“Keep your team safe and working faster,” they said. “And let’s make sure to keep that all under budget, too.” No big deal, right? Wrong. When it comes to Facilities Management, you’ve got a lot of juggling to do to keep everybody happy.
In this post, we’ll cover how you can make your department work more efficiently, serve the company better, and get more influence with the people that matter so you can keep being awesome at your job.
What if Facilities Management didn’t exist?
As humans, we occupy space, and we are accustomed to our spaces working for us, not against us. We need these areas to be safe, functional, and comfortable. And there’s a lot to that.
When everything goes to plan, this means that your job as a facilities manager is less stressful. No emergencies, easy-to-manage workloads, and fewer incidences. Without knowing it, the executive team will see happier staff who are not looking to leave as often as they would be in a non-functioning or dreary space. A boost in productivity and reductions in absenteeism, downtime and wastage, not to mention the lack of accidents.
It’s clear how important it is to have a well-maintained facility, but what happens if you don’t? What happens if you are a little too busy to take care of some minor issues that come up and you leave them for later? What happens if you don’t have the resources you need to make it happen: adequate staffing, budget, training, equipment, etc.?
The impact on the Company
Your facilities management team is responsible for the overall well-being and functioning of the entire facility. You touch each and every department. Without you, equipment lifespans are reduced, inventory controls can fall by the wayside, bulbs can burn out, machines can overheat.
Even worse, problems can get so bad that they bring your revenue-generating activities to a screeching halt.
Safety also becomes an issue. You manage the security systems, fire systems, ventilation systems, and tricky and often risky elevator systems. If something is out of order, people’s safety is at risk. If someone gets hurt, that bill the company receives is going to hurt.
Depending on the situation, that bill could come in the form of a lawsuit, an expensive settlement, fines from a regulatory agency, and a whole lot of bad PR….or all of the above. It’s not worth the risk. The workspace becomes a non-working space very quickly.
The impact on the Employee
No employee wants to feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work. Imagine working in an organization that has recurring equipment failures, or worse yet, extremely high incidents of injury at work. That would be terrible, but the same is true If employees can’t do their jobs because there is no space to work, the building is too hot or too cold, and the network keeps failing.
If these issues go on for long enough the company would have a hard time keeping employees too.
The impact on the Customer
Employees are not the only ones who suffer from poor facility management. Customers notice things, too. If buildings are in bad shape, equipment breaks down more often than it works. Orders can get delayed, the quality of your products and service decreases. Injuries become a regular occurrence. Your customers are going to pick up on this.
Their user experience will not be as good as it should be. Your brand, your reputation, and your source of income will be destroyed very quickly. Get it right, and your customer satisfaction jumps up too.
The scope of Facilities Management
Facility Management involves a broad scope of activities, each of which fulfills a specific purpose. The core facility management functions include the following.
Real estate management: Your role here intersects with the property manager. You keep the building safe, repairs up to date, and oversee the teams that keep it running.
Occupancy management: You use data and analytics to balance operational costs, effective use of space, employee well-being, productivity, and energy saving.
Maintenance management: You and your team plan and carry out the maintenance for all assets in the company. You also deal with any unplanned work that comes up.
Asset management: The lifecycle of all assets falls under you. You are responsible for the installation and training to maintenance and repairs and ultimately working with senior management and Finance to determine the best time to replace assets.
Financial and performance management: Using the information gathered in your CMMS, you can manage your inventory, budgets and have a clear line of sight into how each asset is performing and the costs incurred each month. With Limble, you’ll get automatically generated maintenance reports for the most important data you’ll ever need. If you want to take it a step further, you can generate custom reports based on the criteria you choose.
Building systems: Each building is unique. The majority of buildings come with fire systems and security systems, as well as HVAC. Some may have elevators, while others have been specially designed to suit your company’s needs. The management and maintenance of these systems are up to you.
Another popular way to look at facility management roles is to split them into two groups: Hard Facilities Management (Hard FM) and Soft Facilities Management (Soft FM).
Hard facilities management services (space and infrastructure)
Hard FM services focus on the physical components of the work environment and infrastructure. Most of them fall under the maintenance department. Here is an overview of hard facilities management services:
The plumbing system: This system plays an essential role in bringing water to a building and removing waste. Over time, blockages can occur, pressure builds up, and fixtures/piping must be replaced. As the Facility Manager, it’s your job to ensure that the plumbing system is regularly maintained and that the possible issues are fixed as quickly as possible.
Lighting and HVAC systems: You will work with your team to see if the lighting and heating fixtures need repair or replacement. It’s up to the team to decide the best solutions for cost and energy savings, comfort, and functionality.
Fire safety regulation compliance: Fire safety systems are required in most countries and must be regularly maintained and checked for compliance issues.
Mechanical & electrical systems: Keeping the electrical system running well to keep up with other building operations. The same goes for mechanical systems like elevators and water pumps. You and your team ensure they work properly and do not cause safety incidents.
Structural maintenance: Regular usage or even poor design can lead to structural issues over time. When it comes to buildings, weather and other elements can start to take a toll on the structures. Wind, sun, salt, and extreme temperature changes all play their part. As a part of facility management, there should be a structural maintenance plan to identify, classify, and deal with possible structural problems.
To successfully schedule, track, and manage all maintenance activities and work orders, facility management teams will often seek the help of computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) or Computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) software. We will discuss available software solutions in more detail towards the end of the article.
Soft facilities management services (people and organization)
On the flip side, soft facility management focuses on people and organizations. It includes services that create a more comfortable, healthier, safer, and visually appealing environment.
Common examples include:
Waste management: If waste is not managed, garbage bins become overloaded, and things become smelly. This is never a good thing. Waste management gets the garbage into the correct containers. It sends it away to make sure that you stay within regulatory requirements and prevent trash overcrowding.
Cleaning services: Custodial teams come in to clean common areas and perform other janitorial duties. Many companies will have their own janitorial staff, while others will choose to outsource.
Space planning: Space planning and management is an important part of facilities management. Whenever your company hires more people, expands to a new floor, buys new assets that take a big chunk of space, and wants to remodel the existing space, they will turn to you to help organize the space so that it remains comfortable, safe, and functional.
Landscaping: Well-maintained grounds improve curb appeal and signal top-notch property management. Your team takes care of the seasonal and non-seasonal changes, such as planting flowers in the spring, trimming the grass during the summer, removing falling leaves during the autumn, or removing excess snow from the walkway in the winter.
Pest control: These fall under your domain, be it scheduling seasonal pest controls or managing pest outbreaks if they ever happen.
Building security: Having control of people going in and out of the facility is something that almost every building these days requires. It can also involve the management of restricted access areas inside the facility.
EHS compliance: Defining and maintaining acceptable standards of comfort that might include temperature, noise, seating standards, and visual cues is imperative in every company. For example, selecting specific chairs that guarantee employee comfort for desk workers. Depending on the industry, EHS standards can differ widely. In a typical office setting, they may seem relatively tame. Still, in a pharmaceutical company where employees may be handling dangerous substances, standards will be different. EHS standards will change from business to business depending on the needs of the company.
What do Facilities Managers do?
As the Facility Manager, you are responsible for maintaining the organization’s largest and most valuable assets, such as property, buildings, equipment, and other environments that house personnel, productivity, and other operation elements. You are directly and indirectly responsible for employee experiences and customer satisfaction.
Your job is not just about fixing things that are broken. You are responsible for budgets, assets, scheduling, staff, security, and comfort. The ability to see the big picture, communicate with people, analytics, and organizational skills are rated as the most important skills for you to have.
You have to be a jack of all trades to do this job well. The support of a great team and the right software will help take you to the next level of your career.
A facilities manager can have a dozen balls up in the air on any given day. As a facility manager, you touch so many areas:
Property strategy: What’s the current property portfolio of the company? Do you lease or own? As the world turns, more and more companies are adopting remote work policies where employees can work from home at least some of the time. How your company approaches this major shift in the culture of work will also impact your needs for employee-occupied space into the future.
Space management: To piggyback on what was said above, are employees required to be in office? If not, there’s room for some creativity in space management. Perhaps changing to an “open office” layout where employees can “check out” a workspace as needed is a solution your company considers if employees work in a hybrid format.
Communications infrastructure: We’re talking phones (no pun intended), network cabling, server storage, and beyond.
General building maintenance: Depending on if your company leases or owns the building, maintenance responsibilities may shift. Many commercial building owners push a lot of maintenance responsibilities to the lease-holder, not everything and not all the time.
Testing and inspections: This is a part of routine maintenance. You regularly check in on assets and alarms to ensure that everything is up to code and working correctly. You also need to make sure that you are compliant with OSHA and other regulatory agencies (like FDA, if applicable to your industry).
Contract management: You have several service providers, and those contracts and relationships need to be managed. It’s your job to make sure these are kept up. Using Lmble makes managing vendors and their contracts easy!
EHS(environment, health, safety): Health and safety live with you, and it’s your job to make sure that the workplace is safe for everyone in it.
Security: Be it the locks on the doors, the security monitoring team or cameras, and any other part of security, these all fall under your jurisdiction.
Facility Maintenance planning: Predictive and preventative maintenance are best practices to keep your organization’s assets in working order. The planning of these is a crucial part of your role. Using Limble, you can plan, schedule, and report on your maintenance and use this information to collaborate with Finance on budget forecasting.
Managing renovations and refurbishments: The workplace is ever-changing. Offices get bigger or smaller, paint colors change, boardrooms are built. Renovations and refurbishments sit squarely with the facility professionals to manage. The same is true for capital projects. You will work with teams to build new facilities and expand the campus.
Inventory management: Knowing what you have and what you need, and the value of your inventory is an integral part of maintenance and cost management. Limble makes it possible to see the value of your stock at the click of a button, and the customized reporting helps you break it down any way you need to.
And in case you wanted more, you’re not done yet! You are also responsible for:
Advising businesses on measures to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the facility.
Supervising teams of staff across different divisions.
Dealing with emergencies as they arise.
Managing budgets; Planning for the future by forecasting the facility’s upcoming needs and requirements.
Helping with office relocations.
Drafting maintenance reports.
Should you bring FM in-house or outsource?
Making the decision to outsource or keep your facilities management in-house is a complex one. It depends on the factors like the type of facility you run, the size of your maintenance budget, and existing team.
In-house Facilities Management
Oversight: You have complete oversight of everything happening and can make split-second decisions about how you and your team react.
Cost control: you can control the costs (to an extent) of the repairs by keeping inventory in stock or shopping around for preferred pricing when you need something. You are also paying your team at your rate, not contractor rates.
Planning ahead: You can use preventive maintenance to manage upgrades and cut back on unexpected breakdowns. Ideally, this helps with budget forecasting too. Having an in-house team can help connect the dots between systems across the company, so everything is accounted for when budgeting.
Collaboration: Keeping your team in-house means that you can work with Finance to decide when the best time to replace equipment is based on performance and depreciation. This minimizes unnecessary spending and maximizes tax credits.
Specialized skills: As technology advances, maintenance work becomes more and more specialized. It’s hard to build a team with the right set of core competencies precisely because you will not have a guy for every little thing. This makes some outsourcing almost a necessity.
Waste: You can potentially wind up having a ton of unused equipment and expertise in your team just to fix a few highly specialized assets. Seeing expertise and equipment not being used doesn’t bode well for you.
Lots of management: Building the right team and hiring the right people to do the job takes time and needs constant oversight. You are no longer just a Facility Manager. You are now a people manager, expected to lead and develop others. You’ll also be responsible for contractor relationships and management, not to mention the possibility of additional insurance needed.
Outsourcing Facilities Management
Cost savings: Cutting costs is often the biggest benefit of outsourcing facilities management. When you outsource, you are not paying for round-the-clock employees on your team who may not be needed daily.
Less risk: Reduce your risk and liability if something goes wrong. Outsourcing puts the risk on another organization. Make sure that you do your homework and partner with a team you can trust.
Flexibility: Bringing in the experts with their hyper-specialized equipment as and when you need them instead of trying to do it yourself and potentially causing more damage or having expensive resources on your budget. You save time and money.
More expensive than you think: Ironically, outsourcing can cause costs to get out of control. You can run into situations where you have multiple vendors working on the same problem. You have little oversight of the work, who’s delivering on what, and you are left with multiple invoices to pay. If the impetus behind outsourcing is cost-saving, it may not work out that way. Having great partners with solid communication is your best line of defense here.
Still requires internal management: There are vendors to manage — lots of them! Someone on your internal team will still have to keep track of the work that needs to be done, who the right vendors are, inventory, etc. It’s almost like you can’t get away from FM no matter what you do!
Some say that the best approach is a hybrid of in-house to manage the day-to-day with outsourcing for highly specialized projects. For example, your team can change the bulbs and fix the heating, cooling, and electrical issues that crop up. Still, you’ll bring in a plumber or machine repair technician for the big stuff.
What could your facilities management department look like?
Your facilities management team should include people with different competencies. Of course, the size and structure of the team will depend on the size of your organization and, if any, possibly outsourced third-party contractors.
The size and structure of our team will be impacted by the industry. Suppose you’re a Facilities Manager for a big Finance company. In that case, it’s going to look a lot different than a Facilities Manager for a company that manufactures microchips for computers.
Software solutions that make Facility Management simpler, better, and faster
There are a lot of software solutions out there to help you plan and execute facility management. Let’s walk through some of the better options out there so that you can make an informed decision about the one that’s right for you, your team, and your organization.
Don’t be worried if you do not see a clear difference between some of them at first sight. They do have a lot of overlapping features.
As with every other software on this list, different software vendors offer different levels of functionality. It makes more sense to look at the exact features you need than to focus on labels like IWMS, CMMS, or CAFM.
CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System)
A CMMS is at the top of the list.
Using a CMMS like Limble can be a great way to help keep all your ducks in a row. You’ll be able to track workflows, report on repairs, easily keep an eye on the budget and find ways to cut costs if you need to.
Imagine how great it will be to be called into a meeting last minute and easily give feedback on the FM team’s work. It makes maintenance vastly easier by streamlining and automating all maintenance processes.
Track spare parts inventory and forecast future inventory needs
Effectively manage your assets
Easily manage vendors and contracts
Run any report you need or can imagine from your custom dashboards
When it comes to managing pure maintenance work, no one does it better than mobile-enabled CMMS software. In our (only slightly biased) opinion, Limble is the best option out there. Our customers have seen drastic reductions in downtime, increases in productivity, and saved lots of money and time.
CAFM (Computer-Aided Facilities Management)
CAFM is software that helps facility managers execute core functions. CAFM technology combines business administration, behavioral science, architecture, and engineering concepts to optimize the functioning of your organization. It can be helpful to think of computer-aided facility management as a comprehensive commercial facility or building maintenance tool with many different facets and functions.
The core difference between a CAFM and CMMS is that a CAFM focuses on the physical space and things. In contrast, a CMMS focuses on the management of maintenance.
If you need more from your CAFM, you can combine it with a CMMS to give your team more support.
EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) software
EAM software sits somewhere in between CMMS and CAFM. It gives a broader range of features than a CMMS, but most of them are focused on the maintenance department:
MRO inventory management
asset lifecycle management
reporting and analytics
Enterprise asset management can be used by production-oriented organizations to plan, optimize, execute, and track all maintenance activities with the associated priorities, skills, materials, tools, and cost. And EAM software is designed to support that idea.
IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management System)
The easiest way to describe it is that it usually offers everything you can find in a CAFM software, and then some. You can think of it as an all-in-one solution for facilities management.
Aside from the CAFM features listed above, IWMS can also include:
flexible real estate and lease management features
project management features
environmental management features
mailroom management features
visitor management features
On its own, this software solution would be lacking. But when paired with another more comprehensive tool, implementing an IWMS has the potential to be powerful.
Let’s first explain the acronyms:
BMS = building management system
BAS = building automation system
BEMS = building energy management system
BMS and BAS are often used interchangeably because they serve the same purpose. They combine hardware and software solutions to control different building systems like lighting, heating, HVAC, access control, etc. They can also be used to measure the performance and energy consumption of HVAC systems and other assets.
Facility managers have to keep an eye on energy consumption because it accounts for a big chunk of their facility’s operational costs. Building energy management systems help them measure energy consumption across the whole facility and find problematic systems and assets.
While BEMS and BMS can come together, they are usually standalone systems, implemented separately. That being said, they do work very well together. BMS/BAM primary function is to control building systems and assets. BEMS’ primary role is to collect and analyze energy consumption data (it can track everything from device electricity usage to water, gas, and steam consumption).
Security systems also come in different forms and offer a lot of diverse functionalities. You can use them to detect risks, record incidents, and perform risk analysis. They offer visitor management features ranging from facial recognition and badge scanning to video surveillance and capacity and occupancy tracking.
As with most things, different software offers different functions. Rather than looking at the labels, think about the exact features you need and use those to help you decide what’s best for your team and organization.
Moving your career in Facilities Management forward
Professional development in FM is just as important as it is in any other career. More now than ever, facilities professionals need an evolving set of skills to keep them sharp in a modern workforce.
Consider seeking out further training with online certification and degree programs to keep you competitive in today’s job market.
The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) offers training programs that are widely recognized by employers across the United States that have helped facilities managers get raises, promotions, and move their career forward. (For what it’s worth, Limble’s helped our customers get promotions too).
Facilities Management for today: Why it’s more important than ever
As the world continues to evolve, so does the need for better facility management. People don’t just go to an office with a desk and a chair; they go to a workspace focussed on employee well-being, automation, sustainability and impact, and evolving real estate models.
While all this growth and change occurs, software and other technologies are being developed to optimize building operations and create hyper-connectivity, regardless of where employees are.
Facility management for the modern world is now responsible for our spaces, physical and cyber security, well-being, resource consumption, and risk management. The work you do as a facility manager is vital to our future success.
COVID-19 has further proven the point of how essential it is. Facility management means that you need to be dynamic and flexible enough to install home offices remotely, set up workspaces that promote healthier lifestyles, or give enough space to distance from one another safely. You need to understand your organization’s sustainability requirements and environmental impact and find ways to reduce them.
The demand to be greener, safer, and more cost-effective trickles straight down to facilities management. Your ability to be agile and show your value will help bridge the gap between the C-suite, Finance, and Facilities. (We know you can do it)!
Before you go
We know that facilities management is one of the biggest and most critical roles in any company. You touch every department and more. Without you and your team, buildings could break, the equipment could fail, and employees and customers would be unhappy and at risk. Even though much of your work is behind the scenes, it is the lifeblood that keeps organizations running.
"I can track my inventory and it sends me emails when I'm running low on an item. Also that I can track how much time I'm spending on certain jobs over an extended period of time."
— Cody Jensen
Very easy to use, access
"I like the price, the fact I can see it on my phone or the computer. I like that it is internet-based."
— Curt Waisath
Valley Salt LLC
It just works
"Honestly - the customer support has been fabulous. We had a minor feature request that was deployed within 24 hours - which is unheard of. Even better when you consider our business is located in a completely different time zone (somewhere in Australia). Limble is quite intuitive and I love the ability to have assets nested within each other."
— Ed Cronin
Great for smaller or larger facilities
"We haven't fully integrated Limble yet but we are already seeing improvements in our efficiency. As we fully integrate Limble we expect to see more benefits and increase our response and completion times. The customer support has been outstanding. The Limble team is very quick to respond to any questions and they are very open to suggestions."
— Mike Hill
Children's Home of Lubbock
Limble is the best thing to happen to this company
"Limble does such a good job at keeping track of what's been done and letting me know when and what I need to do next."
— Tom Jones
Little Giant Ladder Systems
Great product at a great price
"Terrific customer service, easy to use, and at a great value. Our old Maintenance software was very difficult to use and was very expensive."
— Brian Williams
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