Aerospace and automotive organisations using trailblazing advanced manufacturing processes need flexibility to scale up and down production as required – and a facilities management function that can similarly flex with them. Bradford Keen explores the vital role FM plays in this high-tech market.
The role of FM in advanced manufacturing
“Advanced manufacturing doesn’t always take place in what you’d conventionally see as advanced environments,” says Andy Candelent, chair of the IWFM’s Manufacturing Working Group and head of facilities at Leadec, a provider of technical services for the automotive and manufacturing industries.
Yet important distinctions do arise in advanced manufacturing settings, and increasingly it is a sector of industry that is helping to drive innovation in FM itself.
Consider power supply and mechanical and electrical maintenance. Much depends on the scope of contract and whether it covers exclusively building infrastructure or extends to the site’s production functionality itself.
Carlo Alloni, managing director of technical services at Mitie, says: “Perhaps most important is that all operations must be managed to fit in around the production and machinery on site. Often these are incredibly complex pieces of kit that operate within very specific environmental parameters.
“Whereas in a typical office the temperature could fall by one degree and nobody would notice, in a manufacturing plant this could mean equipment stops working and production put on hold. Humidity, air quality, and lighting all need to be considered too. Maintaining HVAC systems is incredibly important in these environments. Preserving uptime is vital, as anything which prevents operational ability not only costs time but ultimately money.”
A second key factor is people management – and particularly shift patterns.
“These manufacturing sites are often running near-constantly,” says Alloni, “with some operating 23 hours a day, six-and-a-half days a week. This means that our FM teams must work around these same shifts and often have very small windows of time to provide critical cleaning and maintenance.
“Similarly, the work that is taking place is constantly changing. On a daily basis the product going down a manufacturing line might change and volumes, shift times, all might be altered. As FM suppliers, we must flex with this seamlessly. We must also ensure that the quality of execution for tasks on site is incredibly high – seemingly small errors can have a big impact in this environment.”
FM services tend to be “more specialised” in advanced manufacturing, Alloni explains. “For example, waste management involves working with industrial waste to ensure it is safe for disposal – a role we hire industrial chemists for. Similarly, energy management is a huge cost for these clients. Ensuring that energy use is as efficient as possible, with financial and carbon savings, is vital.”
An important measurement criterion in these environments is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), by which reliability is calculated based on availability versus total available production time.
“That factor can be critical because manufacturers are often producing bespoke specifications or build-on-demand orders, which are enabled by IoT and advanced manufacturing techniques. But this also means there is often little or no stock to feed customer orders in the event of any breakdowns or production failure,” according to Candelent.
“They may frame the OEE rate by, for instance, regular plans for preventative maintenance activity with some reactive capability on standby. Use of sensors and remote monitoring allows the FM to deliver more agile and less invasive approaches to M&E maintenance.”
Of chief importance is the IoT and “sophisticated data analysis and management” to produce on-demand product versions, monitor the efficiency of production equipment, and check faults.
These opportunities to improve the FM function transcend whether they are provided in-house or outsourced. “In many advanced manufacturing situations, you can utilise and leverage that data infrastructure to support FM operations,” says Candelent.
Contract focus in advanced manufacturing
Advanced manufacturing contracts are similar to other FM contracts. “However, one key difference is that the scope and specification are defined around the work environment, with flexibility at their core,” says Alloni. “Given the frequent and rapid changes that occur on the production line, FM teams need to be able to flex with that to constantly provide the client with the services they need at that moment in time,” he explains.
“For example, in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, one of our clients moved their teams from nine-to-five working to instead being split across three shifts a day to minimise the spread of the virus. They asked Mitie to do the same for its teams. Some individuals would find this difficult to adapt to, however, our people are used to this way of working.”
The scope of FM performance in advanced manufacturing facilities is wider than in less advanced environments, says Candelent, and can be seen through such duties as the maintenance and continual updating of building information (BIM) models or digital twins, so as to help enhance and support service delivery on a just-in-time basis.
Another consequence of an approach to manufacturing reliant on the IoT is that the skills requirements of FMs working in advanced manufacturing environments are evolving. Manufacturing would once have required an FM with an engineering background. These days, as working environments become smarter and more connected, Candelent says an FM with an in-depth understanding of data and the ways it can be analysed and applied will have more to offer than someone with a technical engineering background alone.
A problem with FM contracts more broadly is that there is not an FM-specific template. Instead, there’s a reliance on NEC 3 and 4 contracts and the JCT series of contracts, “which are really construction contracts that have been repurposed via a light rewrite to reference FM work, but they still contain many unsuitable or irrelevant elements related to construction”, says Candelent, who is working with the IWFM to develop an FM-specific contract that is “fit for purpose for all parties – both clients and service providers – and which is due to be sent to the market hopefully in 2020”.
Use of data analysis and monitoring of equipment performance instead of more traditional time-based maintenance interventions based on set periods requires different contract structures, says Candelent. And there is also much greater focus on contracts measuring outcomes rather than traditional inputs such as hours worked by each trade or the cost of repairs plus the margin.
Stephan Hihn, head of product management at Leadec in Germany, says advanced manufacturers almost exclusively outsource cleaning and other soft services. Technical services are usually kept in-house, in part for fear of company data leaving the company environment.
That is not to say that cleaning, for example, isn’t highly technical in an advanced manufacturing setting. Cleaners on Mitie’s contracts complete specialist training and use specialist products to clean ceramic bays and robotic tools.
Hihn notes that an evolution in outsourced FM is under way. An example is Leadec charging customers on a ‘pay per X’ model with X standing for material, personnel or use. This approach transfers the risk from customer to service provider “so there’s almost no more investment needed from a customer – the service provider brings everything to deliver this X”.
Hihn distinguishes between muscle and brain in advanced manufacturing FM. Traditionally, FM has delivered the muscle by means of hands-on personnel. Advanced manufacturing requires more brain to fix customer problems and make guarantees about production equipment being available 95 per cent of the time or cleaning service levels guaranteed. “This is really an evolution in the service contracting in the industry.”
They are also looking at more results-based contract models, which need technology that can monitor and capture real-time data – collected from customer systems automatically from sensors that are, for example, tracking traffic for cleaning reasons or pressure variations between fan filters to anticipate when it needs to be replaced – and run it through their CAFM system.
Advanced manufacturing defined
Advanced manufacturing is about ‘thinking smarter’ – using technology to gain a competitive advantage, rather than using low-cost labour.
The rising wages in emerging markets reduces the territories’ competitive advances; other territories are trying to regain the advantage by improving productivity through technological development.
The UK Government has emphasised the need for development in advanced manufacturing, launching in 2019 a £30 million R&D competition for projects aiming to boost the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. It forms part of the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The fund – a key plank of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy – will support the application of new digital technologies, including AI and virtual reality, in manufacturing.
The Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge is intended to:
- Provide a collaborative and cross-sector approach to digital technology R&D and innovation;
- Boost UK manufacturing productivity and competitiveness;
- Encourage the cooperation of small, medium and large-scale companies throughout the UK supply chain;
- Develop new digital capabilities and knowledge; and
- Provide the platform for digital technology companies to engage directly in manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing, sometimes known as ‘Industry 4.0’, is characterised by a combination of cyber-physical systems (CPS), smart machines and the data necessary to drive them. As prices fall, the performance of hardware and software improves, connectivity increases and pressure on manufacturers to be flexible and yet eco-friendly grows, advanced manufacturing techniques may be the only way to transform the economics of global production in many industries.
A loose definition of advanced manufacturing holds that:
- Products are produced with a high level of design;
- Products are technologically complex and superior to their counterparts;
- Products are cutting-edge and innovative;
- Products are reliable, affordable, and readily available;
- Companies produce newer, better and more exciting products; and
- Products solve a variety of common problems faced by the user and society in general.
FM services are becoming increasingly digital in advanced manufacturing settings, with cleaners and service technicians using mobile devices to input incident data or schedule tasks.
But the digitalised approach is also helping with fixed and variable maintenance duties. So if a client needs higher production output in a particular month, they will also require increased maintenance on assets and more FM staff on site.
“The relationship between customer and service provider will become part of a new value proposition,” says Leadec’s Theodor Malcotsis, team leader project development, product management division, Europe.
The customer wants more services during high output and fewer when they produce less. One solution is a bundled package offering, which Hihn says allows clients to switch between standard, silver and gold depending on their needs.
Says Malcotsis: “The technology orientation of the customer becomes more important.” Some clients are eager to use IoT processes and sensors to monitor their assets and the quality of service provision.
The result is improved collaboration. Malcotsis says when a new factory is being built it is common for the planning departments, sustainability officers, IT and FM sitting together because each department affects the other. The service provider is involved to manage the monitoring systems watching over the production assets.
Flexibility of manufacturing requirements
Any downtime has ramifications on an advanced manufacturing organisations so FM needs to “adapt and flex services in line with clients”, says Alloni. This requires FMs to possess skills and capabilities such as industrial cleaning of specialist assets and sound knowledge of QHSE products.
This, he concludes, “feeds into the specific expertise required for the FM role in the advanced manufacturing setting. A strong technical knowledge of the equipment we are maintaining coupled with a solid understanding of the processes taking place, and how these fit into the wider business, is very important for anyone in these teams. If you clean a machine with the wrong product it can cause damage to a multimillion-pound asset and put manufacturing on hold.”
FM also needs to deliver “agile, responsive and predictive asset management and maintenance” to accommodate the sector’s rapid scaling up and down of production. What this also means is a keen eye on the wear-and-tear rates of building infrastructure such as HVAC and lighting systems, and assembly features such as doors and shutters, says Candelent.
“If the manufacturing operation needs to introduce a second or third shift or implement weekend working to support an uplift in demand, that is going to increase the use of every piece of infrastructure that supports those operations,” Candelent explains. “Likewise, if production levels fall, then ultimately the use of energy, power and everything from the means of production itself to vending and catering facilities is going to drop. By collecting and analysing data the FM can track these movements and the level of deterioration of assets and vary maintenance and cleaning interventions accordingly.”
One dramatic example of the flexibility demanded occurred at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre facility in Wales, which was recently repurposed for Airbus to assemble ventilator sub-assemblies for the UK Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. AMRC/Cymru operations director Jason Murphy explains: “The FM services team quickly adapted to support the new ways of working. Front-of-house security managed the temperature screening of workers and visitors entering the facility. The building perimeter security was promptly re-evaluated and enhanced. The cleaning team reorganised shifts and cleaning procedures to keep all staff safe. FM services played an incredibly important role in the UK ventilator challenge.”
FM’s place within an organisation
Candelent explains that there is little consistency in the way FM or FM function reports. It can depend on organisational structure and internal dynamics. An organisation with an internal property or real estate function would oversee FM, while other organisations might have FM reporting to HR, engineering or IT. Candelent says in the case of wholly or largely outsourced FM services, the purchasing department would be likely to manage the FM function.
At the AMRC Cymru facility, FM is outsourced to a provider that subcontracts individual services. The provider reports directly to the site operations director and is responsible for cleaning, waste management, security, maintenance, emergency repair and site upgrade/modification services.
“The FM provider is a very important cog in the gear train of advanced manufacturing – achieving the highest possible standards in these services helps AMRC/Cymru to achieve excellence in the translation of R&D and innovation to industry,” Murphy explains.
Like Murphy, Alloni stresses the importance of FM’s relationship with other organisational teams as advanced manufacturing requires FM to be “front and centre and very much a core part of the team” as opposed to delivering services “behind the scenes”.
“FM must support the flexibility needed in the manufacturing setting, understanding how critical it is to change services in line with client needs,” Alloni adds. “Outsourced FMs naturally have a very close relationship with manufacturing services lead on the client side. They’ll meet every day to discuss the plan for the shift ahead, any potential challenges or changes needed, keeping in close contact throughout the day.”
A “culture of empowerment” allows both organisation and FM team to benefit, as evidenced during the current pandemic when the FM has needed to act with autonomy, not having to seek management clearance for every decision.
Importantly, FM benefits from the lean manufacturing environment characteristic of advanced manufacturing – because the FM function learns to be lean too, Candelent explains.
Regardless of whether FM is wholly outsourced or headed by an in-house appointee, the function closely collaborates with other teams and is “more aware of the impact of operations on other corporate functions and the overall business needs of the larger organisation”.
This lean environment leads to higher recognition for FM as a specialist function, which Candelent says often adds value by dealing with property acquisitions or managing landlords and tenants, and acting as a landlord on behalf of the organisation when needing to let additional space.
“There is a recognition that the facilities manager does add a lot more than simply cleaning and maintenance to the organisation and in delivering its corporate objectives,” Candelent asserts.
FM’s strategic contribution
“We see the value chain of the customer,” says Malcotsis. “This insight helps tailor FM solutions.” An example is waste management, where trash is sorted into different waste materials such as metal or plastics. By using technology to track the amount of waste and where it is most frequently produced, Malcotsis says they can help customers derive data-backed sustainability solutions. These “connected solutions” weren’t possible a few years ago, he explains.
For some of Mitie’s advanced manufacturing clients, energy and waste can cost from between £30 million and £50 million, so FM is responsible for securing significant savings.
“Even the small things we can do to help them save make a huge difference,” Alloni explains. “Planning predictive maintenance is one of the most important roles on site. Balancing critical maintenance to avoid repairs or downtime with working around the business and its manufacturing schedule is an incredibly skilled task.” He calls FM teams “the backbone of the manufacturing plant, keeping it running like clockwork”.
Manufacturing requires innovation to improve productivity and sustainability, and to help businesses move up the value chain. FM, in response, must also embrace innovation, says Murphy.
“Robots working alongside people in security, cleaning, maintenance and repair are already a reality and will become more commonplace,” Murphy adds. “Industry 4.0 is revolutionising plant and equipment maintenance through smart sensors and predictive algorithms. The management of factory waste for effective reuse or recycling is also of paramount importance.
“Whilst automation touches every aspect of advanced manufacturing, it is still people and their relationship with automation and each other that makes a successful organisation,” says Murphy.
“Investment in the skills of people alongside investment in new technology is critical to the success of the UK as a high-value manufacturing nation – and this is as important to FM as it is to every other business function.”
Carlo Alloni, managing director, technical services at Mitie
Jason Murphy, operations director at AMRC/Cymru
Andy Candelent, head of facilities management at Leadec
Theodor Malcotsis, team leader project development at Leadec
Stephan Hihn, head of product management at Leadec