Open-access content 8th February 2013
A conference in Malaysia provided the setting for UK facilities manager Mark Whittaker to give a speech about his experiences and insights on the industry.
"Malaysia is truly Asia rolled into one".
This was how the government housing minister for the Pahang region officially opened the Regional Construction Week Conference 2012, organised by the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Malaysia in the city of Kuantan in November last year.
The CIDB is a Malaysian government body, which was set up in 1994. Since then, it has aimed to take a proactive role in promoting quality, productivity and best practice in the
Malaysian property and construction industry.
Each year, the CIDB organises a national conference and this year it was the turn of the state capital of the Pahang region, Kuantan - Malaysia's ninth largest city -
to host the event.
FM in Malaysia is still in its infancy, and fragmented, according to research by Nazali Mohd Noor, senior lecturer in property and facilities management at Liverpool John Moores University. Other reports point to a lack of integration between control systems in buildings and generally a lack of uniformity, integration and coherence in asset management practices.
Also the importance of FM in the building life-cycle is not fully understood and was one of the reasons for its prominence at the RCW 2012 conference.
In his opening address, the government minister expressed a great deal of affection for the UK. He had studied at both Glasgow and Loughborough Universities. Next to the main conference room was an exhibition hall, which the government minister officially opened and then toured.
Among the stands was the CIDB 'safety walk-through', there to promote the adoption of robust health and safety procedures. The consequences of poor health and safety were graphically illustrated by some gruesome photographic evidence, which, it has to be said, would most likely not be displayed at a similar conference in the UK!
The second day of the conference was devoted to facilities management and the audience of approximately 120 were mainly from a contracting background.
Conversations that morning had a reoccurring theme, namely that building owners and users see FM as an expenditure that needs to be minimised and are yet to fully grasp the importance and added value that a facilities management strategy can bring. As one of the University of Malaya students had tweeted earlier in the day, "building owners prefer to cure rather than prevent".
Several speakers during the day were at pains to clearly define 'facilities management' to the audience. All quoted the BIFM's definition and the importance of an asset management strategy to a building's life-cycle costs.
In his keynote speech, Mark Whittaker, business development manager for Integral UK, concentrated on how we define innovation in FM and what significant innovations we had seen over the past five years.
Having delivered a lecture to visiting University of Malay students in the UK, Whittaker had been invited to speak about the 'role of innovation in facilities management in the property
lifecycle and built environment" to the audience in Malaysia.
In his speech, Whittaker explained what he perceived to be some of the barriers Malaysian FM needed to overcome to create an environment where innovation can flourish. These included being less risk averse, avoiding government red tape, reducing the number of short-term contracts, avoiding price-led procurement and garnering support for FM at board level.
The remainder of the day concentrated on the need for Facilities Management in the life planning of buildings, the evolution of FM in Malaysia into a 'return-on-investment approach', and the need to change the current situation of a 'first-class infrastructure, but third-class maintenance mentality'.
There was an overriding sense of passion and drive to push the FM agenda forward in Malaysia, as well as frustration at the current inertia and pace of change.
This article was based on a report by Mark Whittaker, and written with the assistance of Nazali Mohd Noor, senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University.