Service Operation center: How much data should be centralized?
"Houston, we have a problem"
Out of many memorable real-life incidents that got featured on big-budget Hollywood movies, this is perhaps the most iconic and relatable sentence we often come across whenever things go haywire.
If we recall from the Apollo 13, it was John Swigert, an astronaut who communicated with the NASA Mission control center and updated the unforeseen emergency they were facing in the spacecraft.
For a civilian like most of us, those were early movements when we familiarized ourselves with the concept of a ‘control center’ which remotely monitors activities and provides essential support. Since then if we fast forward to today’s technology that goes behind SpaceX’s mission control center we would simply be astonished by the sheer computing power these centers possess and their ability to track micro-changes in the spacecraft.
Like many other technologies that found their origin in space exploration activities and later commercially available for general use, remote monitoring is the closest one for the proptech industry. Leading facility management firms are establishing their own version of command and control centers also called service operations centers to centralize the decision-making process for critical assets and deliver predictive insights to the local O&M team.
Let’s explore the current state of Command & Control Centers for facility management firms, the benefits of having one, and further opportunities.
Where does the service operation center come from?
A facility management firm that has been managing a large portfolio of commercial buildings in close proximity wants to centralize the processes, operations, and data that generates from those buildings for a clear understanding of the assets. Bringing data to a central location not only gives them a holistic perspective but also helps them mobilize their O&M team effectively.
CCCs are equipped with enterprise-level applications and platforms to provide essential monitoring and support services to ground-level FM teams. A team of experienced engineers, subject matter experts (SME) who have a deep understanding of the electrical, mechanical as well as OT & IT processes are available to support the client any time of the day and the week.
It is the job of the command and control center team to coordinate maintenance teams, suggest optimum asset configuration (setpoints), identify any operational issues, and provide predictive insights to the ground-level team to take preventive actions.
Now there are numerous benefits that can be drawn from the CCCs.
Efficient Mobile engineering teams:
Outsourcing the O&M and deploying an on-demand team of technicians is getting popular among the small and mid-size facilities. With the help of CCCs such facilities can reduce servicing costs by minimizing or eliminating the need for those site visits, particularly in odd times when the clients are not expecting any interruptions.
Reduce Asset downtime:
Critical assets such as HVAC networks or elevators can have a long-lasting effect on operational continuity. Predictive analytics reduces the risk of asset downtime by identifying assets’ operational patterns and providing alerts to prevent any unexpected breakdown.
Leveraging the knowledge of SME:
Regardless of having an SME in your local FM team, facilities can always lean on an expert’s opinion from the command and control center. A team that has seen various scenarios of asset breakdowns can leverage their situational awareness to suggest optimal setpoint conditions.
360-degree facility view:
Command and control center can be the only place where an asset, workplace, and process data gets combined and correlated to examine the optimum working environment for occupants. The same insights can be utilized to improve the working conditions and overall productivity of the staff.
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Will this be the ultimate solution? What else can be done?
The service operations center is a great leap of progress in a direction of remote asset management. However, there is this innate fear that the FM industry might be overwhelmed by its illustrious setup, visualization capabilities, and the aura it carries to attract the client, and in this process, we might miss out on some of the basic principles that can deliver even greater impact.
In one of his podcasts, Umesh bhutoria, CEO of xempla referred to the term “the nerve center”. large organizations set up a team of experts from different disciplines as a response to uncertain situations. A dedicated team that has a single objective of navigating the organization through a critical time. In the context of facility management, Umesh suggested that ‘the nerve center’ can be emulated for a large-scale FM company.
Besides having a CCCs there are other ways FM can sustain the innovation:
Apart from centralized data and the decision-making process, there should be a team that can work on facility/use case-wise technology roadmaps. For this initiative Involvement of O&M, innovation, and IT team is crucial however having a dedicated leader who can oversee the progress and set up expectations is a must.
Just like edge computing where computing infrastructure including data, storage, and applications are decentralized and located somewhere between the data source and the cloud to get the advantages of cloud processing near the data sources, some of the mundane decision-making tasks can be filtered and taken at the site level and then the rest is processed at CCCs.
With partial on-site monitoring, the FM team can maintain agility and respond quickly to frequent issues.
Although the systems and analysts at the CCCs are capable enough to process large quantities of assets and process data, there is a typical process that can be automated. For example, logical pathways or algorithms for condition-based monitoring can be created to process the data related to certain Indicators or KPIs. such logical pathways can be converted into widgets that can be accessed on the dashboard. Umesh talked about such workflows on one of the product Wednesdays.
With these workflows, CCCs can schedule and automate most of the primary data inspection processes and get more involved in decision support systems.
What are your experiences with command and control centers? Are there other ways to get the most out of them?