Measurability. Accountability. Transparency. Optimisation. Rationalisation. Economisation. These are just some of the benefits of banking on sensors and the data they generate for every aspect of mall FM, said Tirumala Rau K, CEO, KVR Best Property Management Pvt Ltd (KBPMPL).
If you had to explain in just one sentence what motivated you to incorporate digitisation and digitalisation in your operations, what would you say?
Crystal-clear data that becomes available from all sites and sources, which can help reduce the need for manpower by using technology.
Manpower costs are perhaps the largest component of FM expenses, but assigning manpower without accountability is a waste of the FM budget. How can digitisation help avoid this?
Housekeeping services form a major part of our revenue, between 60-70%. While there is no doubt that our staff is sincere, some field officers may tend to bluff and say that they are working, even when they aren’t. To call such bluffs, we have introduced a digital attendance system integrated with location. Attendance can be marked only after reaching the assigned location, which gets logged in the system automatically. No bluffing is possible anymore.
We have also introduced QR codes in washrooms. Accountability is crucial in housekeeping; if someone claims that cleaning has been done, we can check and prove if this is not true. Not just the service provider, but the owner of the mall can track this as well.
As you mentioned, digitalisation is about crystal-clear data. What are the different types of sensors used to gather this data?
We have introduced sensors in every aspect of our facility management services. For example, sensors that monitor electricity consumption offer accurate readings in real-time, which are accessible to the mall management to track floor-wise consumption of power.
Sensors in washrooms detect footfall and tell us which washrooms are used less or more; this helps us plan cleaning schedules and allocate resources accordingly. We have also installed sensors to track stock of toilet tissue rolls and hand wash. Certain minimum levels are fixed; when the stock depletes to this level, the sensors indicate the need for restocking.
Maximal levels are fixed for dustbin fullness; when 80% capacity is reached, an alert is generated for it to be emptied.
Water wastage is an avoidable drain on resources. We have installed sensors in washrooms which detect if a tap has been left open for more than a predetermined time. An alert is created and relayed to the floor supervisor, who will go and close the tap at once.
Thousands of people visit a mall everyday. Can digitalisation help tighten security and rationalise manpower needed for the same?
We have introduced facial recognition-based attendance systems at bigger sites like malls. Once a person is registered, the system will also tell you if the linked Aadhaar is original or not. It can also verify personal antecedents on the spot, since it is also linked with local police department data. At the same time, even temperature can be measured and logged.
We have introduced sensors at entry points to track the number of men, women and children entering the mall. Earlier, this was manually calculated by looking at CCTV footage; this process has now been digitalised, and the individual counts are readily available at the end of the day. Earlier, it took ten people to calculate this; now, one person can manage everything.
It was a commonplace sight to see security personnel gather at one place and chit-chat the hours away. Now, each person has to scan the QR code at various assigned locations every 15 minutes, throughout an eight-hour shift. The security cordon and presence automatically becomes stronger and more visible. It also becomes impossible to manipulate attendance. Using this system, we have managed to reduce the need for security manpower by 22-28%.
Beyond this, we can also track which customer is going to which store on which floor. Using this, our mall clients can track the footfall of each store.
The issue of parking is often similar to the basement where it is done; out of sight and out of mind. How can digitalisation streamline parking services?
There used to be a lot of pilferage in parking revenue. Once we introduced parking sensors, parking revenue rose by 300% in three months. Our clients were very happy, as this jump helped them meet many other expenses.
Large facilities like malls bear the brunt of massive bills for water supply. Can sensors play a role here too?
We have installed water level sensors in overhead tanks. Apart from this, sensors also detect salinity, which causes rusting when uncontrolled. Fluoride in water causes spots which can only be removed using stainless steel polish, a very expensive product. By monitoring water quality and making necessary interventions, we avoid unnecessary expenses.
When you broach the subject of digitalisation to clients, how do they respond?
In India, very few clients are willing to accept it; it is our job to convince them. During this pandemic, everyone is particular about cost saving. By introducing digitalisation with proper sensors, overall savings can be as high as 25-28%. Automatically, clients are convinced.
For example, take a software company with a four-floor facility. On one floor with only a few senior management personnel, power usage may be very high. On another floor with more people, power may not be transmitted properly due to technical issues. These anomalies can be detected within minutes. A one-time investment in sensors that automatically switch off ACs when no one is in the room can save lakhs of rupees.
We have introduced digitalisation at four sites in a three-month period. In this time, FM expenses for a mall client have reduced from `2 Cr to `1.4 Cr. Need I say more?