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Capturing International Attention – a Conference on Facility Management

In Built to Last, authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras determined that one factor in distinguishing a great company from a good one was what they called having “Big Hairy Audacious Ideas.” 

Companies that set almost inconceivable, outlandish goals tended to outperform those companies that toed the line and acted conservatively.  CWorks Systems, an 8-year-old software development company of CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems) with headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is one company that believes in and is following this “big idea” road to success.

    For last year, the founders of CWorks came up with their own big hairy idea: Holding an international conference to honor the facility management profession and to expose their clients to best practices of facility management as told by some of the top experts in the world.  The thought of holding such an international conference seemed daunting initially.  Plans had to be made as to whom to invite, who would attend, length of the conference, topics, and what speakers would come. Even though attendees would consist of both executives as well as mid-level managers, they were not necessarily potential clients for the speakers and most experts would have to agree to fly halfway around the world to come to speak.  

    But despite these obstacles, the idea received an enthusiastic response from both facility managers around the world and international experts. A unique group of consultants and experts from 5 continents agreed to come to Malaysia to give their message on best practices in facilities management and management of assets.  The list of speakers read like a who’s who in manufacturing and  facility management:  David Berger, P.Eng., MBA, Director/Partner of Western Management Consultants in Toronto, expert in CMMS and contributing columnist to Plant Services magazine and other publications; Teena Shouse, CFM, Senior Consultant of FEA and former chair of IFMA; Stan Mitchell, Chair of Key Facilities Management International Ltd, who was recently recognized by one of the top 20 Pioneers of Facility Management; George Selestine, Director of Facility Management at Sodexo Greater China; Jagath Gunawardena, Manager – Projects & Building Development, Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Michael Doolan, FM Asia, Johnson Controls, Inc. Australia; and Dave Griffiths, Senior Management Consultant, CWorks, North America .

    This past summer, over 200 facility managers from Asia Pacific braved the summer heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur to attend this first international conference on facility management to learn how they could improve their processes and increase their facility’s efficiency.  From this international conference, came some striking observations such as follows:

1)    Global experts stressed similar business management tenets regardless of  country of origin, language, and cultural differences.
2)    Facility Management (FM) can provide significant value during the planning and design of a building.  For example, in the area of energy management, a key component of FM, facility managers should be consulted to prevent unsustainable/inefficient design flaws.
3)    When curtailing energy cost, facility managers should think strategically.  Look for different ways to reduce energy usage such as through elevator energy consumption and CMMS.
4)    Facility management has become a highly technical profession through promulgated standards, smart asset management tools, and the growing integration of technical services across other departments.

Internationally Speaking

    Although most of the speakers had never met each other until the June conference, they preached similar business tenets despite their geographical and cultural differences.  These universal best practices are applicable to most business people working in all areas of business, and bear repeating here.  

Speak the language of the C-Suite.

    First of all, who is the C-Suite?  The C-Suite, also known as C-level executives, are those executives whose titles begin with the word ‘Chief’ including CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CIO (Chief Information Officer), and CFO (Chief Financial Officer).  Managers and vendors working with the C-suite must be able to talk their language and speak on their terms. As advised by David Berger, partner with Western Management Consultants: "Know the terms that top management uses such as ROI, profit margin, return on capital employed, return on assets, etc.  In order to get funding and resourcing for the projects that matter to you as a Facility Manager, you need to get the attention of senior management.  What is your business case?  How is your project more attractive than the many others competing for the same dollars?" Top executives look strategically over their company from the top floor, and knowing those terms upon which they base their decisions is imperative to you and the success of your department.  

Link FM goals and objectives to the overall corporate strategy.

    All of the facility management consultants who spoke at the June conference emphasized the importance of individuals and their departments - whether in facility management, manufacturing, security, etc. – aligning their goals with that of long-term corporate strategy.  Understand the company’s overall goals and then formulate your division’s goals in a way that will support those long term corporate objectives.    

    How do you find out your company’s long-term strategy?  Teena Shouse of FEA Consultants provides some useful advice. “Ask. Talk to senior management. Review your company’s annual report, newsclippings, and interviews of senior management.  It is more than just a poster on the wall.  More importantly what do others think about your strategy.  Google your company and see what others are saying about it.”

Be relevant.

    A particularly interesting anecdote regarding relevancy was told by Stan Mitchell of Key Facilities Management International Ltd.  One of his clients was a leading and long established Financial Services organization who basically invested other organizations’ money (e.g. pension funds, etc.) worldwide.  Mr. Mitchell’s firm was appointed to take full responsibility for the management and operation of their many premises – quite a challenging assignment in that this client generally occupied very prestigious premises in many cities. After managing these premises for 18 months, Mr. Mitchell’s firm was delighted to discover that they had collectively reduced their client’s overhead costs by more than 70%.

            They excitedly informed the CFO through a summary report of this finding so that the CFO would take this information to his Board.  The CFO was very complimentary but advised that he would not be taking it to the Board as part of his report.  The reason? The CFO explained that as a business, they invested £Billions per annum on behalf of their clients and their return varied between 0.5% to 2% of that invested.  Hence the cost savings by Mr. Mitchell’s firm, while remarkable in the facility management arena, would achieve only a cursory glance by comparison.

            Recalls Stan Mitchell: “For me personally it was a very useful wakeup call that put what we do in Facilities Management in perspective. I remain an ardent advocate of good communication to all stakeholder groups as often as is sensible to do so, but only when relevant.  [As facility managers], we must make sure that positive aspects of what we do are highlighted and understood at every opportunity.  We just need to understand the relevancy of it in whatever environment we operate.”

    Teena Shouse of FEA Associates also spoke on relevancy, summing it up this way:  “One way to show relevancy is by being able to explain to upper management in 30 seconds or less the value of your department.”  How many of us work day-to-day, not really being able to articulate what we do, how we do it and why we do it.  Not only should you be able to articulate what you do, you should be able to explain how you [and your department] support the corporate mission.

Energy Wise – in Dubai
          In addition to discussing these business principles, energy management was top of mind to all facility managers. A common statistic was noted by many of the speakers. That is, 80% of a building’s cost over its life cycle is attributed to its maintenance and upkeep: utilities 28%; maintenance cost 23%; life cycle replacement 11%; and facilities maintenance (cleaning, security, etc.) In comparison, design and construction make up only 20% of a building’s cost over its life.  Unfortunately, experts in facility management are often left out of the design stage of a building even though the facility manager understands the business needs, plus has the expertise towards designing an efficient, sustainable building.
            Case in point. When the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry was built in 1995, it was a state-of-the-art building and the 7th tallest building in the emirate of Dubai.  The highest quality materials were used; an excellent building envelop was designed which reduced the internal heat loads of the building which complies even with today’s standards i.e. ASRAE 90.1-2004. However, no facilities management expert was consulted during the design phase of the building; therefore, the building was designed using a routine MEP design. As a result, the HVAC was oversized by 200%; utilities and waste disposal system were not considered; and seasonal load demands were incompatible with the chiller load staging.
           Jagath L. Gunawardena, Manager – Projects & Building Development, Dubai Chamber commented, “Of course, these costs could have been prevented if facilities management had been consulted initially.  Thankfully, we were able to make several modifications which seriously diminished the affect of this oversight.” Equipment was monitored while still under warranty; the chilled water system was changed to only primary system; the chiller operational methodology was changed running only 4 chillers instead of 8; CWorks CMMS was implemented which allowed the department to track utility usage and provide efficient maintenance and a quality indoor environment. “The results speak for themselves.  We have reduced the building’s annual energy costs by 30% and annual water usage by 75% since 1995,” said Mr. Gunawardena.
Elevating Your Cost Savings
    Finally, when it comes to energy savings, Mr.Gunawardena advises facility managers to think outside the box – as in elevator box that is – when trying to reduce energy costs. Commonly, this high energy consuming piece of equipment is repeatedly forgotten or ignored in the energy saving equation. Often, elevators are equipped with oversized motors when compared to the realistic number of passengers that the lift can actually accommodate.  Such inefficiency wastes energy and costs money.  Determine whether the motor is oversized and then resize the counter-balancing weight ratio and the drive motor size to match the load that the elevator can actually accommodate.  Other tips include turning off the car lights, auxiliaries, and power side of the controller, after a lift has been idle for 5 minutes and shutting down lifts (interfloor) during periods of low traffic demand.
Savings through CMMS
    All speakers agreed that a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) as well as other smart asset systems are key to controlling, monitoring, and therefore, reducing energy costs.  However, it is not enough just to install a CMMS.  As stated by Dave Griffiths, of CWorks Systems, “In setting up a CMMS, it is important to consider who will be inputting data and how. If it [the system] is easy to use, your tradespeople will input all of the important data; if not, it will tend to not always be used. Accuracy and credibility hinge on having all the relevant data in the system. Analysis and subsequent decisions must be based on complete data.”

Facility Management – the Profession    
    The conference highlighted the growth of facility management as a profession and discipline.  Facility management is now a recognized field of study in universities across the U.S. and Europe.  The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have promulgated professional standards and recognized facility management as a profession (EN 15221-1 2006 Terms and Definitions). The ISO, thee world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards, is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries.  In addition, professional organizations for facility management such as IFMA and Global FM are organizing around the world.  In fact, since the conference, a Facility Management Association was formed in Malaysia to meet the needs of this growing profession.  Spearheaded by CWorks, its first meeting was held in July, 2009.   

    Moreover, the definition of Facility Management is broadening. Through technological advances such as CMMS, EAM, and other smart asset applications, the role of the facility manager is becoming increasingly complex and overlapping several functions. Due to improvements in technology, facility management now covers many areas that can be handled by the same system, such as plant, facility, roads, security, fleet, logistics, and materials.

A Tribute to FM

    In addressing the attendees at the international conference, Abdul Rani Achmed, CEO of CWorks stated, “Behind every architectural marvel, there is a facility manager.  This manager is truly the unsung hero.  For facility managers do not fix, they maintain. They do not clean; they keep it clean. They may not be firefighters fighting fires, but they are surely saving lives by preventing fires. By organizing this conference, we hope to honor you, the heroes.”  And with that, the international conference on Facility Management -  a big hairy audacious idea - was a resounding success.