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Artificial intelligence can improve daily facilities management tasks © Shutterstock

13 May 2019 | Planon 

The first challenge in understanding the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in facility management (FM) processes is to give a definition to the phrase.

Machines and software are being designed to extend the power of data collection through the recognition of patterns — sometimes patterns that are difficult for humans to recognise — and then changing what they do to take advantage of the information revealed by those patterns. 

When we speak about AI, often the simplest use is the ability of a system to recognise something out of the ordinary and alert a human to the anomaly. For example, Planon's space management functionalities will make a conference room available again after sensor data shows that no one showed up in the reserved room. AI could take this one step further and notify a space planner when a certain individual or department has an unusually high "no-show" rate.

Before writing this white paper, we asked individuals from facility management service providers and property management companies — and a few industry consultants too — to give us their thoughts on AI in FM processes. This 5-question survey started with two questions asking about the applications of AI that they are currently using and then contrasted that with the applications of AI they expect to start using within two years.

We received responses from 63 individuals at these organisations. While a little less than half the respondents are currently using no forms of AI, almost everyone expects to implement AI within two years. The biggest growth areas include process automation, planning and scheduling, and decision support.

Intelligent scheduling is a compelling AI use-case for a facility management service provider because it increases profitability. As our research with Panorama has shown, the average profit margin from providing hard services is between 5% and 6%, while the margin on soft services is even lower at 2% to 3%. This creates a need for digitalisation and automation to increase process efficiency and reduce costs. 

For example, one service provider reduced their service delivery costs by 10% – 20% by automating the dispatch of appropriate engineers to jobs (Verdantix ROI report 2018). Planon’s scheduling tool can automatically assign numerous service jobs to field engineers, using the planning constraints of the service company and calculated by advanced planning algorithms. The solution provides higher response rates, better control and management of fixed appointments.

Resource scheduling augmented by artificial intelligence can also support sustainability goals. These tools can assign projects based on optimised travel routes to reduce emissions, and factor in real-time traffic and weather information to further support the correct timing of assignments.

Check out the full interactive white paper by Planon for applications of AI for FM service providers, and learn more about getting started with this technology.