Is there a mole in here? – IoT and FM

SaaS, IoT, Work Management and Mobile are words that we hear everyday, billions of devices connected to our smart phones, computers and tablets connected via the cloud, watching, monitoring and data mining everything.

 A recent post (IoT, Mobile, Service) – FM maintenance in the Cloud had a great response and discussion which has triggered this post. Thanks to all for your time.

Forget the number of anticipated devices by 2020 it is a lot. It makes me feel inadequate, I don’t have any, ok, I have a smart phone, tablet and a computer and I did have a few IoT devices in my holiday home in France. Yep France, a very remote part where upload speeds reach 0.5Mb and download of 2Mb on a good day assuming we have power, we regularly loose power around here, thus why I’m writing this by candlelight.

 I want to talk here about Facilities Management and the ‘Benefits’ of IoT (the ability to connect without human intervention) technology in this industry.

Facilities Management whether its self delivered with a DLO or by an outsourced supplier[s] is seen as an overhead, something that has to be done but often gets very little attention as it is not core business. However, it will always grab the CFO’s eagle eye, or it should, a huge number in the budget and carries a massive risk.

 Now in my domestic life I’m taught to look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, very true but when reviewing spend lines in this industry we look for the biggest and wonder, how to…

 Remove, Reduce, Replace or Retain (the 4 Rs).

 Can I Remove or Reduce the cost, Replace it with something else or having considered all the options we need to Retain. These are the questions asked everyday in FM. Clients want the best at the lowest cost so by the very nature it will drive innovation.

 Unlike buying a flash car or a piece of jewellery, these are statement pieces and carry a cost, we expect to pay good money in fact we want to.

 FM is different, it is a necessary unnecessary!

 Very rarely is FM seen as important, unlike workplace design, funky desking, great break out space with free tea and coffee on demand, and, if Uber wine and of course the obligatory storage for your bike. Cool. To keep all this stuff working and compliant is a tough job. Somebody has to replace the coffee capsules, ensure there are 10 types of milk (what ever happened to silver and gold top) and so on. It looks terrific and is a great place to work, creativity is everywhere. A cautionary note, do not drink and drive, even when on your bike.

We will pay £000’s for a desk lamp, coffee machine and even a ping-pong table but when it comes to cleaning and maintenance we talk about the minimum wage and tender, evaluate and challenge and suggest it could be done with much less.

Yep this is called FM. In order to keep profitable we need to be innovative and creative, so we can do more with less.

Clients talk about being innovative but this is code for cheaper

There are two key noun’s used in FM, Value and Benefit

 Value – Noun

the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

Benefit – Noun

an advantage or profit gained from something

 These are the driving forces behind innovation, tenders will be crammed with phrases such as ‘the added value of our submission is…..’ trying to differentiate from the rest, and after spending weeks of ‘solutionising’ and writing creative bids, the client will skip the bid and disregard the worth or usefulness and look at the bottom line and scream, ‘how much,’ unless of course your organisation has a clear, steadfast and the leadership to ensure your values are actually meaningful and not just when it suits. In this industry cost accounts for just about everything.

A great phrase is ‘driven to spend a budget rather than earn a budget’! Where a budget is given the challenge is to spend it where as suppliers will have to earn the budget, in fees from the client.

Values are different to each and every one of us. As an example, I see a huge value in creating and supporting inter company sports activities as this was both hugely valuable, important and useful as it enabled the team to have fun together and relax, share our purpose and enable all to talk openly in a relaxed environment, a huge benefit as I learnt so much. Others may see no value in this despite it being in their list of company values, this I suspect was because they see no advantage or financial benefit. It depends on priorities and in the FM industry it is usually the cost.

The buyer and seller, agree what is the benefit derived from the value driven initiative? If there is no financial benefit why bother? Everything we invest will have some kind of benefit, a new TV, a better picture quality, lower power consumption new features, the car with longer service periods and the sporting event allowing others to have a voice that may otherwise not have been heard. IoT will bring benefits, so its claimed with predictive maintenance.

So where does the mole enter? This is a phrase I used in management consulting and delivering change and tracking the benefits. All change management projects will require the benefit evidenced, demonstrating that the change had actually occurred and delivered the desired benefits and the value of the consultant. When managing such large change initiatives, identifying change is easy, delivering change a process, but evidencing change is a whole new challenge. 

Garden Moles, as we know, pop up unexpectedly, it instills images of hitting the mound with a spade, pushing one down only for another to appear. Saving in one area can merely push the cost to another. The cost remains the same; this is merely Business Process Re-engineering (BPR).

What has all this to do with IoT in FM. Well quite a lot really; claims that IoT will deliver benefits by saving you money by moving from Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) routine to Predictive. Makes sense to me. Loads of benefits, lots of value to be gained, what is stopping us, let’s get on with it, install IoT devices and take the benefit. Yep if it was that easy it would have been done by now. We need to look at both sides of the coin. To go back to our mole, we had a huge amount of soil on the surface, the benefit and I’ve just stood on it and its popped up somewhere else, the benefit taken is now a cost, just in a different place. All we have managed to achieve is to move it. There is no benefit. To deliver a benefit we need to consider all the consequences of change and how it is packaged.

Predictive Noun

say or estimate that (a specified thing) will happen in the future or will be a consequence of something.

Planned Noun

decide on and make arrangements for in advance

In moving from a PPM to a predictive routine will deliver a benefit, maintenance is then predicted rather than planned, this may stretch the maintenance period, the benefit. I call this the sushi belt effect, I can take my dish (my job) a little earlier, or later but all within an arms reach. Think about it!

Maintenance very rarely has an exact date, it’s a frequency often determined by SFG20, daily, weekly, monthly’s etc, clearly if you miss a daily you can’t do two visits the next (although some do try) but with a weekly you may allow a days slippage and a weeks slippage with a monthly etc ensuring contract creep does not occur.

The challenge for a predictive approach, is not the concept, but for suppliers to change their delivery model. Just imagine planning and scheduling. You have a contract to deliver PPM and Reactive services, you can plan your resources and skills quite specifically to ensure the SLA’s and KPI’s are achieved. The cost base is known and your income guaranteed. With a predictive approach the visit dates are unknown precisely so labour profiling becomes a nightmare and the cost of services complex depending on whether you have an input, output or BOQ.

In reality if we react to an event in an unplanned way the cost increases as we pay for the ‘jerk’ factor

The cost of a service call is not necessarily the time on site but the walk time between activities. If this can be minimised then the actual service cost reduces. This encourages the grouping of activities and skills and undertake as many activities at a single location. So as an example undertake all the daily checks in a plant room, some quarterly, half yearly and an annual. Great the day has been fully loaded and travel has been kept to a minimum.

As an example a predictive approach ‘attend the plant room ‘A’ and do a weekly and then attend plant room ‘B’ and do a monthly then return the following day to Plant room ‘A’ to make another visit. Chaotic and costly. As its predictive it is by the very nature unplanned.

Many years ago I was known as ‘Mr Pat’ one of the original innovators of ‘Portable Appliance Testing’ and other compliance assurance testing. The price of the service was per unit with discounts for quantity, a simple business model. It dawned on me one morning when surveying the mole hills on my lawn that charging for the walk time was smart, the shorter the more tests could be achieved, and thus lower the cost, clients loved it. The benefit shared with the client, the worth and usefulness (value) was immense. The same applies to FM, the most efficient FM services are those with a well-trained, multi skilled and efficient workforce with excellent planning and resource profiling, that can be adjusted to reflect events whilst maintaining SLA’s and KPI’s. It is generally a manual process, understanding how the service teams have performed, the delays due to an unforeseen activity, traffic, security, keys and sickness. Maintaining, updating routing and scheduling is a nightmare; it is generally set once and then forced thus why during detailed audits it emerges that a 1 hour service takes 10 minutes. No wonder your assets are failing. It is just too complex to be constantly adjusted and optimised.

Predictive Maintenance will deliver a benefit, but its not IoT, that merely gets a status of something into the cloud, we need the other side of the coin, analytics, machine learning and automatic resource scheduling then the benefits of predictive maintenance using IoT are real and huge

Mole Hill Maintenance (MhM) is real; do not pretend that savings are achieved by moving from a PPM to a predictive routine, this merely moves the benefit as a cost to somewhere different, even if the cost is pushed somewhere different, ultimately you’re paying for it

IoT in FM maintenance without automated ‘middleware’ of machine learning and sophisticated algorithms is a mole without a hill!

The transformation of maintenance to predictive is not IoT, but smart machine learning software on an open architecture of IoT

The FM business must recognise that the use of IoT is not a magic bullet to move from a PPM to Predictive regime. Simply the contracts and software is not able to automate resource profiling to ensure that a benefit is not eaten away by other costs of labour inefficiency.

Next time you are sold the casual throwaway comment of the benefits of IoT enabling PPM to move to predictive, it is real, but ask:

What is the true benefit £’s after costs of hardware and discussions with your suppliers to manage a predictive maintenance solution

Impact on SLA’s, KPI’s and asset life

Predictive maintenance, PF curves and MTTF etc are great for high value, high risk critical assets but applying predictive maintenance in everyday buildings with basic assets is in my view and at this point in time a total waste of time and money. As previous posts, undertake a review, complete a risk assessment understand the impact and structure your maintenance regime around that, simply your regime needs to be risk and data driven.

Richard Jowsey – February 2017

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