Facility management (FM) is concerned with operating and maintaining commercial and industrial properties. This function may be performed by in-house corporate staff or by an outside firm specializing in facilities management. Facilities may include sports complexes, jails, hospitals, hotels, and retail establishments, but in business the term is used most often to describe office buildings and factories. Responsibilities include providing janitorial and maintenance services, security, engineering services, and managing telecommunications and information systems. The facility manager’s job is to create an environment that encourages productivity, is safe, is pleasing to clients and customers, meets building regulations, and is efficient.
Facility management has traditionally been associated with janitorial services, mail rooms, and security. Since the mid-20th century, though, facility management has evolved into a more comprehensive set of business functions, including an emphasis on deriving as much value from the facility as possible. Factors driving the complexity of the facility manager’s job are numerous. For example, facilities have become much larger and more complicated, often relying on computerized and electronic support systems that require expertise to operate and repair. Furthermore, a new-found corporate cost-consciousness that emerged during the 1980s and peaked during the 1990s has generated an emphasis on operational efficiency.
A proliferation of government regulations and court decisions has forced facility managers to consider all kinds of factors related to access for people with disabilities (see Americans with Disabilities Act), hazardous materials (e.g., environmentally damaging CFCs in air conditioning systems), and legal liability for the safety of the people that enter the premises. Indeed, as government oversights at the federal, state, and local levels mushroomed between the 1960s and early 1990s, many establishments became overwhelmed by complex rules and restrictions. Almost every industry was barraged with a separate set of regulations aimed at its niche.
Hospitals, for example, were forced to comply with thousands of mandates related to waste disposal, malpractice liability and protection, and safety. But even general regulations that apply to all facilities have ballooned. Churches, schools, and factories alike must comply with stringent laws regarding staffing, employee and civil rights, patron and employee safety and comfort, recycling and energy conservation, and pension and health benefits. Adding to those are a profusion of environmental laws related to factors such as indoor air quality, grounds maintenance, and hazardous emissions.
The end result of new technology, efficiency pressures, and government regulations has been an expansion of the facility management role. Facility managers today are often highly trained and educated and must wear several hats. Depending on the size of the complex, he or she will likely be responsible for directing a facility management and maintenance staff. In addition to overseeing the important duties related to standard janitorial, mail room, and security activities, he may also be responsible for providing engineering and architectural services, hiring subcontractors, maintaining computer and telecommunications systems, and even buying, selling, or leasing real estate or office space.
For example, suppose that a company has decided to consolidate five branch offices into a central computerized facility. It may be the facility manager’s job to plan, coordinate, and manage the move. He may have to find the new space and negotiate a purchase. And he will likely have to determine which furniture and equipment can be moved to the new office, and when and how to do so with a minimal disruption of the operation. This may include negotiating prices for new furniture and equipment or balancing needs with a limited budget. The facility management department may also furnish engineering and architectural design services for the new space, and even provide input for the selection of new computer and information systems. Of import will be the design and implementation of various security measures and systems that reduce the risk of theft and ensure worker safety.
The facilities manager is also responsible for considering federal, state, and local regulations. For example, he will need to ensure that the complex conforms with strict new mandates imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Clean Air Act (CAA). The ADA specifies a list of requirements related to disabled employee and patron access with which most facilities must comply, and the CAA imposes standards for indoor air quality and hazardous emissions. Similarly, other laws regulate energy consumption (e.g. lighting systems), safety, smoking, and other factors that fall under the facility manager’s umbrella of responsibility.
CONTRACT FACILITY MANAGEMENT
A facility manager may be an employee of the company which owns and operates a facility, or, as is increasingly the case, he or she may work for a specialized facility management company that operates the complex for the owner on a contract basis. The latter arrangement has become more common as the scope and complexity of facility management has exceeded the capability of building occupants. Companies that hire contract managers prefer to focus on other goals, such as producing a product or providing a service. Many of those firms find that outsourcing facility management duties to a specialist reduces costs and improves operations.
Contract facility managers may be hired to manage an entire complex or just one part of a large operation. For example, some companies hire contract managers that specialize in operating mail rooms or providing janitorial services. In any case, the company expects to benefit from the expertise of the manager it hires. A contractor that manages data processing systems, for example, may bring technical know-how that its employer would have great difficulty cultivating in-house. Likewise, a stadium owner that employs a facility manager specializing in the operation of sport complexes may benefit from the contractor’s mix of knowledge related to grounds-keeping, accounting and reporting, and sports marketing, among other functions.
Besides expertise and efficiency, several other benefits are provided by contract facility managers. For example, they reduce the owner’s or occupant’s liability related to personnel. By contracting a firm to manage one of its factories, for instance, an organization can substantially reduce headaches related to staffing, training, worker’s compensation expenses and litigation, employee benefits, and worker grievances. It also eliminates general management and payroll responsibilities—rather than tracking hours and writing checks for an entire staff, it simply pays the facility management company. In addition, a company that hires a facility management firm can quickly reduce or increase its staff as it chooses without worrying about hiring or severance legalities. In other words, a large portion of the benefit provided by contract managers is not directly related to facilities management.
Regardless of whether facility management is performed internally or outsourced, businesses have rising expectations for the level of service and value their facility managers provide. Facility managers are expected to contribute to the overall business strategy by providing cost savings and return on investment. Large-facility managers now routinely use integrated computer systems that track building functions, space management, work projects, staffing, inventory, and finances. These systems enable facility managers to bring to bear a wealth of knowledge about their physical plants in order to improve efficiency and keep operating costs down while maintaining or improving the quality of building resources and services.
One example of facility management innovation is maintaining highly detailed computerized cost records for different areas of a building. This practice enables facility managers—as well as management at the client companies—to determine where the most energy is used, and so forth. Businesses that emphasize financial accountability of their operating units may even ask the facility manager to compute the cost of building resources (space allocation, energy, and so on) by each separate business unit so they may calculate the exact figure into the unit’s overhead, rather than relying on corporate averages.
Other important innovations focus on building efficiency, environmental friendliness, and planned maintenance. In the area of efficiency, facility managers are striving to keep costs down both in day-to-day practices and in building upgrade projects. For instance, relatively modest reductions in blower operation can save a significant amount of energy. Moreover, when companies factor efficiency into renovations, they often find that the renovations pay for themselves by virtue of energy and maintenance costs saved over time. Such efficiency and cost savings are also frequently compatible with environmental concerns, such as ensuring that clean fresh air and natural lighting are abundant. These sorts of workplace quality factors have also been linked to improved productivity for the remodeled building’s workers. Building maintenance is also much more than showing up on time when there’s a complaint; facility managers use computers and building systems engineering to monitor building functions, predict and plan for maintenance in advance, and to incorporate selective redundancy into building systems to ensure there are no catastrophic failures.
PROFESSIONAL TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION
While there is no single educational path for becoming a facility manager, there are a number of widely recognized standards and several increasingly relevant curricula for the profession. With some 15,000 members, the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) is the most prominent professional association for facility managers, and it offers the Certified Facility Manager (CFM) certificate to members who pass a comprehensive examination and meet other qualifications. CFM certification must be renewed every three years to ensure members of the profession maintain their knowledge of the field. In addition, although there are no degree programs in facility management per se, several universities offer credentials for the profession that are recognized by the IFMA. Among them are Cornell University, Eastern Michigan University, and the University of Southern Colorado. Established academic fields considered relevant to facility management include architecture, business administration, engineering, construction management, and interior design.
Written: Ahmed Goda, Facilities & Fitout Manager – Infrastructure & Residential/Commercial | Posted by: Max-Migold Ltd.