Digital Twin for Space Optimization

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

There’s no shortage of software out there to support facility managers as they seek to maximize the potential of the workplace. IWMS and CAFM platforms come to mind first, because they offer the broadest level of support. But even these systems aren’t a silver bullet for optimizing workspaces and floor plans—they merely aid in putting ideas into motion. Today, the most powerful insights come from a digital twin for space optimization.

Digital twins offer an abundance of context for workplace data. Rather than coordinating a floor plan based solely on space or occupancy, digital twins provide facility managers with dynamic data about the space. Sure, the room capacity is 40 people, but did you know that seat sensor data shows the average occupancy rate at just 25 people? It’s these kinds of insights that make digital twin technology instrumental in optimizing workspace design, layout, and function.

Here’s a look at why digital twins are becoming an integral part of workplace planning and how they optimize the efforts of facility managers.

Digital twins add contextual data

Digital twins are as dynamic as the physical spaces and assets they represent. This opens up a whole new segment of contextual information for facility managers. For example, floor sensors in conference rooms can add context to room reservation metrics provided by your booking system:

Booking data shows Conference Room 402 at a utilization rate of 60%, with an average room reservation time of one hour. While this is great information, it’s static. Floor sensor data aggregated by the digital twin might show that, despite an average one-hour booking time, employees typically only remain in the room for 45 minutes. There’s a period of roughly 15 minutes of dead space, when the room shows occupied but there’s no one in it. The real utilization rate is closer to 45%.

In this example, context from the digital twin can help the facility manager optimize the room booking process. Instead of 30-minute booking increments, employees can now book in 15-minute increments. The expectation is that utilization will rise.

How to turn IoT data into action

There’s an abundance of smart sensors in workplaces today. Many of them are always-on, constantly streaming data. A digital twin is instrumental in harnessing and aggregating this data, to make it actionable. This is especially important as the network of devices grows and becomes more robust. Consider the impact of IoT automation through a digital twin:

Conference Room 402 has A/V capabilities, which make it the de-facto space for presentations. Employees often complain about not being able to reserve the room because it’s in such high demand. Floor sensor data puts occupancy at roughly 80% each day. However, the light sensor only registers 50%, which means only half of occupants turn off the lights to present. The facility manager adds a question to the room reservation system: “Do you need to present anything?” If the answer is no, the booking system excludes Conference Room 402, to leave it more accessible to those who need A/V capabilities.

In this example, IoT data comes together to paint an even broader picture of space utilization. It allows facility managers to intervene in a tactful way, instead of jumping to conclusions—such as investing in additional expensive A/V equipment.

Space optimization with digital twin technology

Space optimization is the key to getting more out of leased space. With digital twins to provide context for data points, it becomes possible to optimize in strategic ways, with the goal of enabling better interaction with space. Based on digital twin data, FMs might choose to:

  • Expand or consolidate the total amount of office space
  • Adopt a new desking arrangement or booking system
  • Grant or restrict access to certain spaces by certain groups
  • Change the floor plan for a particular space

It all comes down to what the data shows and the context a digital twin provides. In many cases, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving space utilization. The benefit of a digital twin is that facility managers can sandbox their ideas to see what works, what doesn’t, and what the best outcome is for optimizing space.

Digital twins can support IWMS, CAFM

At this point, every facility manager needs to use cloud-based space planning software to orchestrate their workplace—the benefits are too great not to. But we’re moving into a new digital age where digital twins can provide even more context and support to these systems when it comes to space optimization. Where IWMS and CAFM provide tools for spatial management, digital twins provide the context for how employees use that space.

Space management software, a growing IoT, and a well-managed digital twin are the trifecta of technologies for space optimization. Bringing them together unlocks powerful opportunities for any business when it comes to managing and making the most of space.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software


Digital Twin for Operations Management Improvements

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist

Digital twins have become a prevalent part of many companies’ digital architecture. Often, they’re a natural tie-in to IoT networks and business clouds, alongside any number of other applications depending on the industry. And while many businesses are still figuring out how to use them, digital twin for operations management are rising in popularity. There’s plentiful opportunity in using them to enhance operations from a data-driven standpoint.

Because digital twin technology is relatively plug-and-play for many businesses, there’s no limit to the efficiency improvements possible. They’ve become a playground for facility managers, asset managers, and everyone else charged with keeping buildings productive, efficient, and operational.

Digital twins and the expanding IoT

Much of the opportunity for operational improvements digital twins present is possible due to the Internet of Things (IoT). Digital twin IoT configurations bridge the gap between the physical workplace and the digital one, and create data for tangible improvements. As the number of sensors and beacons in any given workplace rises, so do the number of data streams—and thus, so does the potential for insight.

All this data comes together in the digital twin to provide workplace managers with increasingly robust insights, such as:

  • Macro trends, like the number of hotel desks reserved month-over-month
  • Micro trends, like the length of time Camille reserved Desk 008 for on Wednesday
  • Automations and triggers, such as submitting a cleaning ticket between room reservations
  • Inefficiencies, such as viewing which desks suffer poor utilization and why
  • Asset information, such as the number of cycles the copier ran last month

The office IoT network aggregates these insights into the digital twin, where they become presentable information management can review. The result is actionable change to the physical workplace, using digital insights.

Continuous operational efficiency

Data is the key to better decision-making. IoT data about the physical workplace becomes a catalyst for understanding why and how people interact with their surroundings the way they do. With this understanding comes an opportunity to make meaningful, informed changes.

A digital twin operations management example worth considering involves space utilization. Seat sensor data at a workstation might show a paltry 22% utilization rate for the month. By comparison, similar desks show a 74% average utilization rate. Facility managers can take this data point and delve into the digital twin of their workplace to better understand it.

  • Where is this desk located in comparison to others like it?
  • What times of the day was it occupied most often? Which days?
  • How long per session was the desk occupied?
  • What amenities or features does the desk offer?
  • What is its maintenance record and are there service tickets logged?

Digital twins enable what manufacturers might call a “root cause analysis.” Facility managers can probe all potential catalysts behind an anomaly to understand what’s causing it. Then, using data, they form a thesis and take corrective action. This is the foundation for continuous workplace improvements and continuous operational efficiency.

In this example, the FM might discover any number of issues. The desk is too close to a disruptive thoroughfare. Or, it could be too small to work at comfortably. Maybe it’s damaged and needs service? Whatever the root cause, there’s an opportunity to fix it.

Data as the defining factor for workplaces

Digital twins represent an abundance of data, made accessible. As buildings grow smarter and more technologies generate digital insights about the physical workplace, facility managers have more opportunities to understand it. The more they understand it, the better they can govern it. The effects compound into everything from better workplace efficiency, to improved productivity, to cost control, and even improved company culture. At the center of it all is the digital twin, guiding data-backed decision-making as a source of truth.

Digital twins lay the foundation for operational improvements

While software like IWMS and CAFM have enabled facility managers to make amazing improvements to workplaces, true efficiency comes from understanding how people interact with their surroundings. That’s where digital twins come in. IoT data synced up to digital twins paints a robust picture of the effects of physical workplace changes. It’s not enough to switch up the desking concept or rearrange a space—you need to know how it affects the people within it.

Digital twins for operations management adds a whole new layer to data-driven facilities management. In the same way digital twins bridge the gap between the physical workplace and the digital one, they also bridge the gap between facilities and operations. With this key piece of the puzzle, companies can relentlessly pursue efficiency improvements, one data point or trend at a time.

Keep reading: How to Use Digital Twin Software


How to Utilize Cloud-Based Tools for Maximum Efficiency

By Danielle Moore
Director, Channel Marketing, Archibus

The mass exodus from centralized workplaces caused by COVID-19 was an extreme shakeup for business operations. It set the stage for flex work by testing the limits of decentralized teams and remote workers. It also changed the way wedo business: the rise of video calls and virtual collaboration. As these practices become the new norm—even as businesses return to work—they offer an important lesson about readiness and the role cloud technology plays.

Behind the scenes, a cloud infrastructure is the unsung hero supporting these changes. If the pandemic showed us anything, it has never been more important for businesses and the people who run them to make an investment in sustainable, cloud-based tools.

What kind of cloud-based tools?

The cloud is much more than a buzzword. Today, just about any digital tool a business might need comes with some connection to the cloud. The cloud offers security, reliability, accessibility, and integration capabilities. They give businesses the means to nimbly adapt to business changes.

  • Space management tools show a real-time picture of space allocation and utilization.
  • Maintenance tools generate work orders automatically based on specific needs.
  • Fintech platforms connect business operations with revenue streams to show viability.
  • Communication tools bring a high level of transparency and interaction to businesses.
  • Asset management tools enable proactive insights and promote maximum asset ROI.

These tools and dozens of others like them are what enabled businesses to pivot during COVID-19. And, because they’re cloud-based systems, they function the same for every person, across distributed teams and locations.They’re useful no matter where you are.

Not only were cloud-based tools the key to getting everyone back on track under new circumstances,but they are also key in streamlining new processes and protocols.As work continues to evolve, cloud tools are powering this evolution.

How to create new efficiencies

The many features of cloud-based tools have been key in creating efficiency out of chaos. The simplest, most evident example is in the shift to remote work. Instead of shutting down, workplaces went digital. Businesses took the many processes and practices of the workplace and digitized them. Desks, conference rooms, and the general workplace became secondary to their functions—which now live in the cloud.

Jordan doesn’t go to work anymore. He saves his commute time by working in his home office.He logs into his CMMS to seethe schedule of which crafts person will be onsite to complete routine maintenance on the HVAC system on the HQ building. Once the job is done, he receives a notification and can report to the team via a Zoom call.Then, before his day ends, he delivers assets through a cloud repository before marketing his tasks complete.

This new mock workday takes place in one place. Or it could take place anywhere. The setting isn’t important—the cloud-based tools that make it possible are the important factor. This employee, and millions of others, can create their own work experience that is still uniform to the company based on the cloud-based tools they use.

Removing the physical workplace creates opportunities for efficiency across operations. For employees, it is as simple as time saved by not driving to work or the ability to catch a cat nap after lunch and revitalize their brains for the afternoon. For businesses, everything from meetings to collaboration becomes more efficient because it is all virtual.

Cloud-based systems leverage their reliability, accessibility, and integrations into efficiencies,whether naturally or through data that yields insight into improvements: 77% of corporate real estate professionals agree that it is this data that is key in cost-saving efficiency improvements.

Measure efficiencies and make improvements

Efficiency improvements aren’t a one-and-done endeavor. Cloud-based systems make them ongoing, and their potential exponential.

Businesses need to think of cloud-based systems as “always on.” They’re always collecting and generating data and aggregating it into analytical insights. For example, a cloud system can use data from communication channels or project management logs to highlight the most productive time of day for your team. You might choose to schedule virtual meetings around that time for maximum productivity. This example and others like it represent the power of cloud systems to streamline businesses as they evolve.

It is also vital to use cloud data to set the standard for your teams and operations. For example, if you’re maintaining a flex workspace, get employees into the habit of using cloud-booking software. It doesn’t matter when they decide to work in-office; what matters is that they have a seat and that their decision is part of a managed system. They’ll have a desk and facility managers will have the insights and trend data they need to coordinate a flex work environment that’s always changing.

Data generation is part of what makes cloud systems so practical. And the ability of companies to link those many data generating systems together in the cloud is key to reimagining the workplace as an efficient digital construct.

Cloud-based tools will outlive COVID-19

Many businesses hesitated to make investments at the outset of the pandemic. Who knew how long it would last? Then, as it became clear businesses were in for protracted challenges, there was a rush to adapt. It’s important not to make the same mistake when it comes to an investment in cloud-based tools.

Cloud-enabled business tools aren’t just a solution for COVID-19 work challenges—they’re the gateway to more efficient operations in the future. The pandemic is merely a use case. Digital business technologies like IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, and digital twins have innumerable uses beyond managing the chaos of the pandemic. Moreover, their ability to create order and efficiency in the middle of chaos and uncertainty are proof enough of their ROI as a long-term investment.

The pandemic is finally coming closer to an end. The cloud-based tools and systems businesses used to get through it are only just beginning to make their value apparent.

Keep reading: 9 Advantages of Cloud-Based Facilities Management Software


How to Measure CAFM ROI

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator

As companies begin to see the value of a Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM) platform, demand for the features it offers is on the rise. But before executive stakeholders green light buy-in for new software and the potential expenses that come with it, they need to understand the opportunity for CAFM ROI.

Communicating the benefits of a CAFM platform in dollars and cents isn’t always easy. For one, it means quantifying many aspects of facilities in terms of cost—aspects you might not track yet. It also means introducing new opportunities for top- and bottom-line savings that, at this point, are theoretical.

Facility managers need to take the time to contextualize features and benefits into real dollars, to sell the C-suite and other stakeholders on CAFM ROI. Here’s how to get started.

Introduce CAFM and new metrics

First, introduce this new technology to stakeholders. What is CAFM? What does it do? Why would the company benefit? Conquer the learning curve with simple, succinct, value-driven explanations of what CAFM is and how it applies to the workplace experience. Then, use these benefits as a jumping off point for qualifying new metrics.

Introducing new metrics accomplishes two things. First, it shows stakeholders that you have the means of tracking ROI already established. Second, it gives insight into how you’re measuring ROI and where those returns will come from. For example, if you point to CAFM as a tool for asset tracking, you can also point to metrics that gauge (and lower) total cost of ownership.

This introduction of the software and its metrics is a crucial first step in selling stakeholders on the investment. It shows a forward-thinking mindset that’s rooted in ROI.

Identify bottom-line cost savings

In showcasing the benefits of CAFM software, start with bottom-line savings. How can this platform help your organization do what it’s already doing, but more efficiently? This argument for ROI is particularly powerful, because it shows focus on improvement. The ask isn’t related to untapped opportunities—it’s related to optimization of known variables. Some of the ROI areas to focus on include:

  • Centralized, validated data insights
  • Reporting of defensible data
  • CAD capabilities for floor planning

These tools in particular integrate into aspects of operation many companies are already engaged in—and already-observed metrics. For example, it’s easy to explain the ROI of CAFM data when it informs energy conservation, driving lower utility costs.

Gather one or two specific examples for stakeholders. Demonstrate how specific CAFM features create bottom line savings, within the context of real dollars and costs.

Identify top-line revenue opportunities

CAFM software needs to do more than create cost-savings to offer justified investment. It also needs to create new revenue opportunities. Here, the formula for proving ROI is the same. Pick features from the software and connect them to theoretical opportunities to show diverse application for this investment. Some key areas to consider include:

  • Space planning and management
  • Capital project management
  • Building operations
  • Asset management
  • Environmental and risk management

Presenting opportunities for new revenue requires more imagination, but the approach is similar to showing bottom-line savings. Show that you’ve done the legwork to create revenue before the investment. For example, provide figures about how CAFM capital project management can facilitate a new data center buildout that saves the company hosted cloud costs year-over-year.

Something to remember when presenting top-line ROI opportunities is that it’s all theoretical. Use meaningful data to inform your hypothesis and presentation, and make it clear that you’re working from projections. Nevertheless, strive to illustrate value.

Use real numbers and projections

Calculating CAFM ROI can be difficult without real numbers to source for benchmarks. Before you make the investment, spend time getting familiar with workplace costs at both macro and granular levels. While the purpose of CAFM software is to make these numbers more accessible, it helps to have a fundamental understanding of what, specifically, you’re looking at and why it’s important.

As facility managers present use-cases and arguments for ROI, use real numbers and projections to inform these arguments. How much money will a shift to preventive maintenance save you compared to unanticipated repair costs for a specific asset? What’s your cost per head in current floor plan vs. a target cost with a more efficient space layout? Use examples like these and their real costs, as well as targets and projections that make the case for CAFM ROI.

Build a case for long-term ROI

Presenting the case for a large investment in CAFM and other smart facility software is an uphill battle. It’s not that these innovations aren’t useful—it’s that they have short-term costs and long-tail benefits. It takes a forward-thinking mindset to make long-term investments in spite of short-term costs. And while many executive leaders are willing to make that investment, they need to understand the long-term ROI. Facility managers need to provide that context.

If you’re in a position to pitch leaders on a CAFM investment, take a quantifiable stance and prove the investment is worth the outcome. If the money adds up with good reasoning behind it, it’s difficult for leaders to say no—especially when the ROI is attainable, quantifiable, and valuable.

Keep reading: How Can Smart CAFM Improve Employee Experience?


What is Digital Twin Technology and Why is it Important?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

With each new year comes new industry buzzwords, like clockwork. You may recall some recent examples with no shortage of hype behind them: blockchain, smart buildings, and edge computing, for example. Now, in 2021, a new crop of buzzwords has emerged—including digital twin technology.

Like most trending terms, phrases, and concepts, the idea of digital twins isn’t novel. This technology has been around for years and is already well-appreciated among those familiar with it. The reason for its rise to the top of the jargon list is because it’s entering the mainstream. Digital twin technology is quickly becoming something businesses are turning to for facility assistance, insights, and improvements.

What is digital twins technology?

Digital twins are a digital representation of the physical workplace. They map a facilities space and assets, with the purpose of aligning them with utilization goals. The chief purpose of digital twins is threefold: model, simulate, and manage.

  • Model. Represent the workplace and its assets in a digital space.
  • Simulate. Use the digital framework to run “what if” workplace scenarios.
  • Manage. Take data from the digital twin to optimize the physical workplace.

Digital twins enable building owners to rapidly respond to the evolving demands of their workforce—especially in the time of agile workspaces and flex work. They’re also an essential tool within the smart building ecosystem. As connectivity increases, digital twins act as a dumping point for de-siloed workplace data. They’re a growing anchor for the digital infrastructure of physical buildings.

How digital twin works

Digital twin technology works by aggregating workplace data into an architecture model of the building. Instead of a static CAD mockup of a building, digital twins contextualize the space. Augmented with IoT sensors, a digital twin becomes a living, breathing representation of your physical space.

Take, for example, pressure sensors in the floor of a conference room. When activated, the sensor will trigger the I/O of a digital twin to flip on. Any connected system that relies on this data—such as hoteling software—will grab that data from the digital twin. When someone logs on to see if a conference room is open, that room won’t be available. There are endless other examples of sensor integration, each more robust than the last.

The most important part of a digital twin and its de-siloed workplace data are the integrations that pull from it.

There are countless apps and programs that can connect to a digital twin to amplify its usefulness. Even as a standalone investment, a digital twin pains a more comprehensive picture of the workplace than any siloed data can.

The benefits of digital twin technology

The biggest benefits of digital twin technology come from the insights and actions it enables. Smarter, more informed decision-making. The ability to scenario plan in a digital safe space. Insights about inefficiencies or opportunities in the workplace. All this and more are possible with a digital twin. There’s a myriad of deployments:

  • Predictive maintenance of facilities
  • Space utilization monitoring
  • Space and asset optimization
  • Improved transparency of building processes
  • Modeling and simulation for improvements
  • Robust interconnectivity of workplace data
  • Remote monitoring of facilities
  • Workplace optimization through the IoT

The list of benefits is virtually endless—as long as the number of applications for digital twins. And that list grows larger by the year as more intelligent products come to market. AI and machine learning have only made digital twins more sophisticated.

When to get onboard with digital twins

Companies with a growing IoT need to think seriously about the investment in a digital twin. The digital twin is where all that valuable data becomes mobilized, and it serves as a bridge to utilizing it across workplace management applications and processes.

The IoT is the key to a robust digital twin, but it’s not necessarily a barrier. Any business using IWMS, CAFM, CMMS, or EAM software also needs to think about a digital twin. Where there’s data, there’s opportunity. Seeing that data contextualized within the twin can give businesses the insights they need to capitalize on new opportunities.

Digital twins serve an important purpose

The role of digital twins in facility and asset management makes it a worthy buzzword for 2021 and beyond. Soon, it’ll be as ubiquitous as cloud computing or the IoT—particularly since it involves both of these technologies. The reason for its staying power is simple: like other former buzzwords, digital twins will soon become an industry standard. And, looking at the benefits and capabilities offered by this technology, it’s easy to see why.

Keep reading: Digital Twin Services: Modeling, Simulation and Management


Workplace Data Management Best Practices

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

The age of smart buildings is creating a data boom for facilities managers. Now, there’s more data available than many companies know what to do with, and the single biggest hurdle in understanding that data is getting a handle on it. Workplace data management is quickly becoming paramount, and it presents a new challenge for companies. How, exactly, do they coordinate and manage data at-scale?

Identify and define data sources

The first and most essential step in managing data is identifying it. This means looking at all the IoT devices active within the workplace, as well as other smart building components that generate data. Next comes employee input data—things like support tickets, room reservations, and log data. Don’t forget about integrated software, either. This task in and of itself can be cumbersome, but it’s necessary to identify data before you can use it.

Consider tracing vital business operations backward. Where do you get the data to do X, Y, and Z? Identify the primary sources responsible for creating data and define their purpose. This will make the next step in data management simpler.

De-silo and aggregate data

Organizational data is, by definition, siloed. But it shouldn’t be. To make data shareable across the organization and promote better utilization of it, companies need to adopt data lakes and warehouses.

A data lake is a simple repository where unsorted, raw data is collected. Warehouses are where it goes to be sorted and stored, until it’s accessed by applications and people who need it. These systems are part of the broader business cloud—cloud connectivity is key in allowing data to flow freely from its input sources, no matter where they are in the organization.

Clean, organize and store data

Data without context is useless. What is a workplace data management strategy without markers and identifiers that validate the data? From warehousing, data needs to be cleaned, organized, and accessible:

  • Cleaning data means turning it into a source of truth: removing duplicate or antiquated entries, formatting it uniformly, bringing together like-kind data, etc.
  • Organizing data involves giving it labels, qualifiers, quantifiers, and structure that’s consistent with how people and systems will access it.
  • Making data accessible means putting it into a warehouse repository that’s accessible and stable, with automations and integrations built-in to keep data fresh.

This stage requires the most technical expertise—data experts who understand Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) data operations or who can configure software like an iPaaS to improve data fluidity.

Develop architecture and deploy data

By this stage of a digital data management process, the architecture largely exists. Each stage of the process has started to take shape based on the infrastructure needed to handle data:

  • Raw data feeds into data lakes
  • Data is cleaned and sorted into data warehouses
  • iPaaS and integrations make warehoused data widely available

For larger companies with more robust data resources or applications, there are other parts and pieces of infrastructure that may or may not become necessary:

  • Data catalogs that pre-format data for quick accessibility
  • Data automations that handle data without human intervention
  • Machine learning that orchestrates and reports insights

The result in most cases is a strong infrastructure that brings data to the forefront of different applications used for decision-making—Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM), Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), and Integrated Facilities Management Systems (IWMS). Most people won’t see the hamster spinning on the wheel to bring them data—they’ll just get the insights they need.

Protect and secure data

No conversation about digital data management would be complete without heavy emphasis on cybersecurity. The more transactions data has between collection and application, the more opportunities there are for malicious action. Companies need to protect their data from all angles:

  • At the point of collection (ex. IoT cybersecurity)
  • At the point of transmission (ex. SSL connections)
  • At the point of storage (ex. Network security)
  • At the point of access (ex. Employee credentials)
  • In the peripheral (ex. Integrations and connections)

Cybersecurity starts with cognitive efforts to protect data. Use software that defends against cyberattacks. Educate employees about cybersecurity best practices. Create auditing processes for your data management system. Good habits and mindfulness, coupled with some common sense, ensure data remains secure.

Every company is a data company

Every company generates data. As they learn more about how to use workplace data effectively, they also need to recognize the importance of data management. That means building out a strong data management infrastructure and protecting it from all angles. The easier and safer it is for data to travel across your organization, from one important touchpoint to the next, the more valuable that data becomes in decision-making at every level.

Keep reading: The Top Challenges for Creating Smart Buildings