Which is the best solution for an owner/client – outsourcing, insourcing or co-sourcing of facility-related services? Think carefully before you answer. Got it? Yes… it depends. No one can say which is best without knowing about the organisation that needs those services. Selecting any of the above options without fully understanding the owner’s/client’s business drivers, for example end-user satisfaction and best value, is possible; but it hardly amounts to an informed business decision.

You can read the full article on the AIinFM Blog.

A robot can replace this worker right now

Agile competitors are, by definition, quick to seize opportunities. What they lack in size, they can make up for in responsiveness to owner/client needs, adapting to sudden changes in the marketplace and exploiting disruptive technology such as artificial intelligence. Add to that the willingness of leading owners/clients to listen to those with something novel to offer then you have the makings of a market for new services and products. It has happened before and it will happen again. Established service providers could easily lose ground to up-and-coming agile competitors – upstarts if you will. Those that doubt it need to ask themselves what is special about facilities management that it could, uniquely, buck a trend that has been seen across industrial sectors for the past few decades. This time, technology enhanced by artificial intelligence, will help to accelerate the changes.

A robot can replace this worker right now Look at Dyson and vacuum cleaners and what happened at Kodak – a company that co-invented digital photography. When you dominate a market and are so locked into a single business model – paper bags for vacuum cleaners and selling film, paper and developing fluids – it is easy to argue that there could be no other way. Besides, “we know what our customers need” was the retort of the behemoths. A customer who hears that is going to prove them wrong at the very first opportunity.

Labour-intensive services are one among easy targets for upstarts. If we look at the current situation, we have small armies of personnel busy cleaning, servicing and watching over facilities. It does not matter how the sourcing model works, it involves significant recurrent expenditure into the future for owners/clients based on labour-intensive operations that can be replaced by machines with intelligence. Owners/clients once focused on capital costs and cared little for operating costs; nowadays, whole-life costing is the norm with operational expenditure a big part of the equation and decision making. Where is the moral dilemma for owners/clients deciding to move from a labour-intensive to a machine-intensive workforce that never takes holidays or sick leave?

With both capital and operational expenditure under close scrutiny, owners/clients are going to think twice about any decision that volunteers them for unnecessary recurrent expenditure. Adding value through services enabled by artificial intelligence, without ramping up the head count, is an attractive proposition and one example of an opportunity to exploit. The living wage will put paid to competition based purely on lowest possible labour costs. Moreover, social responsibility will force owners/clients and service providers away from any practice that might cast them as exploitative. People can be exploited but not machines.

With so much pressure to cut operational costs, why should designers not be designing facilities that reduce to a minimum the need for services such as cleaning, leaving autonomous cleaning devices to mop up the rest? Well, they are. It is about technology, and artificial intelligence is a disruptive technology that is beginning to redefine the delivery and operation of facilities. Owners/clients and operators in Japan, China and the US are busy creating new markets for devices embedded with artificial intelligence that can perform an increasing range of tasks – watching, inspecting, cleaning, maintaining and delivering services – in a controlled environment that is itself embedded with artificial intelligence.

New designs for facilities with built-in self-servicing are an attractive proposition and will become commonplace because artificial intelligence enables decisions to be taken more quickly and objectively, and so will the autonomous devices used to inspect, clean, maintain and watch over them. This is a powerful combination that major vendors without any history of facilities management will capture because they can offer total control over facilities for owners and operators. Some will become operators, encroaching on existing markets and squeezing out incumbents, for the simple reason that they can.

So where might this leave service providers, especially those with large workforces dispersed across numerous sites? In a word, vulnerable. Margins are slim now and will become wafer thin. Does it really look likely that owners/clients will be prepared to pay more to help out established service providers? There needs to be an alternative business model – one that utilizes technology to provide services that add value for owners/clients and which simultaneously create more realistic profit margins for service providers. Of course, there will be those who huff and puff and say they have heard all of this before. Good, let them press on with their own demise whilst the rest build more robust business models and replace them one by one. Who will be the first to go?

When the internet was first touted, some people and businesses went out of their way to pour scorn over any suggestion that it could possibly impact their business or much else for that matter. We know what happened – it continues to kill off the sloths in all sectors – but it has created new industrial sectors as well as reshaping those existing. The energy that went into playing modern-day Luddites could have gone into stealing a march on the competition. But that is one of the nice features and benefits of Darwinism, depending of course on where you stand.

Technology is all pervasive and will continue to shape and reshape our world. Artificial intelligence adds considerable weight to the influence of technology. Simply, some tasks do not need a human operator or minder. We should therefore try to understand how artificial intelligence can help in positive ways to improve what we do and what can be provided to others. To say that robots (including actroids) could never replace a cleaner or maintenance engineer and then to use that as the cornerstone of a business strategy is laughable. Cleaners and engineers are unlikely to disappear, but they will not be required to the same extent as now. The pressure on incumbents will come from two directions and will force the pace.

So, here we are – on the cusp of major structural change. Will you be with it or against it? Now, where I can get a new battery for my Nokia?

This article first appeared on the AIinFM Blog.

A new, major British Standard, Briefing for Design and Construction – Part 1: Code of practice for facilities management (Buildings infrastructure) was published on 3 August 2015 and is free to download thanks to the UK Government's support for the standard. BS 8536-1:2015 is a complete revision to the original 2010 standard, Facilities Management Briefing and is a direct response to the needs of industry and the UK government.

The original 2010 standard filled a gap in design briefing guidance occupied by little more than the mention of “facilities management”. It alerted design teams to the need to take account of operational requirements during design and provided guidance on what should be considered. It also gave operators and facility managers the opportunity to feedback their experiences of assets/facilities in use. BS 8536 was an important step, but did not go far enough.

Why the need for a revision?

The scope of the standard needed to be broadened to take account of operational requirements during construction, testing and commissioning, handover, start-up of operations and aftercare. It also needed to incorporate the principles of soft landings, the requirements of post-occupancy evaluation (POE) and “Level 2 BIM”. BS 8536-1 pulls together these and a number of other strands to create a coherent set of recommendations and supporting guidance for owners, operators, facility managers, designers, constructors and other specialists.

BS 8536-1 is an attempt to strengthen the link between asset/facility owners, operators and their facility managers and the design and construction team to assure performance of the design and the operational asset/ facility. It does not provide detailed guidance on design or construction, but is concerned with information and data about the operability and performance requirements for the new or refurbished asset/facility. Decommissioning and other end-of-life considerations are excluded from the standard.

The principle of buildability is widely applied in design, however, the principle of operability has not historically been considered to the same extent. Clearly, the best time to comment on the suitability or effectiveness of design is before it is finalised. Testing assumptions during design is necessary to understand how the asset/facility will perform in operation. In other industries, “design for operability” is a given; in this standard, the concept is extended to cover “design and construction for operability”.

Achieving predefined outcomes

Projects should take account of the operational requirements and expected performance outcomes for the new or refurbished asset/facility from the outset, through all work stages – see Figure 1 – and into operation. Design and construction should be guided by these requirements and be followed by defined periods of aftercare (initial and extended) to ensure that the owner, operator and end-users are able to derive the expected benefits from the asset/facility.


Work stages

Figure 1. Work stages

An evidence-based approach to design and construction should be adopted that is driven by outcomes that are explicit and measurable, wherever possible, and which reflect the requirements of the owner, operator, end-users and other key stakeholders in regard to the operational performance of the asset/facility. Indeed, performance outcomes should be verified in each work stage to ensure that the asset/facility will meet its operational requirements.

Performance outcomes/targets should be specific to the project and set at the Strategy work stage – see Figure 1 – and be verified during each subsequent work stage up to Operation & End of life, with post-occupancy evaluation (POE) during a defined period of extended aftercare. BS 8536-1 considers performance in terms of environmental, social (i.e. functionality and effectiveness), security and economic criteria that have to be satisfied.

Environmental targets – energy use, CO2 emissions, water consumption and waste reduction/disposal.

Social outcomes – functional and operational requirements of the owner, e.g. overall concept, context, uses, access, visual form, space, internal environment, durability and adaptability, and the operator’s and end-users’ requirements of utility, usability, safety, maintainability, security, inclusiveness and comfort.

Security targets – security-mindedness with respect to both physical and digital assets.

Economic targets – capital cost and operational cost should be considered side-by-side to enable whole-life cost to be determined.

Post-occupancy evaluation (POE) should be used to establish if the asset/facility is performing as expected, including measurement of actual operational performance against the required performance outcomes/targets from environmental, social and economic perspectives set at the outset of the project. Specifically, the evaluation should include an end-user satisfaction survey, an energy-use survey and an assessment of the overall performance of the asset/facility against the agreed outcomes and/or targets and applicable benchmarks.

What next?

BS 8536-1:2015 is available from the BSI Bookshop.

BS 8536-1:2015

Security-minded facilities

The transparency, sharing of data and collaboration of supply chain partners afforded by building information modelling (BIM) means that there is a need for the supply chain to communicate in a security conscious way that still enables business to function, but also minimises the attractiveness of the information for those who might wish to undertake hostile reconnaissance.

PAS 1192-5:2015, Specification for security-minded building information modelling, digital built environments and smart asset management has been published to specify requirements for security-minded BIM, digital built environments and smart asset management. It outlines the cyber-security vulnerabilities to hostile attack to enable clients and contractors to achieve security-minded modelling. The standard provides a risk assessment process to determine the levels of security for BIM collaboration which should be applied during all phases of the lifecycle, i.e. concept, design, construction, operation and disposal.

You can download your copy of the standard from the BSI Bookshop.

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