Despite all the changes in the workplace, from the sudden arrival of widespread remote work to the rise of return-to-office initiatives and the hybrid model, our latest 2023 Workplace Index shows that functions facility managers and operational leaders maintain consistent goals. Keeping assets and equipment up and running is the foundation of their efforts to comply with safety and security regulations, meet contractual obligations, and protect the organization’s reputation.
The importance of having a robust asset management plan has increased. In asset-heavy industries, organizations depend on integrated facility management and maintenance to boost overall productivity while cutting costs. Without these programs and processes, they risk losing their competitive edge.
Our qualitative research survey provides important insights into how companies use new technologies to centralize and streamline asset management. It also reveals potential areas of improvement. Understanding where other companies are seeing early successes and which steps you can take next is key to implementing an asset management program that improves efficiency while reducing your exposure to financial, legal, and reputational risk.
Automation is already adding value for operational managers
When more people worked a traditional 9-to-5 job, facility managers could easily schedule services because they could reliably predict when people would be in the office. The lights and climate control would come on in the morning, and they would turn off early in the evening, right after the cleaning crews had left. Variations in the timing were likely seasonal. Lights in the surface parking lot, for example, would need to come on earlier in the winter months.
However, operational leaders are embracing automation to better manage services by adopting more fluid work schedules, where employees find the balance between remote and in-office days that work best for them and their departments. Even though many offices see broad repeating trends, you can’t use that data to know who will be in a specific area at an exact time.
For example, our research shows room bookings are highest in Atlanta on Tuesdays. In New York, Wednesday has the most, while Chicago tends to have a nearly even split between the three days in the middle of the week.
While this data is important for other types of planning, when looking at one specific room, it’s more efficient to implement sensors and other technologies that can track occupancy and use data in real or near real time.
Our survey shows that 87% of facility managers have already automated lighting to cut energy costs, which makes sense because lighting accounts for 17% of all electricity consumed in U.S. commercial buildings. The next most common at 83% is security systems for access control.
HVAC systems are at the same level of automation adoption. With the increase in unprecedented weather events around the world, automation here adds a lot of value. Extreme weather forces your HVAC system to work harder and less efficiently, but you can protect it by ensuring it’s only on when you need it. In fourth place, at 74%, is automated fire and safety systems for detecting emergencies.
Technology and untapped opportunities for asset management
Operational leaders understand the benefits of asset management. By implementing programs now that focus on the future, organizations can see more productivity at less cost. Preventive maintenance, for example, boosts uptime and lengthens useful life by finding minor issues before they have a chance to cause major problems.
Scheduling and tracking the right combination of inspections and tasks improves safety compliance, protecting the company from not only breakdowns but also expensive litigation. In the end, it’s nearly impossible to overestimate the value of your organization’s reputation; it’s one of the small class of assets that, once ruined, can never be repaired. Staying on top of assets ensures customers get what you promised on time.
Our survey shows a gap between where companies are and where they could be in their digital journeys.
When asked, “What does your organization use to manage assets and facilities?” 60% responded that they still use spreadsheets. For maintenance requests and ticketing, 50% use emails, while 17% use a combination of phone calls and radios.
Relying on old-fashioned methods negatively affects performance. Companies lack the overall efficiency needed to get ahead of the maintenance curve. Ideally, the ratio of preventive to reactive work orders should be around 80:20. However, of those surveyed, 73% responded that half or more than half of their total work orders are reactive.
The problem is set to worsen. Our survey also shows a steady rise in the overall number of work orders.
Organizations can embrace new asset management and workplace technologies for solid, steady returns on their investments. The key is finding the right combination of systems that make it easier to capture and leverage data, breaking down silos to make sharing insights more automatic. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so organizations need to find the tech that works best for them. Every effective, efficient asset management program draws from the same principles and core feature sets.
Centralize maintenance planning, scheduling, and data tracking
Data capture is not enough. You need to be able to collect and compile it, maintaining a centralized database that’s accurate and up to date. At the managerial level, centralizing data makes it possible to pull back and get a sense of how everything fits together.
To see the big picture, you need all the parts in one place. From there, you can work with the data, leveraging it into actionable insights. If you want to set up a preventive maintenance schedule for an asset you need access to the OEM manuals and historical work orders.
You need to be able to see what the team should be doing and compare it against what they did. For the maintenance teams, having a single source of truth removes miscommunications, so everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Organizations still struggling with spreadsheets and emails lack the real-time data updates they need to keep assets up and running. The best solution is a single cloud-based platform that supports the entire team.
Connect assets and analytics with IoT and digital twins
Just as important as capturing data from assets is having the assets communicate with one another and the software. By embracing the Internet of Things (IoT), organizations can benefit from steady streams of real-time data from sensors feeding into cloud-based asset management technologies and digital twins.
Our survey shows many of the different ways organizations can use IoT data. However, current levels indicate that there is still room to grow, especially with IoT sensors feeding digital twins.
Invest in people if you want to improve processes
It’s not just the processes; it’s also the people. Introducing new technologies to workflows takes training, and the better prepared your teams are, the better the overall results will be for new initiatives. Investing in training and upskilling is also an effective way to attract and retain talent for your company.
Instead of relying on third-party vendors, you can save time and money using your full-time employees. And showing that you want to invest in your people and their careers creates a sense of loyalty, safeguarding institutional knowledge by reducing turnover.