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17 July 2019
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Innovation requires forward-thinking, as evidenced by the winners of BIFM’s Innovation Awards.

Solar Pannels

05 November 2018 Martin Read and Bradford Keen

Innovation in Professional Development (Large Organisations)

Plugging Brexit’s personnel gap

For all the scenarios in which businesses would want a crystal ball, predicting the outcomes of Brexit has to be the most pressing demand. What can organisations know? Not much, but they can prepare for likely eventualities.

This is what Premier Technical Services Group (PTSG) is doing with its focus on training and professional development. In 2015, it invested £1 million in establishing a training centre, appointing a group assessor to become a CITB-approved training organisation (ATO), and is now helping to training applicants seeking grant-funded training through the Construction Trainee Directory – a task the company sees as vital to address the post-Brexit skills gap. 

The worry is that as of March 2019, many EU nationals – accounting for about a quarter of the construction industry’s workforce – could be leaving the UK. 

While PTSG’s NVQ programme was already a well-run programme, 

the threat of Brexit has made it all the more important.

The company has collaborated with SAEMA (Specialist Access Engineering & Maintenance Association) and is also an Approved Training Organisation, as decided by the Construction Industry Training Board. 

The NVQ programme was developed specifically to upskill the company’s engineers and operatives in the areas of cradle installation and maintenance, lightning protection and fire services. 

Through investment in its training and development centre, whereby it delivers a range of personally and professionally tailored course, PTSG aims for continuous innovation to add value. By 2017 the company offered 64 different training courses, 35 of which are relevant to the sector it operates in. 

Terry Wilcock, group H&S director, says the secret to success is focusing on your people, “no matter their title or background” and “develop their character, capabilities and potential”.

PTSG is also: 

  • A member of ATLAS (the Association of Technical Lighting  & Access Specialists);
  • Training all of its engineers to NVQ Level 3; and
  • Ensuring engineers are SSSTS or SMSTS-accredited as needed.


PTSG’s NVQ group assessor travels to its 17 operation centres to assess the engineers working towards attaining their vocational qualifications – the regulatory process is robust and guarantees at each candidate reaches the required standard.  

On successful completion of a training course, a learner can have his or her achievement confirmed by PTSG and details uploaded to the Construction Training Register. 

PTSG currently employs 641 highly trained staff to serve its customer base of 17,000 companies and 150,000 assets.

Innovation in Professional Development (Large Organisations)

Plugging Brexit’s personnel gap.

Best practice learning points

1. Spotting a gap in the market by pulling together differing but complementary and cohesive FM/construction disciplines.

2. The PTSG team showed forethought and astuteness by anticipating the possible ramifications of a Leave vote in the 2016 referendum by aiming to close up the likely skills gap by investing in training for all its disciplines.

3. A dedication to providing the highest quality of customer service at the most competitive prices.

4. Building on its offer by nurturing a team of highly skilled and qualified operatives as trainers.

5. Elaborating on its training ethos by collaborating with other industry organisations in symbiotic relationships. 

Emma Potter

Innovation in Technology and systems

EAM use of IoT underpins performance

When the IoT still remains aspirational for many FM organisations – whether from lack of money or skills – it’s always thrilling to see a connected building yielding significant improvements in maintenance. 

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest human-made structure in the world, is one of these buildings. 

Owned by property developer Emaar Group and maintained by Emaar Facilities Management, specifically Emaar Asset Management (EAM), the building is 2,715 feet tall, spans 163 floors, and comprises 5.67 million square feet with 300,000 square feet for office space and 1.85 million square feet of residential space.

EAM had four objectives: 

  •  Optimise Opex;
  •  Enhance customer service and customer satisfaction;
  •  Promote excellence in FM services; and
  •  Educate staff and improve the work environment.


However, there were challenges to overcome, such as high operational and maintenance costs, the impact retrofitting would have on the building, technical complexities due to the building’s height, restriction of movement and space, and the building’s high-profile and mixed-use occupants.

To meet its objectives EAM set up a radically new maintenance system powered by the IoT and knowledge of building eco-systems. 

EAM partnered with a technology firm to develop a new maintenance methodology that shifted traditional planned and preventative maintenance into predictive maintenance by connecting the HVAC sensors to the building’s cloud platform. 

The physical layer of sensors sent data to a DDC control, which transferred this to building automation software for algorithmic analysis (analytics layer). Information included vibration, temperature, humidity and spectrographic analysis.

Findings included that 80 per cent of assets were routinely maintained according to a designated plan, even if they did not need servicing, while only 20 per cent of maintenance was carried out owing to a degraded asset.

The project’s major successes include asset availability greater than 99.55 per cent and asset reliability at 95.97 per cent, as well as 15 per cent reduction in unplanned maintenance and 40 per cent in maintenance hours.

The judges of the awards said: “The company has developed a system which analyses the data and automatically identifies faults as they arise, enabling the engineer to service assets more efficiently and proactively, and ultimately reducing cost – thus creating some real value to the operation.”

On an operational level, building comfort has improved, including temperature, air quality and light levels. Waste has been reduced, as have disruptions from failed equipment ensuring lower costs and reduced environmental impact.

After the successes there’s more to be done. EAM will seek smarter algorithms and better machine-learning capabilities. The Enterprise Service Bus will also bring about better management of system requirements by identifying issues, checking inventory, ordering parts and tracking deliveries and warranties.

The group is also looking to combine 3D BIM with augmented reality-driven fault identification to avoid errors through better root-cause analysis and equipping site technicians with more accurate information. 

Best practice learning points

1. Set up an IoT committee with the relevant and necessary personnel to conduct a thorough feasibility analysis of what an IoT-based maintenance plan would entail and what would be required for implementation.

2. Identify the major challenges of IoT implementation.

3. Align the FM function’s objectives with the capabilities of the tools and systems to be employed.

4. Measure everything the building data provides.

5. Don’t stop searching for improvements.


Innovation in Products and Services

Gateway to improved tech solution sourcing

The Innovation Gateway identifies common challenges faced by its partner organisations – including Tesco, Heathrow, RBS, Kingfisher Unite Students, Nottingham City Council, and the University of Edinburgh – and sources, selects and validates technology and innovations as a collective to reduce operational costs and the environmental impact of buildings. The companies then contribute to collective learning by running pilot trials of innovations, and sharing risks and costs of implementation.

An example of the alliance in action is when RBS trialled an additive called Endotherm to make its wet heating systems more efficient. After tracking 10-15 per cent energy reductions, RBS shared the information with the alliance, after which Heathrow implemented the same innovations. It saw 11-16 per cent savings in three months. 

“We all have a responsibility to reduce the impact our buildings have on the environment and our customers,” says Jo Saunders, innovation programme manager at RBS. “Through the Innovation Gateway, RBS opened its portfolio to innovators to test products that lead resource efficiency.”

Henry Majed, director, partnerships at Innovation Gateway, says: “We sometimes talk about the power of many – using the collective strength to solve each other’s problems. You don’t know what you don’t know and sometimes you’re not the best person to solve your own problems. By getting different experiences you have a better chance of finding solutions that make the most difference.”

Beyond cutting costs in energy, water and waste, the Innovation Gateway says its partners will reap the reputational rewards of being socially and environmentally conscious, and promoting a resource-efficient economy.

The reason to join forces is to share best practice and mitigate risk while finding the most successful solutions. This seems to be working, according to Michael Wayne Bexton, head of energy services at Nottingham City Council. 

Bexton says: “Joining the Innovation Gateway has allowed us to share best practice and knowledge with like-minded top-tier organisations across different sectors. The collaboration brings together environmental leaders in a unique way, taking away barriers and generating tangible outputs.”

For organisations looking to get involved with Innovation Gateway, Majed says the prerequisites are having “enough common ground and different perspectives” to contribute to the collective strength.  

Best practice learning points

1. Collaboration increases innovation.

2. Working together reduces risks when adopting technology.

3. Competition among businesses can sometimes hinder progress.

4. Financial savings and reduced environmental impact can be pursued simultaneously.

5. Cross-sector sharing can shift approaches to problem-solving.