In any Facility Management operation, the following four tenets are apparent:
Existing state of the facility, readiness of operational team
Fortunate are those who get to manage a new facility, for a lot of the stringent requirements are added in the design stage itself. When planning facility management for a heritage building or a facility with issues and concerns due to improper planning, it becomes more difficult for the facility manager to plan the staffing and identify the skill level required for technicians.(example: Retro-fitting the older facilities to improve energy efficiency, etc.).
There are multiple challenges that the FM teams face in managing the existing facilities:
Qualified and trained resources
There are very few training programs available for technicians, operators, supervisors and facility managers. While business management programs are aplenty, focused facility management programs are only offered by institutes like IFMI (International Facility Management Institute). Manpower is recruited at entry level with minimal qualification and bulk of the training or operational guidance is imparted through OJT (on the job trainings).
The limited class room or structured training too focuses on broad areas of the subject, and definitely not on comprehensive exposure. This historical way of learning on the job is applicable for some industries and functions, but to completely bank on OJT for facility management will lead to higher numbers of untrained workforce.
Few vocational training institutes offer short term courses in housekeeping and office administration, but keeping current strength and immediate requirements in view, the outflow from these institutes constitutes a small part of the industry requirement. Adding to this, a lot of newer concepts in facility management – energy management, water conservation, efficiency enhancement, and green building require not just a practical-hands-on exposure but a detailed theory based comprehensive training.
Independent Design, Execution & Operations
Very few organizations have a singular vertical that encompasses the design, projects execution and day-to-day facility management. Along with diversity in leadership, thought process, investments in resources and time, out-sourcing these activities brings in additional complexity.
Translation of plan to design specifications, design to drawing & execution and from there to operations team brings in multiple elements to be closely monitored. If any of these steps are slightly mismanaged, the facilities management team bears the brunt of the users as well as the management. The facility itself will not operate to its optimum levels.
With the government providing multiple platforms for organizations to invest, like STPI few years ago and SEZ of late, the crunch on investments on existing facilities is huge. Companies are more comfortable investing and creating facilities in areas that attract subsidies rather than invest in older facilities. This is understandable from an investor’s point of view as newer facilities need less maintenance.
On the other hand, older facilities demand continuous investment to keep up to the newer laws and periodic refurbishing to keep up to the changing demands of the users. A cross cut, if has to happen, is most probable to fall on the maintenance budget of an existing building rather than on a budget a newer facility.
Transition to and expectation from facility management team
A typical transition or Hand-over starts with a snag list prepared by the proposed facility management team. Unless there the detailed explanation of various design specification and architectural elements are passed on hand-over would be incomplete. The facility management team should thoroughly comprehend the complete aspects of construction fittings electrical, water, HVAC, landscaping, server rooms, rest rooms, design drawings, OEM warranties, attic stock, vendor contacts and locked-in AMCs for a period of at least years.
Establishing the probable gaps and possible bridges
The three main probable gaps lie in resource, technology and process. While shortage of skilled manpower is a primary resource constraint, in few cases, mere meeting the desired numbers of necessary manpower itself becomes a challenge. There aren’t many established training schools or graduating colleges where people can study and get trained to become a facility employee, with CAFM certification being the lone exception.
A definitive bridge here is to create more awareness about the career opportunities that lie in this industry and to invite private sector along with government initiation. In India, we already have a very successful model in Hotel and Catering management institutes run by both the government and private Institutes. This model can be used for facility management as well.
The gap in demand-supply situation is already huge and is widening due to the increasing expectations from the facilities in addition to the pressures of getting LEED certification, or reducing carbon footprint.
The gap in process strengthening is due to a self-defeating policy that facility management teams adopt. In overlooking the processes and adapting short cut methods, the practicing facility managers add their bit to deplete the life, aesthetics and efficiency of a facility. Processes bring in consistency, predictability and safety.
Sustenance and way forward
- Identifying the areas of imprvement and opportunities for training in all aspects of facility management and bringing in professionalism into the function
- With collective experience, new entrants can be trained and the existing trained personnel go for refresher sessions
- Getting the government attention into the industry and seek clarity in the legislation (Power conversion, carbon foot print advantages, water neutral exercise, GMP training, etc.) and attracting subsidies for FM education
- Popularizing certification courses from IFMA and other authorized institutions
- Creating a platform for sharing knowledge, experience and best practice sharing
- Documentation for archival and process creation (institutionalising the practices).