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Maximizing IoT Value in FM: Performance, Productivity, and Predictability

By Sudhi Sinha

Facility managers have numerous stakeholders to satisfy who expect comfort and safety at all times. When issues do arise, they must be addressed quickly. And, of course, there should be no impact from any building improvement projects. The service team has to address complaints from occupants and ensure equipment and systems in the building are functioning properly, all within a limited budget. Adding to the challenge is finding qualified employees to maintain the systems.

The executive team, on the other hand, is looking at how best to extend the asset life and the value of the property. They are constantly looking at reducing the operating cost of the building, including energy costs. The need for improvements that both the facility service team and occupants do not have bandwidth or time to deal with further complicates the issue.

Often, the suppliers and contractors struggle to keep up with spare parts and maintenance activities while finding qualified resources to support the facility manager. Building systems are very complex to maintain, with a life span typically only half that of the building they are supporting. Ultimately, a major reconstruction of the building systems will be required.

The diversity of usage, occupancy, evolution of technology, and changing external factors (such as weather) mean that customer expectations are always evolving. As our lives become increasingly connected and responsive, so do the environments where we live, work and travel.

In short, buildings are living entities.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not hype and will have a transformative effect on facility management. Data is driving a digital transformation in buildings. The growth of connected devices in homes and buildings and the favorable technical and economic tailwinds reaffirm the industry’s conviction around this transformation.

This transition will be similar to the switch from pneumatic to digital controls, and IoT can be equally confusing for facility operators. There are lots of examples of applying unique IoT technology for solving specific problems. However, there are very few frameworks to help us understand the value of IoT in the context of facilities management and to help personnel capture that value. The framework presented below will address this challenge.

Let’s call it the 3P framework: performance, productivity, and predictability. These dimensions have a self-reinforcing effect on each other. A more predictable facility operation can lead to better performance of the assets and teams working on them, which will lead to better productivity of people and systems within the facility. An easy way to structure the impact of IoT on facilities management is to consider the following factors within the 3P framework:

1. Performance. How is your facility operating against acceptable benchmarks around energy, operating cost, compliance, safety, and other factors related to your type of facility? This becomes important to keep operating costs manageable.

2. Productivity. What is the productivity of the people and assets in your facility? If unsure, ask yourself these questions:

• Are the spaces organized for efficiency and collaboration? Are they optimally allocated in proportion to the expected outcome of the group? Is there opportunity for seamless movement and functioning within the spaces? Do assets create a positive sense of comfort, safety, and health for the people? Is the value of assets rapidly diminishing due to rising operating and maintenance costs?

• All of these considerations lead to better productivity. Many hypotheses suggest that productivity has 100 times the impact on organizational performance compared to cost savings in a facility. While there is not enough empirical evidence to prove that, it is generally accepted that productivity matters more because of its direct impact on revenue and value. 

3. Predictability. How much do you want to know, and have the ability to know, about the functioning of different assets in your facility?  How about knowing what your cost structure for operations will be? Given the dynamic and demanding nature of facility operations, some future predictability is always useful, especially since forecasting and budgeting is one of the biggest challenges for facility managers.

Before you make a major commitment to any program or implementation of IoT to transform your facility, it will be useful to review a few foundational elements:

• Do you have specific goals for performance, productivity, and predictability (3P goals) improvements? Are they tangibly linked to the organization’s business outcomes? Do you have a way to measure the success of achieving these goals?

• Do you have executive buy-in from your business leadership to be invested in your efforts over a longer time period and confidence that they are not going to change course based on next quarter’s performance?

• Based on your 3P goals, how many of your devices and systems are sensorized, and how much data can be digitally collected? Your technology and implementation strategy has to account for your data collection and telemetry capabilities.

• Do you have the platform and analytics engine to make sense of sensor data, derive insights, and drive actions? Does the platform have building context? Often, vendors will lead you down the path of point solutions and generic platform capabilities. Instead, have a conversation about how different the context of buildings is and why you need a comprehensive approach.

• Is your operations and maintenance staff trained? Are your vendors aligned? Relying on insights as opposed to experiences and focusing on reliability instead of relationships are two simple but profound changes. You can bring in any amount of transformative technology, but without sufficient change management, there will always be low adoption and low realization of benefits. 

These recommendations are a way to get started with understanding and optimizing the value of IoT for facility management. Every facility and every situation is unique, so you will have to adapt to and embrace the possibilities of IoT and work with experts you trust.

Sudhi Sinha, vice president and general manager, Data-Enabled Business, Johnson Controls. For more information on the nuances of IoT and how to apply them, see Building an Effective IoT Ecosystem for Your Business.

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posted on 10/20/2017