would also increase asset value and inspire greater workplace productivity resulting from improved environmental comfort. This speaks volumes to a CFO. 3) Improving productivity and satisfaction. One can argue that all FM is directly related to productivity. Consider the universe of facilities issues that can interfere with daily work. Is the office too hot or too cold? Do snowy sidewalks and parking lots interfere with entering the building safely? Do all the elevators work? On the operations side, consider what you can do to prevent these productivity obstacles. Digital FM tools, for example, streamline work-order management so you can quickly secure vetted resources and provide cost-efficient, responsive service to internal customers. You could make a case for “green” office investments that add value and increase productivity, as proven by data from the World Green Building Council’s “Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices” or other sources. Additionally, you may be interested in IFMA’s SFP credential program. You can also collaborate with your peers in IT and HR to improve how workers use their space and drive employee satisfaction by listening to employee feedback on new amenities or desired workplace changes. For example, if conference calls and videoconferencing are the norm, could you reallocate conference room space to collaborative spaces or reconfigure excess meeting rooms to better meet people’s needs? Collaboration among several functions can reveal new opportunities to improve operational excellence, as well as drive efficiency and cost savings. 4) Mitigate risks. Your C-suite might not realize it, but FM plays a major role in risk mitigation. FM professionals know how profoundly buildings factor into scoring on ethics, safety, vendors, labor practices, information security, data governance, contracts and financial management. Nearly every area of FM presents potential risks. As a baseline, are your playbooks, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and documented compliance processes up to date? Does your onboarding process encompass not only your SOPs, but also the concepts of accountability and continuous improvement? Keep your SOPs updated with a knowledge management system to share best practices, especially those unique to your organization. You could also consider automated FM tools that automatically track data for reporting, help ensure accuracy and reduce the risk of non-compliance while providing easy, accessible online auditing. 5) Manage costs and create value. As FM professionals, we are constantly seeking ways to reduce operating costs and improve efficiency. Strategic sourcing, energy efficiency and smart maintenance strategies are starting points. But what’s next? As referenced previously, one place to look is in technology. Today’s new building and workplace systems more than justify the cost of investment through dramatic improvements in operational efficiency and workplace productivity. For example, a smart lighting system can save thousands in energy costs annually while generating valuable data about how employees are using a facility, in addition to aiding FMs in scheduling work and daily plans and routines. Technology-enabled predictive maintenance strategies and smart building technologies can help extend the lifespan of costly equipment while preventing system failures. Also important, today’s digital FM tools are designed to add efficiency, improve compliance and deliver data and insights to inform facilities work. As an alternative to a fully-fledged integrated workplace management system (IWMS), you could adopt a scalable subscription-based automated work order system accessed through the web — no costly capital investment or lengthy implementation necessary. At the same time you could generate a healthy return on investment by eliminating manual processes, and better vendor management. That potential return more than justifies the subscription cost. OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE BEGINS WITH LEADERSHIP As I explained in my chairman’s column in the September/October 2016 issue of FMJ, operational excellence is ultimately about leadership at every level of your FM organization. Maintaining a high standard for your own accountability goes a long way toward getting from good to great. With TPE in mind, you can also consider how to improve your skill set. Certifications such as the CFM credential with IFMA assesses your competency in the field through your work experience, education and your ability to pass a comprehensive exam. In the case of the CFM credential, 11 different competencies are tested. Achieving your certification will help you develop new skills and the mindset to take your operational excellence to a new level. Also, continue your professional development and learn from industry experts. For example, the IFMA Knowledge Center contains subject matter expert advice about best practices, SOPs and more. We’re only as strong as our operational excellence. You must ask yourself, how excellent do you want to be? RESOURCES 1) IFMA-JLL white paper: Redefining the Executive View of Facility Management 2) JLL white paper: Reinventing Facilities Management for the Digital World 3)JLL video: The Future of Work is Now MAUREEN EHRENBERG, FRICS, CRE, is President of Global Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) at JLL and was global chair of IFMA’s board of directors for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
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