Workplace Technology Assessment
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By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering
Facility management, as a profession, isn’t new. But commercial real estate trends and advanced technologies are driving new ways to manage and improve the workplace. Tech now allows companies to quantify workplace spends and is setting the stage for workplace management’s next phase—the automated facility management system.
Automation technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. While you might be able to ask your home voice assistant to turn on the lights or lock the doors, the office Internet of Things (IoT) shows vastly more potential. Today, companies run complex facility management processes through their IoT. These automations help them function smarter, better maintain facilities, and support employee productivity.
What is automated facilities management?
As the name implies, automated facility management focuses on putting facility services on auto pilot. How automated facility management system works is through triggers—if this, then that. An action triggers an appropriate reaction, which decreases the manual work required to complete a process. Automations make the most of complex chain actions and reactions, rules, and redundancies, all with minimal human intervention.
Take a look at a few examples of automated facilities management in action, and how they benefit facilities, employees, and support staff.
Automated support ticketing
The coffee machine is broken. Ben is the first to notice when he tries to brew a pot, so he opens his workplace app and creates a support ticket. He describes the problem and the location, then submits the ticket. It grabs the identifying information from Ben’s phone, then the completed maintenance request goes into the queue. The maintenance manager logs into the support dashboard, sees the broken coffee machine notification, and dispatches someone to replace it.
This example applies to any form of facilities maintenance: burned-out lights, damaged furniture, broken amenities, and whatever else isn’t usable by employees. The process can be further automated, too. Ben might get an email when the coffee machine is fixed. Or, the cost of repair/replacement may feed directly into departmental budgeting software.
Automated room booking
Leslie, Tom, and Ron need to have a private meeting. They’ve been chatting in a Slack channel about a problem and agree to meet in person. Leslie submits a room booking request through Slack, which shows her a nearby conference room that’s available. Leslie books the room. Tom and Ron get confirmation requests with the date, time, and directions; anyone else looking at the schedule now sees the room is unavailable at that time.
Here again, the premise is simple but the automated process is powerful and convenient. Not only can Leslie reserve space with just a few keystrokes, automation ensures there aren’t double-bookings or anyone interrupting the meeting. Moreover, Tom and Ron both get the information they need, along with a reminder. Further automation might add the meeting to everyone’s calendar or push alerts to a wayfinding app.
April generates three monthly workplace reports for Chris: space utilization, occupancy rates, and a summary of filled maintenance requests. Instead of exporting numbers to spreadsheets and sifting through data, April creates a template and exports these figures into clean reports that are ready to deliver to Chris.
In this scenario, the facility management system is already home to aggregated data from sensors and other automations. Automated reporting comes from mapping that data to an appropriate template. The automation possibilities here are so robust, almost no human intervention is needed. Once April sets up the parameters of her reports, she can also schedule the system to run them automatically on the last day of every month, then email results directly to Chris. It’s one less task for April to worry about.
Automated access control
Donna works on the fifth floor, but her badge only allows her to access the first and fifth floors. Recently, she got a promotion and now needs access to floors one through five, as well as the parking garage and data room. The facility manager changes her access group from “employee” to “manager,” giving her the entry permissions she needs.
Access control is something many larger companies need to keep facilities and employees safe and on-task. Adding or revoking access with a simple status change saves tremendous time and hassle. Having a digital profile to back a key card or badge opens the door for broad automations, from granting physical access to adding employees to special groups or email lists.
Automated facility management system goals
What is the best automated facility management system? One that achieves two distinct goals: 1) It needs to streamline essential facility processes with little-to-no human intervention; 2) It needs to produce direct benefits for the company, its employees, or the facilities themselves.
An automated facility management system should be the pinnacle of simplicity. Where modern software makes a facility manager’s job easy, an automated system should remove tasks from their plate altogether.
Keep reading: The State of the Facility Management Market