Facilities Management (Managing Assets)
The IoT, and More
- By Pieter van der Have
- October 1st, 2016
Ah… today’s newest and
confusing techie development
imposing itself on the built environment:
IoT, a.k.a. the Internet of Things. There
is an avalanche of information about it. All
I know is that it may not be long before my
refrigerator, knowing that I am low on Bloody
Mary mix, will be able to contact my neighbors’
refrigerators to find some. Isn’t that cool?
I am of the age and generation that allows me to think fondly of
when the most sophisticated technology we worked with was an on/off switch. Our toolboxes contained hammers, screwdrivers, baling
wire and duct tape. Training consisted of when to take breaks and
what kind of shoes to wear. Oh yeah, and also on
how often to toss down salt tablets on a hot day.
Life was so simple in the O&M world. Nostalgia
is wonderful… and often misleading.
Of course I jest. Life really wasn’t that simple
around the physical plant, nor was it that
wonderful. Our employees ranged in skill level
from highly skilled to barely being able to walk
and chew gum at the same time. From my
recollection, very little time was spent on discussing new technologies
or discovering new and better ways of meeting expectations.
We didn’t really focus as much on satisfying building occupants as
we did on just keeping stuff functioning. If not, the tendency might
have been to disconnect and remove stuff.
How times have changed!
How Smart Are Our Buildings?
It is my perception, arguably, that in the automotive world, the
characteristic that separates one type of vehicle from another, or one
manufacturer from another, is not so much the mechanics as it is
the digital technology that goes into each vehicle. They are literally
computers on wheels. So it is with buildings. I’ve heard it said that
our buildings are now smarter than we are. A good friend of mine,
recently deceased, used to say that our business is about people and
the buildings just come along for the fun of it. Today, I would modify
his paradigm by substituting the word “technology” for “buildings.”
The unfortunate facilities employee who has not stayed current
with today’s sophisticated technologies is likely doomed, eliminated,
reassigned or at least mighty depressed. The unfortunate facility
manager — its CEO if you will — is in very serious trouble if
s/he is not on a first-name basis with the technologies that engineers
and architects are designing into our new buildings.
Get to Know What Runs the Show
There are at least two reasons why we should be acquainted
with those new technologies. First, we need to understand and
make appropriate recommendations when planning for new buildings
is in the programming phase. We need to be able to challenge
users and programmers in order to help them arrive at the best
possible solutions for any given situation. We can’t do that very
well if we don’t understand the language.
Second, and at least as critical, is that we must be able to provide
timely educational (training) opportunities to members of our staff.
No benefit is achieved when employees are
marched through a new building during final
closeout if that is the first time that they are
face to face with a new technology. We should
all know what is likely to happen then: things
won’t work as designed after only a short time.
The other and often appropriate option is to
commit to contracting this particular function
out to a third party. Even then, however, our
staff should know about affected systems to know how to react and
who to call when trouble arises. Remember, a driving reason for
these new and improved technologies (when they actually function
as intended) is to benefit the building occupant, while allowing our
buildings to operate at a higher level of energy efficiency.
Have you recently reviewed your investment in training? There
are some who suggest that we ought to be spending around
5 percent of our total budget in training our employees. More
closely analyzed, that is not very much if we consider the cost of
labor while they’re being trained. By the time consultants and
specialists are brought in and compensated, while making accommodations
for our own employees, that 5 percent is going to disappear
in a hurry. I might argue that we need to increase the training
budget in order to keep everyone ahead of the curve.
@TEOTD, IoT might better be defined as “Investment of Training.”
If we pick the right emphases…
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Pete van der Have is a retired facilities management professional and is currently teaching university-level FM classes as well as doing independent consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com.