22 October 2015 | Martin Read
Those worried that the engineering and maintenance side of the facilities management sector might not have been getting the attention it deserves will have left the 2015 BIFM Awards wearing a huge smile.
The new BIFM facilities manager of the year Alan Russell is accountable for all aspects of engineering and facilities, across both hard and soft services, on Heathrow's Terminal 5 campus - he's clearly a dedicated and enthusiastic in-house FM engineer, and you'll be able to read his story in our next edition. But aside from Russell's success, this year's awards saw plenty of other engineering and facilities teams either winning or being highly commended for their work.
Heathrow's Terminal 2 Engineering and Facilities team took the 'impact on customer experience' gong, with Heathrow again picked out in the learning and career development category for the way it seeks to introduce young talent into its engineering and asset management teams. As for Cofely's partnership and supply of 50 service lines for North East Lincolnshire Council's work with Cofely? That's deserving of an entirely separate feature in itself (which we'll be doing, by the way). NG Bailey's energy-saving initiative with software firm Elutions on behalf of retailer Morrisons was another story in the awards spotlight.
Hard FM success stories can be the reverse of their soft FM cousins; the hard FM story can be sold through the clear demonstration of a demonstrable benefit - a reduction in energy consumption, for example, or an increase in availability and up-time. But the difficult work is in the technical analysis, equipment procurement and ongoing maintenance being done behind the scenes. By contrast, soft FM success can be far more complicated to demonstrate - the impact of face-to-face first contact with end-users, or how a cleaning team's work can affect an organisation's bottom line - but as a service it is arguably easier to put in place.
In any event, this year's prominent hard FM success stories are cause for celebration - and perhaps there's more to come. The stereotype of engineers being poor 'people people', lacking the social skills to interact with end-user customers, is not only becoming old hat but is in any case being positively addressed by facilities teams aware that today's engineering FMs can't afford to shy away from such contact; and there are facilities engineers, such as Heathrow's T2 team, who have gone out of their way to be involved in the facility's design from the outset. Then look at the generational shift - more female than male students are now considering a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subject, according to a study of sixth formers. That suggests some great new technical FMs.
There are some colourful FM characters who have never shied away from pressing the case for building engineering FM, although it would be imprudent to name them here. And to be clear, awards evening brought forward some other great stories too. But it's perhaps the case that we can do more with the technical stories to help present FM in its best light. We certainly intend to bring these stories to life over the coming months.
Martin Read is managing editor of FM World