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Facilities Management - A Thankless Task?

19 July 2018

Maximising your investment in a facility's infrastructure can be a challenging exercise for a facilities manager.

Maximising your investment in a facility's infrastructure can be a challenging exercise for a facilities manager. At the risk of being accused of cynicism, anything that does not directly and quickly impact on the organization's return on investment may be treated as a low priority by senior business managers. Too often facilities management is regarded as the poor relation within an organization, a cost that has to be borne but without which no company can survive.

So, pursuing those 'low hanging fruit' opportunities are always going to be the first option. But it is not always obvious what these are!

For example, most organizations will operate a site wide radio communications system to enable mobile staff to keep in touch with each other when away from their desk or office. Almost always the radio system will have been acquired for voice communications and, perhaps, to help company managers meet health and safety requirements such as lone working.

Utilizing the radio network for voice communications will improve the flow of information around the site and therefore make the workforce more productive. However, a significant opportunity exists to make an impact on the previously mentioned ROI of the facility's infrastructure.

Most large sites will have some form of Building Management System [BMS] and integrating this system to the site radio network can result in much improved efficiency, particularly where maintenance is concerned. Site maintenance engineers and managers can change the way they carry out their everyday tasks. Instead of regularly checking the status of a piece of equipment by physically visiting that part of the site, the engineer can now view the equipment or system status on his hand-held radio. Of course this capability already exists with the use of smartphones but as most modern digital radios can also be used as a telephone, the smartphone [and its associated costs] become largely redundant.

Any attempt to improve a maintenance engineer's productivity must start with an analysis of their existing work tasks. Identifying those tasks that can be carried out remotely will have a direct and measurable cost benefit. In part this because the engineer would only have to visit the item of equipment if the status shows something amiss, leaving him free to use his time more productively elsewhere. Furthermore, from the same radio handset the maintenance engineer can control a wide range of building systems and services. These could include HVAC, lighting, pumps and opening or closing gates and barriers. He can be alerted immediately of any plant alarm activations and respond in the most effective way.

Whislt the greatest benefits are accrued when a facility has a comprehensive BMS already installed almost any piece of equipment or plant can be monitored or controlled from a modern digital radio handset.

There are thousands of sites around the UK that use both a digital radio network and a BMS. It only takes a foward thinking facilities manager to recognize the potential cost savings from connecting the two together!

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