The Facilities Show took place last month. Here's our 'hot take' on the topics and trends that could affect your future operational and procurement decisions.
02 July 2018 | FM World team
What (it is): multiple sensors in a single array
A more unified and wider picture of building performance is the promise from companies including BlockDox, which brings artificial intelligence, machine learning and the IoT together in multiple sensor arrays.
Why (you should know)
People count, dwell time, people flow - all able to influence sustainability and cost - are the kind of metrics that will drive future FM projects.
What: the 'uberisation' of facilities services
- and in the case of AnyJunk, waste management. The firm's new business model has seen it provide clients with pictures of the drivers visiting the site, photos of the before-and-after state from the collection site - and, once approved, the waste transit note.
AnyJunk now uses a more localised subcontractor distribution base, allowing clients to boost their CSR by showing a link from local employment to waste management compliance. Expect more such models to be introduced.
What: a sit-stand tsunami
A separate well-being section at the show hosted manufacturers such as Humanscale with ever-widening ranges of sit-stand desks. Reaching a wider range of employee use cases is key.
It's difficult to deny the productivity logic in offering employees the ability to control their own physical well-being while in the workplace; more flexible sit-stand offerings give workplace managers greater choice when fulfilling their duty to staff.
What: the IoT's impact on maintenance workflows
Crimson Tide, provider of the mpro5 software platform, believes Mobile engineers will increasingly manage more complex and site-specific hard FM maintenance workflows.
IoT-connected devices are changing how maintenance engineering fleets work, providing more immediate as well as more long-term maintenance triggers, resulting in more granular maintenance programmes specific to individual clients.
What: monitoring of premises for hostile reconnaissance
Maintaining the security of your organisation and people requires a fresh approach, suggests Mike Bluestone, director of Corps Consult.
Hostile reconnaissance is "absolutely key when we're dealing with terrorism", explained Bluestone. Terrorism differs from opportunist crime or antisocial behaviour because there is a great deal of planning and "pre-operation surveillance on your premises before they actually attack".
Awareness of what might constitute "suspicious activity" is vital, involving paying attention to different or recurring people asking seemingly unimportant questions about management teams or operational schedules, building a picture of your routines.
(Bluestone refers readers to the anti-terrorism hotline 0800 789 321, which is open for anyone to report colleagues or business associates they suspect might be engaged in terrorist activities.)
What: VR headsets used to better teach risk assessments
As headsets become more affordable - they cost roughly £200 for a high-functioning piece of equipment. - It's becoming less beyond budget to have an entire classroom wearing them.
Health and safety training, particularly with risk assessment, benefits from an immersive learning experience, claims James Mansbridge, head of digital learning at the British Safety Council. VR allows learners to direct the experience while engaging multiple senses at once, improving memory recall.
So instead of the traditional 'spot the hazards' learning video, which Mansbridge considers unrealistic and unengaging, learners can interact with the risks in a created and observable world. A very practical application.
What: office privacy through sound-masking
Organisations are increasingly turning to sound-masking solutions in a bid to ensure privacy, not simply to suppress noise. These systems give out sound that helps compartmentalise one kind of work group from another - to prevent both distraction and eavesdropping.
From the NHS to solicitors' offices and even national newspapers, ensuring privacy is a relatively new focus for the application of this technology.
What: a focus on 'pain points'
and forget the 'wow factor' to enhance the experiences of employees.
Google et al have made workplace 'wow' factors aspirational, if not attainable. But more important than a helter-skelter between the cafeteria and workfloor is the removal of everyday pain points that employees encounter, says Lewis Beck, head of workplace, EMEA at CBRE.
These regular frustrations need to be identified and solutions sought to
combat them. From booking a meeting room to finding a colleague or having technology working properly, workers need to be able to do their jobs without such 'pain points' hindering them.
Organisations using the FM function to enhance employee experience are advised to make sure the basics work properly before worrying about wowing occupants.
What: the idea that well-being should 'start at home'
Instead of racing to create a culture of well-being in the workplace, organisations should start with the basics to protect employees from work-related stress and support those with an existing mental health condition.
There is a continuum of mental health, which many employers fail to, or choose not to, understand, says Clare Forshaw, occupational health and hygiene partner at Park Health & Safety.
They blame mental health issues on an employee's inability to cope or on factors outside of work rather than taking time to consider how pressures at work can cause or exacerbate these issues. Companies should deal with mental health by reducing the pressure that leads to work-related stress conditions and manage those that already show symptoms of an existing mental health condition.
Existing strategies to promote less stressful workplaces rely on surveys, sickness absence management, mental health first aid and resilience coping training. None of these are sufficient without intervention or controls to stop the pressure in the first place.
What: an awareness that AR could be dangerous
In some work-based scenarios, augmented reality could cause more problems than it solves.
Although AR can add value by overlaying vital information for maintenance tasks, it could also overwhelm workers, distracting them from the job at hand, suggested Dylan Roberts, health, safety and well-being director at Skanska.
What: an understanding of how fire sprinklers work
You may think you know. But the truth may well surprise you.
Fire sprinklers are not triggered by smoke; they respond to fire or, more accurately, heat detection, says Tom Roche, secretary of the Business Sprinkler Alliance. So they cannot be set off by a cigarette or smoking toaster.
The equipment includes a tank of water, pumps, a network of pipes and the "humble sprinkler head" at the end of the pipe. Inside the sprinkler head, a heat-detection bulb filled with liquid - usually alcohol - expands when heated. The expanding liquid breaks the glass bulb, releasing the water.
What: the need to manage resistance to flexible working
eliminating 'pockets of resistance' before implementing agile working solutions.
The FM or workplace management team will be better placed to find a bespoke solution if it seeks occupants' objections before implementation.
"You can't plan a solution without knowing what all the downsides could be," argued Adrian Thornberry, workplace change specialist at Active FM.
What: FM needs to provide data to make procurement better
but we have to collect it properly.
Right now, "very few companies would put their house on their data", says Cloudfm CEO Jeff Dewing. The result is that most procurement teams only have cost - hourly rates and call-out fees, for example - as their measurement tool. They've not been able to measure value.
When procurement has "evidence-based information" that shows an option having the greatest value, they can ignore cost. "If procurement can't measure value, we get bad behaviour," says Dewing, with a focus on lowest rates with serious ramifications a year later. FM has to collect data in a way that is "undeniable" and the output of which is reliable. Once value is measured, procurement can act in "a very intelligent way".
What: age 50 - the turning point for workplace preferences
There are no fixed specifications for each generational group - but there are some useful age markers out there.
With the average workplace housing four generations, debate rages about how to accommodate the different generations' needs. However, research from Belgian psychologist and trendwatcher Herman Konings suggests that preferences are less about the generational group a worker is from, but rather their age.
Konings puts 50 as the approximate turning point. Those that fall below this age bracket favour openness and collaboration, an ability to communicate and flexible working; their older-than-50 colleagues don't care for any of these. Functionality and comfort, however, is regarded as a negative fixation by employees older than 40.
What: empathetic procurement
It's the route to better purchasing of services, argued BIFM Procurement SIG chair Chris Jeffers.
Only until "you can put yourself in the other party's shoes" can contractual pitfalls be overcome. Procurement cannot be learnt from a book or classroom, but rather through the devotion of time and effort to finding out the nature of a required service and the offerings available to meet it.
What: the idea that buying local will soon beat buying online
IBM predicts that the next stage in the retail revolution involves procurement from suppliers closer to home.
Through its new shops, Amazon is tapping into the trend for buyers to touch, hold and smell before ordering online, said Erik Jaspers of Planon. In the relentless pursuit of technological innovation, these human factors are not to be ignored.