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Future Of Facility Management In 2021: Trends That Will Endure And Evolve Facility management is a key area we must diligently consider and adapt for the future by adopting newer strategies and measures

By Ganesh L. Khanolkar

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It is fair to say that 2020 has defied all possible conventions. In the past year alone, the world saw disruptions of colossal proportions, both national and international. As citizens across the globe collectively learned, no one could have predicted how a mysterious virus can bring the entire world to a standstill for months together. Daily routines, business functions, communication methods, and a lot more have been altered drastically. While it is a fact that COVID-19 has completely reshaped our living and working spaces, many companies have adapted the way they function to suit the changing times.

One of the major sectors that has been affected due to COVID is the facility management (FM) space. The way we live and work every day or manage operations in physical space is no longer simple. So, FM is a key area we must diligently consider and adapt for the future by adopting newer strategies and measures. Digital transformation in commercial buildings can be achieved by making people, process, and technology work together. This will also help us successfully curb the spread of the infection by focusing on safety and delivering and demonstrating employees a hassle-free COVID-19 experience.

As employees began making drastic changes to the way they live, work, shop and socialize, companies too quickly realigned their infrastructure to tackle the needs of the post-pandemic world. Three such major trends are set to take center stage in 2021, which are particularly important for Facility Managers to note.

User experience is key

When it comes to the FM space, most organizations are already beginning to digitize the entire operations and are operating on a digital platform. This is to primarily ensure ease of user experience. Companies are now looking at solution providers that provide an entire range of offerings like asset tracking, energy consumption monitoring, security, inventory management, HVAC and mobile capabilities: under a single roof. This increased interaction with software for simple operations is indicative of the trend of using a system that users are comfortable and which is universal across software sectors. Research has shown that between 40-60 per cent of IoT devices rely on interoperability.

Almost all major players now have cloud-based options, which wasn't always the case. Apart from allowing facilities to go paperless, this also allows FM managers to view current information in real-time and make timely updates on-site. This thereby leads to more accurate data and eliminates transposing from paper to digital. This improves workflow because employees can easily view tasks and protocols (like required tools and personal protective equipment), and it streamlines how tenants or occupants can submit service requests.

AI, robotics are the future

To comply with the changing technological age, tools like robot facility monitoring and augmented reality that are integrated with IoT, will stay. More and more software providers are now committed to innovation, making room for AI and robotics in FM. We will also see automation features and wireless protocols that change the way we currently access our workplaces. Near field communication (NFC) technologies are already being combined with IoT networks to create an "all-access' pass. So it is becoming increasingly inevitable that facility management software to integrate with more such software platforms and tech devices and equipment.

Green buildings and sustainable building practices

A relatively older trend and one that will endure in 2021 is Green Buildings and the focus on sustainable building practices. More and more companies are keen on engaging with FM partners who provide sustainable equipment & solutions thereby helping reduce carbon footprint. While the emphasis has recently shifted to newer buildings to be more environment-friendly, older buildings can achieve energy efficiency through proper adoption of modern infrastructure. HVAC units, insulation strategies, motion-sensor lights with automatic turn off are all technologies that are in the right step forward. Larger projects like solar and geothermal energy sources, are other options.

All these above trends have been driven forward by changes brought forth by the pandemic. As these trends continue to advance, one can surely witness the emergence of newer technologies that will reshape employee experiences driven by FM trends in a different way altogether. The role of the facility manager is becoming more prominent and even beginning to shift from an operational to a strategic level. The FM market needs continued collaboration and partnership with vendors who will help them innovate and evolve.

Ganesh L. Khanolkar

Director Operations, Netix Controls India

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