Digital Twins in Oil and Gas

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Information modeling is revolutionizing the oil and gas industry. While many people tend to think of fossil fuels as antiquated, digital twins in oil and gas have allowed the industry itself to remain on the cutting edge. From downhole modeling to well integrity monitoring, digital twins enable more efficient drilling and extraction operations. It all adds up to more sophisticated oil and gas extraction.

It’s digital twins and other intelligent systems that allow oil and gas to keep up with the affordability of newer alternative energy sources. By minimizing drilling ops costs and maximizing well production, companies are able to maintain better margins on these precious commodities. Here’s a look at the significance of digital twins in oil and gas.

What is digital twin in oil and gas?

To understand their impact, it’s best to start with a basic overview of what digital twins are in oil and gas. For all intents and purposes, they’re a virtual representation of drilling ops. They’re used for everything from scenario planning and situation modeling, to predictive maintenance and asset management. In a field as complex as oil and gas extraction, the insights provided by digital twins pave the way for more informed actions, from where to drill to how to move extracted product.

Oil and gas digital twins are dynamic. This means operators can see the different physical components of an extraction site, along with the data attached to them. What’s the flow rate of the well at this very moment vs. the average flow rate over the last week? What is the value of crude on-site right now? When is the boring equipment due for paraffin removal and cleaning? Populated with the right sources of data, digital twins provide ready answers to these questions and many others that affect the efficiency of oil and gas operations.

Examples of digital twins in oil and gas

Digital twins have gained popularity in the oil and gas industry over the last decade. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in energy has also made it more conducive for producers to start using digital twins. Perhaps the best example in the industry is APEX: British Petroleum’s digital twin infrastructure.

Used primarily as a well surveillance and production benchmarking tool, APEX helps BP optimize well efficiency. In 2017, BP attributed more than 30,000 additional barrels to optimization efforts from its digital twins. Much of this increased production came from simulations, using digital twin data to anticipate well yields.

In addition, APEX has also proven the effectiveness of digital twins as a cost-saving tool. After constructing digital twins for 11 of its refineries, Brazilian-owned refinery Petrobras estimated $154 million in combined top-line growth and bottom-line savings. These numbers, also dated to 2017, show the power of oil and gas digital twins in their infancy. Today’s technologies and IoT enablers offer even greater potential.

In a report published in November 2020, analytics firm Gartner offers yet another example of why digital twins have become darlings of the oil and gas industry. The report, titled The End of “Standard” Oil, exhibits the power of predictive analytics in rigging operations. It outlines the ability of one producer to detect the imminent failure of a major component on an offshore oil platform, thereby preventing downtime and potential environmental impacts. “By itself, this action produced payback on their digital twin investment in less than a year,” concludes the report.

How can oil and gas operators benefit from digital twin?

The examples above highlight the significant benefits of digital twins in oil and gas industry. But they’re only the tip of the iceberg. There’s a variety of ways digital twins can put oil and gas producers ahead of schedule and on-track to superior operations.

  • Production efficiency. Monitoring the production trends of wells, combined with geological data, enables more consistency and optimal production from reservoirs.
  • Preventive maintenance. A holistic picture of equipment and maintenance records provides insight into proactive opportunities, preventing the cost of downtime.
  • Scenario planning. Geological data and rig metrics can shed light on opportunities to drill better or to streamline operations around better, safer approaches to extraction.
  • Operations monitoring. Real-time data allows rig operators to understand how the well performs at any given time, and what to adjust to ensure optimal performance.
  • Compliance standards. Identify and eliminate compliance issues before they result in environmental damage and/or legal action and fines.

In short, digital twins provide the contextual data producers need to maximize every facet of operations: from identifying the best approach to drilling, to maximizing extraction, to maintaining safety and compliance standards. These benefits and more unlock top-line growth and bottom-line savings.

Reliance on digital twins is growing

Digital twins aren’t novel in the energy sector. World leaders like British Petroleum (BP) have relied on digital twins for years, and continue to use them to create virtual models of major production systems. In 2017, when the company launched its APEX digital twin system, BP calculated an additional 30,000 barrels as the result of enhanced production. With this kind of result, it’s difficult to understate the importance of digital asset monitoring.

Even in a world that’s increasingly turning to renewables, digital twins will continue to make oil and gas relevant. As these systems drive down the cost of production and optimize extraction performance, energy producers will continue to stretch their dollars thanks to digital twins.

Keep reading: Digital Twin Software: Maximize Solutions and Benefits


Digital Twin Energy Management: Preparing for Greener Infrastructure

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

We’re in the run-up to what could be a new age for the energy industry. With the climate change crisis top-of-mind, there’s a real focus on renewables and cleaner energy; specifically, establishing the infrastructure for these new technologies. As energy companies and municipalities look to a future of renewable infrastructure, they’re also paying mind to the importance of digital twin energy management.

Embracing green energy isn’t as simple as setting up solar arrays and wind farms. To get the energy from these generation points to the grid takes a modernized infrastructure. And, there’s a difference between cobbling together new energy systems and preparing the country for a future dependent on them. Here’s a look at why digital twinning in the energy industry is so vital for the future.

Green energy systems require modern architecture

There are layers of complexity in establishing a modern energy grid. For starters, the mode of clean energy generation is much more vast. Take solar power, for example. You can set up an array anywhere there’s plentiful sunlight. This means more opportunities for power substations around the country. More arrays mean a broader infrastructure network to build out—as opposed to centralized power plants outside of major cities.

There are also the generators themselves to consider. Solar arrays, wind turbines, and natural gas pumps represent modern hardware. Many of these systems are digitally enabled, which means the grid they tie into needs to be equally as intelligent. What good are a cloud-enabled accelerometer and voltmeter for a wind turbine if there’s no system to receive that data?

Digital twins provide the digital framework engineers and energy companies need to build out a more robust, more intelligent energy system. From point of creation to point of delivery, a digital twin provides end-to-end energy management capabilities.

Energy management goes both ways

Digital twins in energy are also important from a commoditization standpoint. A growing number of residential and commercial properties have their own energy generation equipment, independent from the grid. The ability to sell clean energy back to the grid means energy managers need a way to measure units of energy as commodities within the system.

How much energy did commercial property XYZ consume over the past 30 days? How much energy did commercial property ABC generate and sell back to the grid in that time? What is the net cost per kilowatt hour for the difference in energy delivered vs. returned? These are real questions that accompany a smarter energy grid. Digital twins help provide the context to answer them—and to optimize energy management.

Asset management is critically important

The asset management capabilities offered by digital twins makes them instrumental in establishing the new green energy infrastructure. Solar arrays, wind turbines, and other equipment are off-site and function independently, save for routine maintenance. Energy management companies need a way to monitor and manage these assets without babysitting them.

A digital twin can provide deep insight into the status and performance of point-of-generation equipment. Turbine revolution trends can tell a story of a potential problem if one generates fewer rotations than its peers on a wind farm. Likewise, a drop in pressure at a natural gas extraction site can alert maintenance teams to a fault before it results in outages. Digital twins are key in asset management, which paves the way for efficiency, reliability and consistency—must-have traits for energy producers, brokers, and consumers.

Local vs. regional vs. national systems

Let’s not forget that the United States isn’t on a single energy grid. Cities are independent of state and regional grids, which make up a patchwork national grid. While many systems are set up to freely exchange power, there are still obstacles. These obstacles will become more pronounced as local grids modernize faster than others.

Through digital twins, grid operators can instantly communicate with nearby municipalities to coordinate shortages or excesses. Moreover, they’ll have the ability to track and trace energy generation and utilization over broader ranges and service areas. If the grid in Tacoma, WA goes down and Seattle needs to supply power, they’ll have the systems oversight needed to sync up and jumpstart supply—all while keeping the receipts in order.

The energy sector is getting more complex

The digital twin energy sector use-case is only a small part of the modernization taking part in this sector. Energy management stands to benefit from a wealth of emerging technologies, including the likes of blockchain and machine learning.

From the production of green energy to energy sharing across grids and efficient cost control systems, there’s a lot riding on a modernization of the North American power grid. Digital twins help to ensure we’re approaching modernizations and advancements the right way—and that they make sense as part of a larger, more complex approach to energy management.

There’s a bright future for energy ahead, and it’s riding on the opportunities offered by digital twins.

Keep reading: Digital Twins in Oil and Gas


Five Smart Workplace Examples With Huge ROI Benefits

By Dave Clifton
Content Marketing Strategist

Most offices today have smart elements. There are smart workplace examples all around us—from simple motion sensor lighting to the access control system you use to badge in at work. And while most people don’t think twice about them, these systems offer incredible benefits for everyone who interacts with them. For businesses, there’s untold ROI that comes from investing in a smart workplace.

What is a smart workplace? It’s one that’s supported by an infrastructure of sensors, beacons, and software that augment the physical workplace. Floor sensors that show a digital meeting room as “occupied,” A beacon that recognizes your laptop and provides employee-only Wi-Fi access. A digital twin that congregates the entire office infrastructure into a powerful, visual dashboard. All these and more are elements of a smart workplace.

But what makes a workplace smart is the wherewithal of facility managers to apply these technologies in meaningful ways. Here are five pieces of tech and how, applied correctly, they can yield big returns for companies.

1. Workplace sensors

Workplace sensors are the bedrock of smart technology. There’s an abundance of sensor types and functions—everything from motion sensors to forced air temperature sensors. What makes them all so important within the smart building ecosystem is their programmability.

Most sensors are I/O sensors, which means they send a simple on/off trigger to the systems they’re paired with. That trigger, alongside other data, makes it possible to automate and improve virtually any part of the workplace.

  • Motion sensor lights reduce energy cost by staying on only when they’re needed
  • Occupancy sensors prevent overbooking in rooms, to avoid disruption
  • Temperature sensors ensure HVAC functions efficiently, to keep people comfortable

These improvements all have ROI attached to them, be it energy costs, man hours saved, or improved workplace comfort and morale.

2. Room booking software

Room booking software is a cornerstone of smart workplace management. Facility managers need a way to oversee and coordinate space utilization, to keep the workplace fluid, dynamic, and frictionless. Booking software creates this framework and makes it easy for employees to operate within it.

The ROI from room booking is scalable. For large companies, it might take the form of saved man hours by not wandering aimlessly to find a space. For smaller companies, it could manifest as bottom-line savings by controlling occupancy rates and costs. This software creates efficiency, which naturally results in ROI for businesses of all sizes.

3. Live-mode software

It’s important to test and analyze changes before making them in the workplace. Sudden changes could jar employees or create inefficiencies instead of solving them. It’s why facility managers turn to live-mode analysis for orchestrating workplace improvements. Not only does this perpetuate a data-driven response to workplace improvements, it allows for modeling and testing in a controlled environment.

The ROI of live-mode testing manifests in both top- and bottom-line efficiency. At the top line, there’s opportunity to create new productivity through more efficient workplace configurations. For the bottom line, eliminating inefficiencies generates saved costs. Live-mode planning is a smart workplace approach to making changes.

4. AutoCAD and BIM

Building modeling is becoming more and more important as facilities become more complex. To capitalize on GIS data, companies need a spatial representation of the building to match it against. Modeling through AutoCAD and BIM contextualizes the workplace for everything from digital twins to room booking software.

These software investments are the definition of enabling a smart workplace. They’re instrumental in mirroring the physical workplace in a digital space, to promote everything from better oversight to smarter innovation. The ROI benefits are limitless—or at least as diverse as the applications you’re able to integrate into CAD- and BIM-rendered versions of the building.

5. Access control

Access control is a defensive investment in smart workplace tech—and one many companies have already made. Paired with a digital twin and a beacon system, there’s even more untapped potential for access control that companies can leverage into ROI.

The biggest cost saving opportunity is avoiding a worst-case scenario—keep someone with malintent out of sensitives areas. Stolen IP or an attack on employees will end with huge liability costs. Access control offers ROI simply by avoiding these situations. In a more active contribution to ROI, it’s also important to consider the data generated by badging and access stats. It becomes easy to see and remedy accessibility problems by looking at smart badging data in the context of a digital twin or smart floor plan.

A smart step toward building intelligence

Used correctly, smart technologies lead to building intelligence. By themselves, these technologies can offer automation and insights, but it takes a commitment to innovation to realize their biggest benefits. As buildings become smarter, companies that look for ways to push the envelope using smart tech will find themselves operating workplaces that are efficient, productive, and adaptable.

Keep reading: How Can Smart Space Planning Software Improve Workplaces?


Five Digital Twin Examples Every Company Can Capitalize On

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

The concept of a digital twin isn’t all that difficult to understand. Where most businesses get tangled up is in the practical application of one. The sea of possibilities for creating an intelligent building is overwhelming, and many aren’t sure where to begin. It helps to have a few digital twin examples to go off of.

What is digital twin? For those who need a refresher, a digital twin is the digital copy of a physical building. Digital twins create a dynamic, digital picture of the many systems operating within facilities. They tie together processes, information, and systems to create dynamic insight into the function of the building.

What are the types of digital twin examples companies should expect to roll out in their own facilities? Here’s five practical applications that fit every company, regardless of size, industry, or location.

1. Asset monitoring

Asset monitoring and maintenance are a critical function of digital twins. From capital systems to simple assets like desks and chairs, the digital twin serves as a central repository for information about these assets.

When’s the last time a repair tech serviced the HVAC system? What is the trend for capital maintenance expenditures every month? How many of your standing desks are more than five years old? Digital twins provide accessible information about all these variables and more. This allows maintenance teams, facility managers, and stakeholders to understand the best course of action when it comes to asset management.

2. IoT visualization

As buildings become more complex and intelligent, digital twins serve to wrangle the many data-generating IoT devices within them. The digital twin makes it easy to see devices not only for what they are, but for the role they play in your facility. The occupancy sensor in a conference room isn’t just another sensor—it’s hooked into the room booking system and the CMMS ticketing system, for example. This context enables broader understanding of the IoT and its impact on facilities.

Digital twins in IoT are especially important for companies with a growing IoT. The opportunity to coordinate a buildout by visualizing need is something that leads to better ROI. You’re not just investing in devices and systems—you’re investing in solutions.

3. Information modeling

Digital twin software represents a digitization of physical workplaces. This means it’s ideal for information modeling. Facility managers and other stakeholders can quickly identify trends and pose questions that lead to workplace improvements. For example:

  • What percentage of total workspaces are individual workspaces?
  • What’s the current occupancy of individual workspaces vs. group spaces?
  • What is the cost per head for these spaces based on utilization?

This series of questioning—made possible through a digital twin—allows facility managers to model problems and solutions. If you increase the number of individual workspaces, does cost per head go down? Up? What does this mean from a workforce standpoint? Information modeling through digital twins enables constant opportunities for innovation.

4. Access control

While access control is a system all its own, it’s made even more effective and efficient via a digital twin. Instead of merely allowing (or blocking) access, digital twins turn access control systems into data generating features that paint a picture of workplace utilization. For example, it might show that employees on the fifth floor travel to different floors too often to use a conference room. These types of insights can alert facility managers to inefficiencies they might never have realized.

Digital twins also paint a more inclusive picture of access control at a user level. What areas do people in Group B have access to that Group A doesn’t? How many users are in Group F and what level of access do they have? These top-down access control insights make an already familiar system more efficient and useful within facilities.

5. Sustainability initiatives

Digital twins recognize the building as a collection of capital systems. This layered approach to looking at HVAC, plumbing, electricity, waste management, and other vital systems opens the door for both cost-saving initiatives and greener ones.

Through information modeling capabilities, facility managers can make improvements that center on sustainability. For example, instituting a recycling program may actually lower your waste management costs by $X. A digital twin helps model the benefits by showing historical data about waste management and incorporating cost data from the proposed plan. Stakeholders can oversee the recycling program through the digital twin in the form of assets and cost data fed into it through invoicing and maintenance logs.

Digital twins pave the way for innovation

Digital twins provide important insights when it comes to the design, planning, and execution of these core operational tasks. Maintenance managers can use digital twin data to inform a more proactive asset maintenance strategy. Facility managers can model new, more efficient workspaces. Companies can become leaner, greener, and more cost-efficient by looking at the data present within a digital twin. As a mirror of the physical space, a twin will inform the best course of action for optimizing it.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software


What Are Smart Workplace Solutions?

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

The concept of a smart workplace is easy enough to understand. It’s one that uses technology to make the lives of employees simpler and to improve the productivity and efficiency of the business. But what are smart workplace solutions, really? Solutions imply outcomes from the technology, which means looking closer at how it specifically benefits those using it. Think about it from a benefit vs. feature standpoint. How does the smart office yield improvements?

Understanding smart workplace solutions is the easiest way to close the gap between an investment in smart technologies and the ROI that justifies them. Here’s a look at some of the workplace solutions smart technologies enable.

Wayfinding, room booking, and reservations

On campuses or in large office buildings, it can be difficult to navigate. Whether it’s your first time there or you’re looking for a particular space, you need to know the best way to get to where you’re going. In a smart workplace, the solution is wayfinding software—as well as room booking and reservation software. These smart workplace solutions bridge the gap between need and solution, to make the workplace more accessible.

Malik needs a six-person workspace in Building F. He books a room using the company’s reservation system, then taps the wayfinding icon for quick directions. For added convenience, he can also calendar the reservation and directions straight to the meeting invitees. It’s an efficient solution that saves time and frustration.

This simple convenience makes the workplace more accessible and gives employees the confidence to navigate it fluidly.

Floor plan design and optimization

As workplaces continue to evolve, smart workplace management will play a bigger role in shaping the space employees need. Understanding the types of workspaces that support your employees best comes from breaking down the data provided by smart workplace tech to derive meaningful conclusions.

Leanne compiles desk booking information from the last six months. She realizes that collaborative spaces that accommodate four people are the most popular, while spaces meant for eight people see almost no use. She uses this data to reconfigure the workplace to include more four-person spaces and fewer eight-person spaces. Workspace utilization increases, according to data three months later.

Here, a data-driven approach to floor plan design and optimization ensures everyone has the right space to work.

Asset maintenance and management

Smart technologies are hugely beneficial for asset monitoring and maintenance. The ability to manage assets via a digital twin software or glean quantifiable insights from an integrated smart sensor provides facility professionals with a wide range of opportunities for improvement. Often, it’s these opportunities that transform the workplace from a smart one to an intelligent one.

Lorenzo is head of the maintenance department. He needs to provide an annual budget to the CFO, complete with any capital expenses the business should anticipate. He looks through digital twin data and finds that the rate of service calls on the roof stack heating system have gone up year over year. He also sees that the unit is eight years past its anticipated service life. He contacts a vendor for a replacement estimate, to budget accordingly.

From capital systems to smaller investments, access to data from the smart office provides a foundation for understanding the lifespan, ROI, cost of ownership, and service record of assets.

Energy efficiency and sustainability

At a time when the Triple Bottom Line is becoming more important to businesses, sustainability initiatives are on the rise. Digital workplace solutions provide the backdrop for investment in these initiatives.

XYZ Company installs rooftop solar panels. Smart sensors calculate how many kilowatts the panels generate on average each day. That data helps offset carbon energy costs, which the company can include in its annual shareholder report. It also qualifies the company for green energy tax deductions, based on the amount of power generated.

In this situation, a smart workplace solution (the shift to green energy) results in multiple benefits for the company, shareholders, and the environment. They’re justifiable and quantifiable by the smart systems that power them.

Smart systems pave the way for smart solutions

Smart workplace solutions bridge the gap between technologies and outcomes. Companies need to find ways to use the data generated by smart workplace tech to improve processes and create better outcomes. This could be as simple as using motion sensors to show room occupancy. Or, it might be as complex as observing GIS data to understand the true cost per square foot of a workplace—and if it’s justified.

There’s a whole world of smart building tech out there, but it’s useless unless applied correctly. Facility managers need to focus on solutions-driven investments as they enhance the workplace. Results beget more confidence about smart buildings, which leads to further investments and future innovation.

Keep reading: The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings


Corrective Maintenance Examples

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Facility maintenance takes many forms depending on the approach. For most of us, corrective maintenance examples are the most recognizable—maintenance that resolves a problem before it becomes a bigger one. It’s a type of maintenance used to rectify a problem as opposed to preventive maintenance which, you guessed it, prevents a problem.

Corrective maintenance plays an important role within the broader scope of maintenance operations. And while it’s not always the best course of action, it’s often the most practical in facilities. Outside of essential systems, the prevailing theory is often, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” As a result, corrective maintenance is often the default approach.

What is corrective maintenance?

Corrective maintenance is a self-explanatory term. It’s ordered to correct an inefficiency or small issue that could result in a bigger problem. The faucet has already begun leaking; corrective maintenance will fix the leak and solve the problem before it causes water damage, which would require full-blown repair.

If we think of maintenance as a spectrum—from proactive to reactive—corrective maintenance is to the right of the scale, opposite preventive maintenance, but just short of reactive maintenance. It’s a reactive form of maintenance that restores whatever is broken to its standard form of operation.

Corrective maintenance is typically the default maintenance mode for anything not anticipated or tracked. For example, if you know the elevator needs servicing bi-annually, it’s not corrective maintenance when it comes up on the schedule. On the other hand, an unplanned decision to re-stripe the employee parking lot is a corrective action.

What is an example of corrective maintenance?

In an office environment, corrective maintenance can take many forms. Virtually any small unplanned issue can lead to corrective maintenance. The best example of good asset management through corrective maintenance is with the building itself.

While office structures require some maintenance, much of it falls into the corrective basket. Think about different materials. Take glass, for example. You don’t proactively maintain office windows (other than to clean them). Instead, you correctively maintain them if there’s a damage seal or a scratch in the pane. The same goes for an exposed brick wall or wooden joists, or tile flooring. There are very minor upkeep services involved with these materials, but no real maintenance—until it becomes a necessity. It’s difficult to be proactive when there’s nothing to be proactive about.

Corrective building maintenance is best-suited to fixing unanticipated problems and tending assets that otherwise need very little oversight. Not only does it allow for lower costs, it lets maintenance teams to redirect their attention to the systems that do qualify for a preventive or condition-based maintenance approach.

Other examples of corrective maintenance

The building isn’t the only contender for a corrective maintenance approach. Consider some of the other business assets that are relatively innocuous within the workplace, which don’t need oversight beyond corrective problems if and when they occur:

  • Furniture upkeep falls into corrective territory. Other than an occasional cleaning to keep it fresh, furniture demands very little oversight. There are no consumables to contend with and nothing that might qualify for preventive repairs.
  • Lighting is a corrective maintenance candidate. You wouldn’t replace a lightbulb that still works—unless it was to upgrade the bulb. Instead, you wait for the bulb to burn out before replacing it.
  • Capital systems are sometimes subject to corrective maintenance. For example, if during a planned maintenance inspection a technician notices a problem causing inefficiency, corrective maintenance can restore it. It’s part of planned service initially, but the service delivered is corrective in nature.

Corrective maintenance may rely on a small problem developing to kickstart the process, but it’s an important opportunity to ensure bigger problems aren’t lurking down the line. If you fix a leaky faucet and the leak comes back a month later, you’re not performing corrective maintenance—you’re putting a bandage on the problem. True corrective maintenance fixes the issue so it doesn’t return.

Is corrective maintenance the best approach?

While waiting for a problem to develop might seem like the best approach to maintenance, that plan can backfire in a big way when it comes to capital systems. Consider something like HVAC maintenance. Would you rather budget $250 per quarter for inspections and service or $12,000 for a new system? Capital systems are evidence that corrective maintenance is part of a holistic maintenance approach—one that includes preventive, demand, and condition-based maintenance.

In many situations, corrective maintenance is the answer. There’s no reason to replace the copy machine toner until it’s depleted, for example. It’s all about knowing which maintenance approach is a best-fit for the asset you’re maintaining. Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine which maintenance mode is the most cost-efficient and least disruptive. More often than not, for stable assets, corrective maintenance is the right approach.

Keep reading: What is Facilities Maintenance Support Services?


Seven Considerations for Returning to the Office

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Bringing employees back into the office post-pandemic is a strange experience for everyone. For employees who haven’t seen their workplace in a year or more, the return can seem both familiar and foreign. For employers, there’s a slew of new considerations for returning to the office, and there’s not always a plan for how to address them. Without a well-thought-out approach an abrupt move-back isn’t benefitting anyone. Instead, take a moment to consider how to facilitate a smooth return.

Bringing people back into the office safely and comfortably starts with a review of what’s changed. In some cases, it means reviewing new workplace guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, and other government entities. In other cases, it’s about taking into consideration best-practices and methodologies from experts and thought leaders. And, of course, it’s vital to listen to the concerns and expectations of employees.

The workplace may look familiar, but from here on out, it’s going to operate differently. It needs to, to accommodate an agile workforce in a post-pandemic work environment. Here’s how to make the return to office work smooth and comfortable, even in spite of the changes.

Return to work considerations for employers

When approaching an unfamiliar situation like a return to the office after an extended hiatus, the first and biggest consideration is all of the new variables involved. With perspective, a smooth return becomes a matter of building these new considerations into a viable plan. From social distancing to health and safety, here’s a look at the seven chief considerations for a return to the office.

  1. Infrastructure. Post-pandemic workplaces need to strongly reconsider the physical limitations of the space they operate within. Everything from desking concepts to distancing guidelines will change the dynamic of the space, and adapting means being able to look at available space through a new lens. How much square footage do you operate and what’s the new value of that space?
  2. Sanitization. Employees need to feel safe in their workplace. Beyond supplying hand sanitizer and cleaning products, companies need to develop systems for sterilizing and sanitizing workstations and shared environments between uses. Ask yourself if your CMMS or IWMS platform offers the ability to create booking buffers and automate cleaning tickets to expedite the time between uses in a safe way.
  3. Flexibility. The workforce has become more agile since the pandemic, which means supporting flex schedules, distributed teams, and modern concepts like hoteling. Aside from acclimating employees to more dynamic desking concepts, companies also need to make investments in software and systems to facilitate increased flexibility within the workplace. A smooth back-end system translates to an easier, more familiar experience for employees.
  4. Exposure. How can you structure the workplace to mitigate unnecessary exposure between employees—and to create contract tracing in the event of illness? Companies need to consider the logistics of their workplace environment before they bring people back, to anticipate and eliminate unchecked exposure situations. This requires consideration for everything from desking concepts, to office flow, to sanitization guidelines.
  5. Distancing. Distancing guidelines won’t disappear after COVID-19. Now’s the time to reassess office floor plans to create distance and comfort for employees. It’s also prudent to create new distancing policies and familiarize employees with them before they come back into the office. Distancing will give employees a sense of personal space and comfort, which can ease the return to a physical workplace and expedite the transition back to a normal work routine.
  6. Local conditions. Companies need to be cognizant of the local climate beyond their own workplace. While the U.S. is vaccinating at a rapid pace, vaccination rollout around the globe isn’t as quick. Companies with offices around the world need to take a return to the office on a case-by-case basis. It might be safe for a fully vaccinated office in Atlanta to come back to the workplace, but a partially vaccinated staff in Seoul might still be several weeks away from a return.
  7. Employee sentiment. Forcing employees back into the office is a recipe for frustration and low morale. For many organizations, flex work is a great compromise. For businesses where interoffice work is imperative, it’s vital to listen to employee concerns and make concerted efforts to address them.

Bringing employees back into the office takes more effort than putting up partitions and moving desks apart. In many cases, it means reassessing the way the office operates—both physically and procedurally. Consider these seven variables and use them to influence your decision-making process as you re-shape the workplace for a post-COVID-19 world.

Returning to work after COVID-19

Don’t get trapped in the mindset that these considerations are temporary. COVID-19 spurred new focus on workplace safety and utilization, and its effects are ongoing. From distributed teams to flex work policies, the workplace doesn’t play the same role it once did for companies. This isn’t to say it’s less valuable in any way—in fact, it’s even more valuable to the people relying on it to regain a sense of normalcy in their work habits. It’s up to companies to provide this normalcy via a smooth transition into a safer, more thoughtfully designed workplace.

Keep reading: Post-COVID Return to Work


Long-Term Remote Working: Six Must-Have Keys to Success

Remote Working Trends and Options: Eliminating DesksBy Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

Remote work is here to stay. The prospect of long-term remote working is yet another chapter in the long history of workplace evolution, and companies need to adapt. That doesn’t mean pivoting to accommodate this change temporarily—it means setting up for flex work, distributed teams, and remote employees as the new standard.

Is working remotely effective? All signs point to yes, which is all the more reason for companies to get behind the trend and start adapting. It’s not as simple as allowing employees to log in and work from home. Embracing remote work means companies need to reestablish expectations, create new processes, and give employees new opportunities to be productive.

Here’s a look at six must-have keys to success and the role they play in a sustainable shift to remote work and distributed teams.

1. Remote accessibility

Remote work demands remote accessibility. Employees need access to the same digital resources they would use in-office. This goes beyond access to an email server or the company cloud. It needs to encompass the complete suite of apps, programs, and tools they need to do their job. For many companies, this means looking into licensing and cloud-based platforms, to ensure everyone has access no matter where they’re working from.

Companies moving to remote work permanently need to also consider cybersecurity. Opening up access to a wide array of applications, data, and systems means shoring up practices and protocols that might leave the company and employees vulnerable. Make cybersecurity a priority to enable safe accessibility for all.

2. Collaborative tools

Remote work often means working alone, but it doesn’t need to command isolation. There are a plethora of collaborative tools out there, and companies need to leverage as many as needed to enable distributed teams. From file repositories like Dropbox to collaboration through Google Docs, give teams the tools they need to be productive as one.

Among the most important collaborative tools are project management platforms. From keeping people on-task to delegating amongst the team, these apps serve as a home-base for bringing teams together. As an added bonus, there’s opportunities for management to communicate with staff, track progress, and weigh in on problems.

3. Seamless communication

Communication goes hand-in-hand with collaboration. Thankfully, there are so many applications out there that combine them. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Discord, and Facebook Messenger all help employees maintain communication in a broad capacity. Whether it’s weighing in or asking questions, a trusted means of communication is the backbone to any successful remote work migration.

While it’s vital for working together, good communication also plays a role in helping employees adapt to a new remote work norm. They need to be able to chat with employees in the same way they would in-office, with opportunities for banter and off-task chatting. Even something as simple as the #random Slack thread serves an important purpose.

4. Engaged leadership

Managing a remote team successfully comes from learning to balance a hands-on approach with a trusting one. Leaders need to position themselves as accessible and available to solve problems, while maintaining the role of authority. While the tendency might be to hold the reins tighter, it’s actually smarter to give them some slack. Employees need to adjust and feel like they have room to adjust. Bearing down on them can taint the allure of remote work.

The most important trait of remote managers? Empathy. Emotional intelligence and the ability to empathize with each individual’s unique situation creates mutual trust between leaders and subordinates. “I give you the freedom and understanding to do a good job; you prove to me that you can do it your way.”

5. Flex work solutions

Remote work doesn’t signal a death knell for the office. Many employees like the office and the familiarity of going to work. Whether they choose to come back to the office full time, split their schedule, or show up at random, there need to be desking options available to them. This is why hoteling is so popular in the age of flex work. Like remote work, it gives employees the power to choose their own work style and provides a framework for support around that optionality.

6. Patience and flexibility

Even the best digital resources and agile strategies aren’t enough to make a remote work situation successful if they’re not backed by patience and flexibility. Companies need to show clear support for their employees and provide them with peace of mind as they transition remote. That means easing the transition, checking in on the adjustment process, and putting emphasis on trust. Employees need to feel excited about the transition and feel comfortable reestablishing their own habits in their own way. If they feel supported, they’ll adapt quickly.

These six keys add up to a remote work approach that’s designed to foster success. Remote work solutions need to enable employees, support teams, and benefit the business. The above focus items do exactly that. Most companies have some semblance of a remote work system in-place. Use this roadmap to fill in the blanks, to make it more effective and, most important, sustainable.

Keep reading: Remote Working Trends and Options: Eliminating Desks


What is Demand Maintenance in Facilities Management?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Especially in larger workplaces, it’s virtually impossible to keep tabs on every single facet of maintenance. Larger companies rely on employees to be their eyes and ears for emergent aspects of facility upkeep. Support ticketing and incident reporting unlock a new aspect of facilities maintenance: demand maintenance.

What is demand maintenance? It’s on-demand facilities maintenance that pairs prompt solutions with emergent problems. It’s the perfect way to augment a maintenance continuum that already includes preventive, reactive, and corrective maintenance. To work effectively, it requires a robust system of incident reporting and the means to respond to tickets submitted.

An overview of on-demand facilities maintenance

Demand maintenance consists of tasks performed out of necessity. These are issues that require reactive repair, and the best way to learn about them is through ticketing and reporting. Judith reports a problem with the standing desk at Workstation 044. Maurice submits a ticket about a parking lot pothole. These are problems that are emergent, but not urgent. They’re likely to go unresolved until someone reports them. When reported, it shows demand for service.

There’s also a planned component to demand maintenance, where applicable. Pest control, for example, is a form of demand maintenance. It’s best not to wait for a pest problem to generate demand. It also falls outside the realm of preventive maintenance, since there’s no guarantee of a pest problem by not treating for them. In such a case, there’s still demand for the service.

Demand maintenance needs a system to function

Demand maintenance only works if there’s a system to qualify demand and justify a solution. Companies need to rely on a software infrastructure—the likes of a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), or similar. It’s easy to program ticketing software to quickly categorize types of maintenance and assign them appropriately.

For example, the system might flag the words “elevator” and “broken” in a ticket, then mark that ticket as “specialized.” The in-house team will review and confirm, and schedule an elevator repair specialist. On the other hand, if the ticket is about something simple, it gets filed into the daily queue and assigned to a maintenance staff member.

The key in meeting demand maintenance is follow-through. A CMMS or other routing system is great for processing requests. But who’s filling those requests? It depends on the nature of the demand. There are two ways to approach facility maintenance on demand: in-house and outsourced. For most companies, the solution is a mixture of both.

Small, common problems are quick to address in-house, while specialized solutions may come from a vendor. It’s the difference between fixing a door and repairing an elevator. In many cases, an integrated facilities maintenance approach is the solution: a single-source provider that can act with agility.

How demand maintenance augments other maintenance

Demand maintenance is an agile form of maintenance that augments a broader facilities upkeep approach. It falls somewhere between corrective and reactive maintenance. It’s reactive in the sense of solving a problem that’s already happened, yet corrective in the sense that you can plan an on-demand solution and coordinate the best approach.

Demand maintenance also offers benefits that other forms of facility upkeep can’t. The simplest is employee ownership. When employees submit a ticket and see that problem resolved, they feel good about it. They vocalized a problem and saw action, which fosters a better culture. Employees are proud to help maintain their workplace and appreciate the ability of the company to listen to them and respond.

Flexibility is also important. It’s impossible to be proactive in every form of maintenance—yet, pure reactive maintenance might not be the best solution. Demand maintenance is an intermediary for businesses. And, with a CMMS to gather data about demand maintenance tasks, it’s possible to improve preventive and planned budgets, while optimizing responsiveness to reactive maintenance tasks.

Reap the benefits of on-demand solutions

Demand maintenance exists to safeguard against the unplanned and unanticipated. There’s no telling when the chair at Workstation 032 will break or if the refrigerator in the break room will suddenly die. These problems aren’t on a routine checklist and there might not be a corrective solution. Instead, these problems get resolved when they’re reported. It’s up to facilities managers to create a system for reporting them.

Demand maintenance is only as effective as it’s enabled to be. A robust reporting and ticketing system, budget allocations, and actionable solutions are what make it an integral part of total facilities maintenance.

Keep reading: Get Familiar with a Facility Maintenance Plan