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Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine
Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine

07 October 2019 Martin Read

Workplace and facilities managers are uniquely placed to cut through the 'noise' of automation to deliver future benefits, says Martin Read.

Discussions about the effect of automation on those who deliver facilities services – and those for whom these services are delivered – tends to accentuate the apocalyptic. Much of it is an instinctive human fear of change, but while automation will doubtless affect jobs, perhaps there is opportunity here for those managing the workplace to advance a more positive narrative.

Firstly, ‘the robots are already here’ as regards existing service delivery. It’s amazing how quickly freshly automated process can become part of the norm as clients and providers alike quickly commoditise it before seeking out the next big agent of change.

A recent chat with PTSG group CEO Paul Teasdale brought this to mind. His firm is using maturing forms of information automation to introduce live data ‘dashboards’ next year, showing real-time details of engineers’ location, registration, certification, purpose of job, time of arrival and more. The effect? Less ‘friction’ for clients, who’ll see at a glance what’s happening with all aspects of service provision. 

So here’s a firm maximising established systems. But what’s perhaps more difficult is to plan for a fresh technology’s likely impact on how you do things. The trick is in knowing when to embrace an emerging technology and be sure it won’t soon be usurped by something better. Software and systems are just as exposed to this as many of the mechanical marvels of the past, with plenty of theoretically strong advances failing the acceptability demands of either user or market. It’s the reason I no longer wake up to a cup of tea prepared by my Teasmade before taking a hovercraft to the mainland and boarding Concorde. Exciting advances in their time, for sure – but high-tech cul-de-sacs in retrospect.

The workplace is already on the automation front line. Reports indicate that a majority of workers are quite sure that automation will at some stage take their jobs, while other studies show how automation can disproportionately affect workers by gender and work type. Here’s where this profession can step in. Workplace managers are well placed to pull the signal from the noise and plan for future workplaces – and workers – alike.

Martin Read is editor of Facilitate Magazine