• 22 Nov.2020
  • 5 min read

New leadership strategy by Facility Management O&M teams in CRE to thrive in the digital transformation era

by Sumit Nawathe



You don’t know what you don’t know, you might have heard this line before. Simon Sinek (presenter of one of the most popular TED videos ‘starting with why’) once mentioned this line in one of his blogs. Whenever you kickstart a transformation journey (personal or corporate) it’s always recommended to realize the fact that you don’t know everything and should strive to constantly learn new things because you don’t know which skill will make the long-lasting impact on your career or personal life.

Wait a min. Why am I talking about career, learning new skills on the blog that is focused on operations & maintenance in the CRE space? Well, Isn’t that what we all did during this unfortunate lockdown? We tried to learn new skills, finished a few online courses, refined our resumes, and added a couple of certificates to it. As we were experiencing this change, enterprises and organizations were also reshaping or refining the way they structure P&L strategy, or rather pressing the acceleration button on cost-cutting measures and focusing on improving productivity in every aspect of the business as possible.

As an O&M engineer, one would know what happens when the O&M dept comes under the radar of a portfolio manager to reduce excess expenditure?! Unfortunately, maintenance is that unlucky department that faces the most heat and negligence while in reality that could be turned into a profit center if planned right.

So let’s compile the list of things which will be expected from an O&M dept in the coming times and find out ways to excel in them. (Some of the points might not qualify as pressing issues in the past but it won’t be “business as usual” scenario anymore these will come under must have skills in the recent future to stay relevant with the changing time)

A) How do I find the right asset-specific data when needed?

Now the building management system (BMS) is supposed to be the holy grail of O&M engineers if all the features are functioning and assets are connected to it but we rarely find that combination everywhere. So it’s imperative for an O&M department to have the basic infrastructure available to monitor and store the asset data. We know there are budgetary and contractual constraints to build the data acquisition and IT-related infrastructure but the performance-driven strategy can make it possible.

Now let’s, Imagine a situation when a portfolio manager or department of excellence (DoE) asks for the report on the effectiveness of maintenance activity you worked on last month? Now, do you have the data handy? How soon will you coordinate others with departments to share the data with you? How will you do the analysis? Will you use an excel tool or the software? I know it will be a hell of a task for you to perform in a short period or risk your reputation.

In this case, you would wish for a solution that will bring all that data (right from asset specific parameters, energy & maintenance related scheduling of that asset) to a central location and share the customizable reports with you which you can present to your seniors. BMS may be able to provide you asset data but for the other parameters, you still have to extract them from different sources.

B) How do I move to Predictive maintenance? and reduce my reactive calls?

Predictive maintenance is one of the highly misused words you would come across in the O&M industry. According to Gartner’s hype cycle report 2017 it was on the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’. It is like the stock market for a Robinhood investor ‘everybody wants to get in but rarely understand it’ and the sad part is that it is often used as a bait to promote not so smart applications.

But it’s not all gloomy there so whenever you decide to go for predictive maintenance get some of the facts correct, ask yourself the following questions: Do I have the right sensors installed to get the granular level of data? What is the predictive analysis this application claims to perform (on which assets)?

What are the insights am I supposed to receive? Will those be actionable operational insights or CAPEX based investment will be required? Will I be able to integrate other applications with this platform in the future? Once you get satisfactory answers to all these questions you can go ahead and invest in it.

Ideally, an application should be able to provide prescriptive as well as contextual insights as in where is the saving opportunity, what will be the impact, and how to act on it so that you don’t have to keep looking at the dashboards all the time and figure out what is happening.

C) How to ensure that I get the credit of my work and impress my facility manager with saving numbers?

Transparency will be at the center of the digital revolution in facility management, every task that you perform or every interaction that you will have with the tenant or customer will have digital imprints. Imagine a scenario where your facility manager will have the numbers on saving opportunities you have identified, the number of assets related insights that you act upon and the average time it took to finish the work orders. With all that data you won’t have to worry about performance-related issues you can focus on your work and keep fixing things.

Of course during all that you can learn tons of things at a self-pace such as how to make calculate complex data sets and make templates (try Power BI) how to visualize your data (again Power BI & Tableau) want to get your hand on regression analysis and time series forecasting? (Try OMI — a personal chatbot for O&M engineers and I am sure if you will know where to look for)

If you like this article and found it insightful enough to share it with your peers then don’t hesitate a bit! In such times sharing is truly caring 🙂 If you have any suggestions or want us to talk to our facility management team on what’s inevitable in digital transformation then feel free to write to us at sumit.nawathe@xempla.io

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