NFMT Orlando - My First Facilities Management Conference

I’ve spent my entire career in high tech from power systems to wireless and IOT solutions. Most of this time was supporting solutions focused on the built environment space. Now that my new career at LEDG is 100% focused on Smart Buildings, I get to connect the technology dots of wireless, IOT and building operations. So, the first week at my new job was to attend the National Facilities Management & Technology (NFMT) conference in Orlando.

When I first walked onto the exhibit floor, I saw booths that I’m not used to seeing at the big wireless shows like solutions for flooring, plumbing, and bathroom equipment. No 5G!? Hold-on, I thought this was going to be a “technology” show. As I started to dig in, I realized that in fact, these were all the latest in high tech facilities solutions:

  • advanced flooring and power solutions supporting the ever-changing office design and mobility of desks
  • new plumbing techniques that save time and cost
  • and the bathroom equipment was all connected in the cloud

It wasn’t long before I found some old friends in the IOT and data analytics solutions ranging from small startups to 100+-year-old companies. There were solutions covering connected thermostats, water monitoring, leak detection, power usage, asset tracking, data management solutions and more. I felt like the proverbial “kid in a candy store”.

Now to get a better understanding of what the facility managers are faced with, I spent most of my time in presentations learning from the experts. The key takeaways for me can be summarized into three categories: staffing, cost savings, and data analytics.

Staffing
Like many industries, staffing is a massive challenge in facilities management. There were several presentations focused on retaining employees, hiring the best and transferring the “tribal knowledge” from those retiring. With all the new connected devices and available data, the facilities management skillset needs are also changing to include more tech-savvy team members as well as data analysts. These analysts are needed to make sense of the tremendous amounts of data to make intelligent decisions on job assignments, predictive failures, and efficiency improvements. Many of the presentations covered processes on how to do more with a reduced staff by utilizing data and in turn, improving staff retainment and satisfaction.

Cost Savings
Every year, facilities managers are challenged with more cost savings. The obvious low hanging fruit in energy savings are LED bulb swap outs, however, most facilities have already done this. Most energy savings can be found in the timing and use of the HVAC system. In other words, dynamically manage the use of your HVAC system when and where you need it, not simply based on a schedule. Some “experts” will insist on purchasing new more efficient equipment like boilers and chillers, however, the biggest bang for the energy buck comes from extending the life cycle of your assets. In other words, make your equipment last longer. For example, extending the life of your chiller by 2-3 years will provide larger savings in the long run than buying new equipment. A great example of this is when a chiller was short cycling and still keeping the building comfortable, no one was complaining and no one knew the chiller was short cycling. If this situation is not corrected, the chiller’s life cycle will be drastically reduced and cost a lot of money to fix or replace. Most facilities managers don’t have the time or even the systems to provide the insight needed to optimize their building’s performance, which is why smart building analytics is so important.

Data Analytics
There are four types of analytics and value they provide:

  1. Descriptive: What happened?
  2. Diagnostic: Why it happened?
  3. Predictive: What is likely to happen?
  4. Prescriptive: What action to take?

When a problem occurs, knowing what happened and why it happened is helpful. However, we really want to know what is likely to happen and what action to take to prevent an issue from happening. Let’s say I have a large refrigeration system full of perishable items. Telling me that my refrigeration system has failed ( descriptive) and the reason was the compressor (diagnostic) is not going to keep my perishable goods from spoiling. What I really need is a smart system that will predict the refrigeration unit is likely to fail (predictive) due to the vibration of the compressor shaft bearing moving out of spec (prescriptive). This intelligent information will enable us to inspect and repair the system while saving the cost of refrigerated goods.

Many of these types of smart solutions are enabled by the addition of IOT sensors to the BMS. According to Schneider Electric, 60% of facility managers predict IOT will impact building and maintenance policies within the next year. Also, 74% of facility managers feel that available building information is not totally adequate for optimum facility maintenance planning. As many of the more progressive facility management teams have discovered, once you start adding an IoT sensor, intelligent equipment, and BMS data together, it can be overwhelming. So much data, what to do. This is a key reason facility management teams are investing in data management systems and hiring data analysts.

We can’t talk about data analytics without bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the mix. Yes, there are many companies developing AI that is directly focused on facilities maintenance of the overall building. AI can scale and analyze data in ways we can’t. For example, AI can analyze data from the chiller, airflow, local weather and number of people in the built environment. From this data, the AI is smart enough to dynamically unload the chiller and reduce airflow for better heat exchange saving energy and increase the chiller’s life cycle. Depending on who you talk to, AI will be prevalent in facilities management over the next two to five years.

Conclusion
Learning about Facilities Management and technologies at NFMT was great. Everything I saw and everyone I talked to reaffirmed that what we are doing at LEDG is right on target. That buildings are no longer built to provide just a comfortable location for which to work, live, learn, and heal. Today, buildings are required to deliver secure technology services and engaging, productive experiences to its occupants all while making sure the structure is efficient, reduces costs, and has a lower environmental impact. A smart building uses an integrated set of technology, systems, and infrastructure to optimize building performance and occupant experience. To realize the promise of a smart building, leaders need to plan beyond the installation of a single property technology or a request from one department – it requires an integrated, organizational-wide adoption and deployment model. The promise of Smart Buildings is here. The technology exists today, and powerful innovations will continue to come to market to transform the built environment forever. The following LEDG guide introduces the Smart Building Implementation Model© that helps organizations take the right steps to plan, design, and deploy a smart building: “Smart Buildings Implementation Model for Interdisciplinary Teams”.

To learn more about how LEDG can help you with your smart building implementations, contact us at llp@ledesigngroup.com or call 617.697.5015.

Have a great day, Bill