Ground-breaking facility management conference crosses international borders

Sept. 1, 2009
A ground-breaking conference on facility management.

In “Built to Last,” authors Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras determined that one factor 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 eight-year-old company that develops computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) with headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, believes in and is following this “big idea” road to success.

In 2008, 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 an international conference initially seemed daunting. Plans had to be made as to whom to invite, who would attend, conference length, topics, and what speakers would come. Even though attendees would consist of both executives as well as mid-level managers, these weren’t necessarily potential clients for the speakers and most experts would have to agree to fly halfway around the world to speak.

Despite these obstacles, the idea received an enthusiastic response from facility managers from around the world and from international experts. A group of consultants and experts from five 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 as 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
  • Dave Griffiths, Senior Management Consultant, CWorks, North America

In June, 2009, more than 200 facility managers from Asia Pacific braved Kuala Lumpur’s heat and humidity to attend this inaugural international conference on facility management to learn how they could improve their processes and increase their facility’s efficiency. The conference produced some striking observations:

  • Global experts stressed similar business management tenets regardless of country of origin, language, or cultural differences.
  • Facility Management (FM) can provide significant value when planning and design 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.
  • When curtailing energy cost, facility managers should think strategically. Look for ways to reduce energy consumption such as through elevator energy consumption and CMMS.
  • 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 until the June conference, they preached similar business tenets despite their geographical and cultural differences. These universal best practices are applicable to most 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 whose titles begin with the word ‘Chief,’ including Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Managers and vendors working with members of the C-Suite must be able to talk their language and speak on their terms.

David Berger advised "Know the terms that top management uses such as ROI, profit margin, return on capital employed, return on assets, etc. To get funding and resources 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 the factors 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 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 determine your company’s long-term strategy? Teena Shouse provided some useful advice: “Ask. Talk to senior management. Review your company’s annual report, news clippings, and interviews of senior management. It’s 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: Stan Mitchell related a particularly interesting anecdote regarding relevancy. One of his clients was a leading and long-established financial services organization that invested other organizations’ money (e.g. pension funds, etc.) worldwide. Mitchell’s firm was appointed to take full responsibility for the management and operation of their many physical facilities — quite a challenging assignment in that this client generally occupied prestigious premises in many cities. After managing them for 18 months, Mitchell’s firm was delighted to discover that it had reduced the 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.

Mitchell said “For me personally it was a 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 summed up relevancy: “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 the facility managers. Many of the speakers noted a common statistic — 80% of a building’s cost during its life cycle is attributed to maintenance and upkeep: utilities 28%; maintenance 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 often are left out of the building’s design phase, even though the facility manager understands the business needs and has the expertise that would help in designing an efficient, sustainable building.

A case in point is the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which was built in 1995 and was a state-of-the-art building and the 7th tallest building in the emirate of Dubai. The highest quality materials of construction were used. An excellent building envelop so reduced the building’s internal heat loads that it complies even with the ASRAE 90.1-2004 standard.

However, no facilities management expert was consulted during the building’s design phase. Therefore, the building was designed using routine MEP design practices. As a result, the HVAC system was oversized by 200%; utilities and waste disposal system weren’t considered; and seasonal load demands were incompatible with the chiller load staging.

Jagath L. Gunawardena 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 effect of this oversight.” Equipment was monitored while still under warranty; the chilled water system was changed (now only a primary system); the chiller operational methodology was changed (running four 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,” said Gunawardena, “We have reduced the building’s annual energy costs by 30% and annual water usage by 75% since 1995.”

Elevating your cost savings

When it comes to energy savings, Gunawardena advises facility managers to think outside the box — as in elevator box, that is — when trying to reduce energy costs. Commonly, elevators are energy-consuming equipment and repeatedly forgotten or ignored in the energy-saving equation. Often, elevators are equipped with oversized motors for a realistic number of passengers that the lift can accommodate. Such inefficiency wastes energy and costs money.

Determine if the motor is oversized and resize the counterweight ratio and the drive motor size to match the load the elevator actually accommodates. Other tips include turning off the car lights, auxiliaries, and power side of the controller, if a lift has been idle for five minutes and shutting down interfloor lifts during periods of low traffic demand.

Savings through CMMS

The speakers agreed that a CMMS as well as other smart asset systems are key to controlling, monitoring and, therefore, reducing energy costs. However, it’s not enough merely to install a CMMS.

Dave Griffiths said, “In setting up a CMMS, it’s important to consider who will be inputting data and how. If it [the system] is easy to use, your maintenance technicians will input the important data; if not, the system 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, the 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. With improvements in technology, facility management now covers many areas such as plant, facility, roads, security, fleet, logistics, and materials that can be handled by the same software system,.

A tribute to FM

In addressing conference attendees, 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 might 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.

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