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Struggling with aging talent and skills shortage in Facilities Management?

Making room for automation can help counter the skills demand-supply gap in the industry.

It is concerning that while the trade based skills are high in demand, the supply is far from meeting the needs. During my visit to various industry events and discussions with professionals, one theme clearly stands out; skills shortage is a significant risk to this industry. While they commend government policies spurring growth in trades focused schools and colleges, it takes time for students to graduate & gain experiences, and then organizations have to do a lot to attract and retain this talent.

Reading through a joint research conducted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and International Facility Management Association (IFMA), one of key findings that popped-out is the industry’s inability to attract enough new talent to replace its existing pool of retiring professionals. It is overall a concerning trend for the industry; just less than 15% of RICS’ Facility Management professional members are under 40 years of age while the average age of IFMA’s member is 50.9 years old. Similarly, ManpowerGroup’s annual report highlights that for the 6th consecutive year, skilled trades positions are hardest to fill globally.

I believe that in a scenario where demand outstrips supply, additional capacity can be created through a range of technology-based solutions focused on specific needs. In addition to automating their various day to day manual processes, it is time that facilities managers start to seriously consider wireless remote monitoring, tracking (Internet of Things, IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication solutions. This should help facility managers free up capacity across existing resources allowing them to address some of the deferred maintenance and backlog of work orders.

Consider automation as your “friend-in-need” that can help you through these challenging times. Based on my learning and conversations, I have put together a few specifics that facilities managers are struggling with and how automation could help. Note that it is not an exhaustive list and based on an organization’s current technology usage and degree of automation, the requirements of automation may vary. Here they are and I hope you find them useful:

  1. Improve safety, comply to industry regulations and reduce incident related employee downtime. Technology solutions can drastically improve safety of the environment for employees and the general public. For mobile asset owners, such as fleet operators, using telematics based solutions can help improve safety by monitoring driver behavior, complying with electronic logs device (ELD) regulations, etc. Automated solutions also help in capturing information for training that could improve safety and reduce downtime. On the other hand, using sensors to monitor light output in parking lots, underground garages, paths & walkways help eliminate hazards that prevent injury and possible litigation.
  2. Gain real-time insights into the health and condition of assets, prevent asset downtime and reduce reactive responses. Using technology to capture data on your assets enables facility managers to respond proactively and prevent downtime. Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities can provide real-time data on the health and condition of your fixed and mobile assets, 24/7, and generate alerts and notifications when certain triggers are activated. As an example, placing vibration sensors on air circulation fans and temperature sensor on its motor can help detect the health of the air circulation system. An irregular vibration of the fan and excessive heating of the motor could indicate a potential issue and addressing this could prevent downtime & business impact, reduce damage and lower repair costs. 
  3. Cut down on costly and time consuming site-visits to collect data. One no longer needs to send a resource to various location to capture data such as temperature, humidity, meter readings, inspecting the premises, etc. These can be performed via sensors, cameras, and electronic meters and the data can be transmitted to a central system via wireless technologies that use wifi, cell towers and/or GPS/satellites. Overall the power of technology driven automation is not just gaining resource capacity, but, also reduces expenses.
  4. Reduce the time consumed by paper based and manual processes. Having systems in place with the necessary functionalities required by users, and accessible on an as-needed basis frees up facility management resources to focus on what’s important to achieving the organization’s goals. As such, employees will no longer need to contact facility management to book resources and assets (e.g. booking rooms, workspaces, projectors, vehicles, parking lots, etc) and to gain access to the various data they need. They can now do these on their own by logging onto a system (self-serve). No more spending hours filling out and managing paper forms, and no more chaos when these paper get lost or manual tools (e.g. spreadsheets) get deleted.
  5. Improve your decision support processes and focus resource effort on activities linked to achieving business objectives. With technology based solutions, information is stored in centralized databases which allows organizations to quickly generate analytics and insights to support decision making. One no longer has to run around gathering multiple spreadsheets, manually aggregating and correlating them to generate insights which could sometimes take weeks while the manual intervention could introduce inaccuracies. With the right level of automation, analytics and insights can be generated on-demand without any human intervention while freeing up capacity to focus on priority items.

I am sure that there are more ways to address skills gap and achieve additional benefits from automation. It is recommended that each organization perform a needs assessment and gain a clear understanding of the outcomes they would like to achieve before investing in technology solutions.

If you would like to learn more about how technology and automation could help your organization, drop me a line on the comment section or email


Insight and Opinion: Authored by Bhuwan Sharma

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