Kody Cook, Journalist, Infrastructure Magazine

Facilities management is an age-old practice which has only been recognised as an industry in its own right in recent decades. Whether it’s running government facilities or maintaining multi-unit residential buildings, facilities management is a complex role requiring a wide range of skills and knowledge. Here we take a look at the role facilities managers fill and outline some of the best practices for facilities management in Australia. 

Facilities management involves the maintenance and management of a facility’s buildings, precincts, supporting infrastructure and operations, on behalf of the facility’s owners. 

In Australia, the sector employs over 200,000 people in the commercial and residential markets alone, and the industry contributes upwards of $20 billion to the Australian economy. 

The facilities management industry plays a major role in the delivery of business operations and even government projects. 

Facilities management has been a practice since people first started constructing buildings for specific purposes, long before the term facilities management was even conceived. 

While the industry originally stemmed from building trade oriented services, like janitors and other caretakers, modern facilities managers require a broader, more diverse skill set, more in line with business management roles. 

The role of a facilities manager

A facilities manager organises, controls and coordinates the strategic and operational management of buildings and facilities in order to ensure the efficient operation of all its aspects, creating and sustaining safe and productive environments for residents and/or staff. 

Facilities management is a constant and ongoing process, particularly in facilities that provide a public service, such as airports, train stations and hospitals. These services must operate constantly and therefore management is conducted at all times of the day, every day of the year. 

Depending on the scale and type of facility, the facilities manager can consist of a single individual or a team, with services able to be delivered by directly employed, ‘in-house’ professionals or ‘out-sourced’ in whole or part to an external provider. 

An important role of the facilities manager is to provide services, meet varying expectations, support, information, be a good listener, and deal with conflict to create a community environment residents are willing to call home. 

Their role includes dealing with various contractors and suppliers who provide services such as property and equipment maintenance, security, cleaning and cleaning. 

In larger buildings the facilities manager may even be required to manage staff and be part of the recruitment and induction process. Therefore, they are often required to have strong people management skills. A manager’s relationship with support staff and contractors is critical in ensuring the building is an attractive place to live and work. 

Best practices 

Here are some of the best practices that can ensure quality facilities management.

Communicate with staff 

Clear and effective communication between team members, between departments and with outside vendors and service providers is vital to ensure that a facility continues to operate efficiently. 

Proper communication improves facility management because:

  • It ensures facilities managers maintain cordial contractor and vendor relationships when communicating planned maintenance, service requests, training programs, equipment changes, etc
  • It eliminates the potential for confusion that can result in avoidable issues or mistakes 
  • It improves the overall productivity and accountability of the teams by informing them about the current state of affairs at the facility
  • Transparent communication encourages workers to participate in the conversation regarding important decisions
  • It can also attract honest employee feedback that can play an essential role in facility management improvement

Lower facility costs with preventative measures

One of the primary roles of a facilities manager is to maximise the efficiency of a facilities operations by ensuring low downtime and low maintenance costs. The best way to achieve these outcomes is through preventative maintenance. 

Preventative maintenance is proactive actions that seek to extend the life of equipment and effectively repair failures and breakdowns before they occur. 

Not only does preventative maintenance typically cost less than reactive maintenance, but it also ensures less operational downtime which in turn ensures a high level of productivity and revenue generation across the facility. 

Preventative measures also help to ensure that a facility is a safe place to work. If left unattended, faulty equipment can lead to potentially dangerous accidents. 

Develop employee skills and knowledge

Facilities management is a continuously advancing and changing industry. New breakthrough technologies like Internet of Things devices and other smart systems are massively impacting the way facilities are managed, and in the face of these new tools it’s important that a manager’s employees have the skills and expertise required to fully take advantage of them. 

Facilities managers can evaluate the skill level of their existing workforce to create an upskilling plan to support the progression of their knowledge. Workers are a manager’s greatest asset which is why instead of searching for new staff, a manager should focus on training up employees to adapt to the new technology revolution.

Create a unique and customised facility management plan

The responsibilities of facilities managers can vary enormously between organisations, and even within organisations between different sites. 

This is why developing a business model to understand a given facility’s priorities in key areas – preventive maintenance, event scheduling, asset management, workforce training, etc – is vitally important.  

Managers must create a workflow for facility management that must be tailored to accommodate their unique facility maintenance needs.

It can be beneficial to discuss how to improve facility management services with supervisors and consultants. When creating a customised facility management workflow, managers can capture, track and report all the crucial metrics surrounding the facility’s processes.

A complete and unique facility management operations plan provides all the essential tools that are required for operation success and ensures that all services are aligned with the organisation’s best interests.

Facilities management is a constantly evolving field. With new technologies and management solutions being introduced so frequently, it’s important to have a strong grasp of the core practices which support efficient operations and high-quality management services.

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