Facilities Management (Managing Assets)

FM and ISO

ISO: the acronym that is ubiquitous yet so poorly understood. It refers to an organization, international in nature, that strives to establish standards for all sorts of endeavors. In fact, it (International Standards Organization, a.k.a., International Organization for Standards) has a collection of over 20,000 standards to which interested sectors and companies can voluntarily choose to adhere. Most of us have heard reference to ISO 9000 and its corollaries, promoting quality management and touted by numerous companies and organizations in their advertisements and marketing.

Some of us may be familiar with ISO 14000 family of standards, which establishes guidelines for effective environmental management and stewardship. Its publications are available to organizations who want to be recognized as adhering to (a set of) standards that are assumed or believed to be top drawer. It should be noted that although ISO standards are considered available for voluntary adoption, certain international governmental entities have adopted legal requirements imposing those standards.

ISO currently has a standard for asset management (ISO 55000, -1, -2). It addresses management concepts such as leadership, plans, operation, performance evaluation and improvement (Source: LCE Life Cycle Engineering). The objective of this standard is to reduce risk to the various stakeholder groups. Clearly, this standard can be of great value to organizations having a substantial investment in assets that are high in cost and subject to frequent change and improvements.

Do ISO and FM Fit Together?

There are those who would argue that asset management and facility management are one and the same. On the flip side, there are those of us who would argue that they are not, and that in reality asset management is a component of facility management. This conviction has provided the energy propelling a recently formed working committee toward a goal of identifying the characteristics and qualities that could/should define facilities management at its best.

Initially, a proposal to define FM standards had to be submitted to ISO’s governing body. This proposal was provisionally accepted several years ago, after which the working committee was formed. Since the intention of the formulation of this new ISO standard is to receive international acclaim and be widely adopted, the committee has a wide international representation. In fact, 36 countries are represented on this committee!

It almost goes without saying that not everyone was on the same page as participants attempted to define effective FM from their own experience base. Many of us in the business can relate to this diversity of opinion. Even limiting our examination to the facilities world of higher education, we recognize that there are diverse perspectives of the respective roles of facility management vs. facility maintenance. Expand that to the international facilities environment, and to a wide variety of industries, and we can appreciate how complicated and animated discussions have been during this committee’s collaborations.

What Does This Mean for Us?

What does all this mean to those of us already in the facility management profession? The answer(s) to this question could lead to a series of discussions and disagreements well beyond the scope of this column. Some of the relevant points could include:

  • Such standards will allow industries similar in function to compare performance of their own facility organizations to others. This could be either a benefit or a threat to existing organizations.
  • Where adopted, current facility managers may become motivated to beef up the quality of their respective department’s activities, relying less on the historical way of doing business. I have no doubt that these adopted standards will include a strong reference to continuous improvement.
  • Recruiting new senior facility managers might be based, in part, on candidates being trained in and familiar with the standards — enhancing our profession.
  • Proposed standards will address the quality of management, but generally avoid focus on technical aspects of our business.
  • Degrees in facility management, already being offered by a small number of universities and institutes, will achieve a greater level of consistency in terms of subject matter to which students are exposed.

At some point in the relatively near future, the draft version of the proposed standard will be made available to public comment. For the sake of the future of our profession, it will be highly appropriate for us to provide constructive suggestions.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

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 petevanderhave@msn.com.

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