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Key Issues in Facilities Management

Key Issues in Facilities Management

Value for money is the goal in any investment of business capital, and facilities management (FM) is an area that can dramatically impact a company's bottom line. With effective FM processes, a company can reduce its total cost of ownership and maximize its investment in facilities. FM's impact on profitability is like yeast puffing up bread.

FM is more than facilities maintenance—those activities such as janitorial services, which ensure clients or customers visiting an office or retail facility receive a good impression of the appearance of the space. Rather, facilities management is a set of business functions that manages business risks associated with a company's facility.

As an example, facilities maintenance might be concerned with whether flooring is cleaned and who performs that work. Facilities management, on the other hand, is concerned with financial risks and would focus on such issues as selecting flooring and cleaning products that have longer life cycles, thus reducing the frequency of cleaning; preventive maintenance; and optimal time of day to perform the cleaning.

FM issues and expertise evolved and changed significantly through the 1990s and into the 21st century. Here's a look at the primary financial, safety and legal risks now comprising effective FM practices.

FM Functions

Financial Issues – Business facilities can quickly become money pits. On-the-fly responses to facility decisions usually result in higher costs. In contrast, effective FM practices are proactive and allow executives to predict facility financial needs and operate from adequate budgets. FM covers functions ranging from

  • asset life cycle costing (understanding and evaluating the total cost of ownership for equipment, the building or office space and other assets)
  • budgeting and managing contracts for maintenance services from external companies providing leased space and equipment
  • managing insurance contracts for asset protection
  • emergency preparedness
  • building design and interior planning
  • budgeting for facility projects (cost estimation, purchasing, monitoring, close out activities for building, remodeling, expanding, repairing)
  • furniture and equipment liquidation
  • utilities; these functions range from obtaining copies of several months' utility bills (for budgeting/forecasting) from the landlord or other tenants before moving into a facility, to proactive steps to conserve energy and reduce costs (even to the extent of selecting lighting products)

Legal Issues – Office and building facilities management touches legal matters ranging from ensuring the space and equipment do not hinder activities of disabled clients or employees, to ensuring compliance with federal regulations (from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration , for example) and local regulations (such as zoning, parking and signage laws). FM is also involved in resolving landlord/tenant issues.

Safety Issues – Protective standards fall into the realm of proactive FM; otherwise, they impact a company's bottom line with costly liability claims. These functions range from providing guard services and surveillance and access control systems and monitoring strangers in the office or building space, to fire safety equipment and procedures, to snow and ice removal as a component of building and ground maintenance.

Key Issues for 21st-century Business Environment – Four key issues, evolving from doing business in a 21st-century world, have found their way into the FM arena.

(1) Terrorism- In the case of bioterrorism, for example, procedures need to be in place to shut down ventilation systems, ensure all employees know the emergency evacuation route, and know which employees have special needs. It is also important to make sure the facility has flashlights and a method of two–way communication.

(2) Property Theft—In addition to safeguarding furniture, equipment and supplies, protecting computer data and intellectual property is a crucial aspect of FM. Businesses need to protect information and monitor people who have permission to access to it.

(3) Ergonomics—Because of computers, Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI), such as carpal tunnel syndrome, have become a major problem in the workplace and a major cause for Worker's Compensation claims. Effective FM includes ensuring all furniture (especially chairs and desks for computer users) is designed to reduce musculoskeletal disorders. OSHA provides ergonomic advisories and guidelines for various industries and tasks, and many retailers now highlight ergonomic-friendly products.

(4) Environment—These issues focus primarily on improving indoor air quality and using “green” (environmentally friendly) products for construction and maintenance.

Small and Mid-Size Business Perspective

Facilities management is a smarter way to do business, and large businesses have capitalized on its strategies by employing FM managers or outsourcing those functions to FM specialists. Small and mid-size businesses can now learn FM strategies, too; the Web provides information on a variety of self-study courses, university programs and seminars on how to reap the advantages of FM practices.

In addition, software manufacturers have made it even easier to achieve effective FM. Businesses can use software applications to help manage processes such as maintenance scheduling and tracking the status of maintenance work orders; monitoring leases, contracts, warranty agreements and purchase orders; tracking inventory and assets; calculating asset worth and depreciation; and handling the functions surrounding moving or replacing assets.

By Kathleen Goolsby