Innovation or cost reduction in Facilities Management?

Back pack vacuum cleaners, condition based maintenance, day cleaning and handheld  technologies. Many of us who work within Facilities Management would recognise and accept these as examples of innovation that have been introduced over the last few years, with varying degrees of success.

Anyone who is either managing, commissioning or delivering Facilities Management services within Europe will be under pressure to drive change. This change will often come under the banner of innovation but, in today’s world of facilities, are there really opportunities for innovation or is the task we are set really just about cost reduction?Facilities management innovation or cost reduction?

The Facilities Management market, across Europe, is both complex and diverse with services being managed and delivered in a wide variety of formats, using a huge range of models including in-house, self-performance and management-led to name a few. One feature that is common across all of these scenarios, however, are the institutional and corporate drivers that shape the scope and standard of the services being managed and
delivered. These drivers can be broadly grouped into three categories; firstly the standardisation and improvement of standards within the workplace, secondly increasing the efficiency in the occupation and use of the workspace and finally simple cost saving. Often the overall objective placed on facilities teams is not one but a combination of these three.

In meeting these objectives we, in Facilities Management, are traditionally called upon to look at the specification of services, outsourcing of supply solutions, the equipment / technology and the staffing arrangements from management through to delivery teams. Using our collective skills we review, refine, design and optimise our service organisations, processes and tools in order to deliver the requirements of our employers, clients and customers. Having refined, optimised and achieved this we are then challenged to deliver innovation as well.

So, what is innovation and why are we being asked to deliver it? To answer this question we must first take a step back and think carefully about what Facilities Management really represents. There have been numerous attempts, over the last thirty years, to define Facilities Management but in the context of innovation we are really talking about a range of services that are, almost exclusively, managed and/or delivered by human beings. These humans use tools and processes to enable the services to be delivered and it is only in these two areas that innovation can truly be sought.

There have been a few genuine innovations in the tools that we use across Facilities Management but there can be no argument that the use of computers is the single biggest step forward that we have seen. It is my contention, however, that there has been little or no real innovation in the use of computers since the first maintenance management systems were launched, there have however been numerous and very valuable developments and enhancements.

In considering processes, again I have found limited evidence or solid examples of genuine innovation, mainly just improvement, refinement and efficiency on processes that have existed for decades or more.

Why is it then that we are constantly challenged to seek and deliver innovation? I can only conclude that the answer is the reduction of cost and that this is the real motivation for our employers, clients and customers.

I believe, as a Facilities Management community, we should be strong in our response to the pursuit of innovation and not be afraid to challenge and respond with our own question; “are you really seeking innovation or just lower cost?”.

Andrew Smart, Head of FM EMEA

Andrew Smart MBIFM

Head of Facilities Management EMEA

This article was first published in EuroFM Insight June 2016.

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