April 2, 2018
By Tom Buiocchi
Last year, employee wellness trends exploded in offices across the country. Companies used technology to effectively analyze and predict staff needs to ensure a healthier and more productive workforce. But optimal employee health is just half the battle — what about equipment they use and the facilities they work in? Even the most productive people can only do so much without a healthy, productive, and safe environment.
There are well over two million physical locations in the United States that are part of “multi-site” organizations, spanning dozens of industries, including retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and other “chain-like” enterprises. And while each business has its own set of goals, challenges, and strategies, one factor remains uniform across the board: All need to provide exceptional customer (and employee) experience.
Customer experience has replaced price as the baseline differentiator between success and failure for many of these organizations, as e-commerce and other trends have forced them to respond. Obviously there are scores of approaches to achieving this goal, but there is one basic, yet often overlooked vehicle for experience that must be a priority: maintaining safe, clean, and well-functioning facilities and equipment.
Addressing the business of facility maintenance requires organizations to take a proactive stance toward their facilities and equipment management. That is, merely reacting to maintenance issues as they pop up is a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that can jeopardize the perception that consumers have of said business.
The good news is that technologies that seemed so futuristic just a few years ago are rapidly becoming mainstream just about everywhere — from the humble neighborhood fitness center to the most automated warehouse. One such technology is the Building IoT, or the Building Internet of Things. IoT itself is defined as a collection of “connected devices” that can transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
IoT belongs in the category of digital transformation technologies that are designed to revamp the user experience positively. When addressing equipment wellness trends, there’s no doubt that Building IoT-enabled devices offer a huge advantage over legacy equipment. In terms of equipment management, Building IoT drives intelligence: Connected equipment has the ability to (for example) self-diagnose and initiate a repair and maintenance work order when it senses possible failure or other issues. Sounds futuristic? The future is here now, and is coming to a store/restaurant/hospital near you sooner than anyone might think.
The other piece of the facility and equipment management puzzle is data analytics. It can be argued that the most effective tool businesses have to better manage equipment is data; however, tracking and analyzing equipment use has to go beyond simply placing a checkmark on a planned maintenance schedule for all equipment. That is, of course, because some equipment will be more utilized than others, requiring more repair and maintenance attention.
The technology tools that are readily available to facility managers enable them to take a holistic look at the health of their capital equipment. This view might include tracking use data, service records, and warranty coverage information and history, on a per-device basis. The data and the insights gained proves valuable for companies looking to make more informed repair-or-replace decisions that can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
Granted, adopting these new technologies and operational practices can involve a sea change for facility operators who are accustomed to doing things a certain way. The motivation for making the change is simple, however: a better customer/employee experience and a healthier bottom line.
Digital transformation has driven customer experience from an expectation among users to a currency that defines the success (or failure) of businesses today. Among the many industries included in the two million physical locations noted above, there is perhaps no factor that affects overall experience as intensely as the state of its physical presence.
With consumer standards higher than ever and growing, maintaining facilities and equipment at the highest standard is not something operators can ignore. It may require them to make some bold steps in transforming their operations, but as the old adage goes, no pain, no gain.
Tom Buiocchi is CEO of ServiceChannel.