You can’t handle the truth….

Truth, when we are surrounded by fake news, is a hot topic, and simply identifying the truth can be challenging. Fake News is badged the truth, so we need to read and then validate from a number of sources simply to understand whether the article is the truth and based on fact. We no longer believe everything we read. In fact, we are nowadays suspicious of everything we read. It’s not just the news, often our suspicion is raised as we probe and question and are repeatedly let down. Frequently the wording or report has an element of truth to make it compliant, but still needs interpretation. So, to what part of the truth does this blog refer?

We live in, what can feel like at times, a false world, with our Political leaders never really answering a direct question and dodging the claim that they have retracted their promises. The wriggle room is often applied with largesse, with words such as ‘technically’ being used so the label of not telling the truth cannot be used in retort.

I find this tiresome, as we waste our time questioning reports, acting like trackers to get to the truth. As in the film ‘A Few Good Men and the clip “You can’t Handle the Truth” but unlike the film I can offer ninety shades of grey or excuses. I don’t know about you but I could save a bag full of time if the truth I was seeking was verified from a number of angles between the asset or space and was displayed on a dashboard within pre-determined tolerances. Its so helpful to have good limits set and for them to be a shared understanding, a way to the truth if you will.

For example, I was recently advised that 16 lamps were out because the output spec only drives the supplier to change the lamps when the lux level falls below X. Ok nothing new. But what does that mean? Where is the reading taken – is it with the blinds up or down, what is the base luminance, is it a dull day or bright day, have the reflected surfaces changes, is the space occupied and so on. Lighting is often used as a decorative feature or for signposting, and therefore if not working it doesn’t really have an impact on the luminance level and so on. It doesn’t look good, it may be putting the control gear under stress etc. “Technically” I guess the lux level was within limits, although where there are no guidelines on how and where this is measured we use ‘technically’ as an excuse for poor performance.

Health and safety were considered expensive some years back and more recently likewise with energy management and waste. It is now acknowledged that good performance in these areas is good practice and a good profitable business will have these items high on the agenda. Not only to keep the business safe and efficient but to attract the right talent and sell into the right markets.

Whilst writing this between business trips I have just taken a call from a global manufacturing client who asked the question “is IoT technology and the business of measurement and verification going to impact businesses seriously”. My answer was it is happening right now. The second question they asked was “most international manufacturing/service organisations who drive a quality approach will know everything about their manufacturing business but won’t, for example, know how many lamps they have”. He is right, they don’t have this basic information, and that means they don’t know how much energy they use and where they use it, or even if their use is correctly billed. In simple terms, we don’t know what we have or what we consume.

Recently I have had clients in new builds who are finding ‘fire doors and fire dampers’ missing. It’s nothing new, we maintain and manage what we simply bump into. Imagine a global manufacturer who had no insight into the supply chain or inventory, and built with the parts they had available. It would be a licence for chaos.

Insight and truth are two important aspects of any business keen to understand the impact your employees, customers and infrastructure have on the environment and the safety of all those that work for you. Having great insight, a deep understanding of our building performance and how they operate, will offer truth and therefore assurance.

Insight is the key to truth. In our business of maintaining buildings and outsourcing self-reporting contracts, we have no option other than to believe what we are told, until of course, we bump into a fire door that is not on the asset register, a fire damper that we exposed when remedial work was undertaken or guttering that has a tree growing out of it.

Do we believe what we are told or read? Interesting question. Let’s take an asset list and put the definition of an asset to one side. How was it collected, from a bill of quantities, design drawings, as fitted or physically counted? Many assets will have a legal and statutory requirement and if you’re not maintaining it you will be simply breaking the law.

Fire doors and dampers will be a fundamental part of the fire strategy of the building and I think it is safe to assume that at the design stage the discussion didn’t go something like this

“let’s bung a couple more units in this duct, another fire break here and a few extra doors just in case some don’t make it onto the asset register and don’t get serviced”.

Going back to the earlier point, the doors and dampers will have been manufactured and quality assured to the highest standards and installed and then commissioned. How is it they do not appear on an asset list? There could be numerous reasons.

If you don’t know you have it you will probably never find it.

Worrying. Imagine reporting such fundamental absences to a board or investor, a very uncomfortable meeting especially when you’re on the hook for lifecycle replacement.

Failure to understand what you have and its performance will have a detrimental impact on service, energy, lifecycle and the environment. In other words, it’s costing you.

Maintenance of buildings and the strategy you adopt should include the fundamental truth you need to know what you have. In my view, there is no excuse for such errors in newly built or refurbished properties, but I’m a realist. We need to minimise the error. Time will reduce the error rate if we adopt a proactive approach to maintain and update an asset register. It should not be done once and relied on, we need to question, check and validate, just as with map reading 3 known points will give you a better position than two (for those in the 21st century 3 satellite reference points).

If you have a building you own the risk, the risk cannot be outsourced. Knowing what you have is critical, and having a single source of information is not the truth.

Assurance is critical in delivering world beating service and gaining insight. By knowing what you have you can optimise, assure and ultimately save money.

So, whilst all the tracker reports are Green and the service columns are 100% compliant think again. Can you handle the truth?

Richard Jowsey – April 2017

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