How Will Automation Impact Facility Management Jobs?

by James McDonald on June 17, 2019

Automation in facility management isn’t a radically new concept. The first digital control systems for commercial buildings were developed in the 60s. Since then, the technology behind building automation has evolved considerably — particularly over the last five to 10 years.

And as the adoption of advanced automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning becomes more commonplace, many facility managers are understandably concerned about how their role will be impacted. (Articles with headlines like “Automation will destroy millions of jobs” don’t help, either.)

But automation isn’t making facility managers obsolete — it’s actually making them more valuable. Here’s a look at how automation is affecting facility management jobs.

Automating Manual Facility Management Tasks

Today’s facility managers spend nearly half their time on day-to-day operational tasks and only about 30 percent on strategic planning, according to research by IFMA and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Twenty years ago, no one would have thought twice about a schedule like this. But in 2019, it’s a problem.

In IFMA and RICS’ report, the authors explain that many facility managers believe the focus of modern facility management should be supporting the workforce by enhancing the workplace experience — not managing service requests or performing routine maintenance. Unfortunately, many facility managers simply don’t have the bandwidth to handle day-to-operational responsibilities and execute more strategic initiatives to support an exceptional employee experience. There are too many urgent priorities that get in the way of the less urgent but equally important ones.

Automation can assist with a number of facility management tasks, including:

  • Sending automated reports to key stakeholders on a regular basis
  • Notifying facility managers when it’s time for scheduled maintenance
  • Notifying facility managers when supplies are running low
  • Assisting with scheduling meetings and reserving rooms
  • Assisting with project management

That’s why automation isn’t just beneficial, but essential to the progression and evolution of facility management jobs.

Automation Is Your Friend, Not Your Enemy

Incorporating advanced automation technologies into facility management will make some tasks obsolete, which is why some facility managers are hesitant to implement them in their workplace. However, the workload and expectations of the average facility managers are already so high that most facility managers would still have plenty to do.

In an analysis of more than 2,000 work activities across 800 occupations, McKinsey found that fewer than 5 percent of all occupations could be fully automated using current technology. Adopting automation isn’t likely to eliminate facility management jobs. Rather, it will free facility managers up to work on higher-value projects, like identifying ways to increase the productivity of the workforce and the efficiency of the workplace.

How Automation Elevates Facility Management Jobs

Not only does automation empower facility managers by letting them to focus on more strategic activities, it also enables them to make smarter decisions about those activities by collecting and organizing data about buildings and assets.

Automated data collection via Internet of Things (IoT) sensors gives facility managers insight into asset and space utilization as well as how employees interact with the workplace. With this information, facility managers can:

  • Create building performance benchmarks and identify important trends
  • Find opportunities to decrease real estate costs through space consolidation
  • Develop a workplace design that best supports the health and well-being of employees

Additionally, automated data collection and machine learning supercharge workplace management software and enable it to more accurately predict outcomes. Essentially, the platform can “learn” how to perform certain functions.

The Takeaway

Today’s facility management jobs are more connected to business strategy. There are greater expectations to improve profitability by reducing costs and increasing productivity. As a facility manager, you have to be able to make data-driven decisions and have time to solve bigger problems. Automation can help you gather the data you need and save time. In other words, automation is your friend, not your enemy.

To learn more about what it takes to succeed in facility management today and how to land an awesome facility management job, check out this eBook.


James McDonald

James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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