Space - now a strategic business frontier

Accurate spatial data relating to business assets can play a vital operational and strategic role, says FSI's Mark Magee and Excitech's Richard Brayshaw, reporting for PFM magazine.

Cost pressures, such as recently in-the-news business rates, along with other premises related overheads, bear down increasingly heavily on all organisations, says Mark Magee and Richard Brayshaw.

From the perspectives of both apportionment, or justification of funding entitlement, accurate spatial data relating to business assets can play a vital operational and strategic role, which is why FSI has incorporated space management into its CAFM solution.

Even in these times of increasingly agile approaches to work areas, the management and use made of available space probably constitutes the second most critical aspect determining sustainability, following selection and management of personnel.

Space is claimed - at a cost! - by employees and assets specific to the nature of an organisation's activities, and by building services and other assets providing support functions. So the use and optimisation of available space - and then the re-use and reorganisation when operating circumstances change - is increasingly seen to be, as organisations get larger and more complex, business-critical. Space, therefore, has increasingly become a high level management concern, of strategic importance.

The BIM imperative
Incorporating the spatial dimension into the multi-faceted asset management capabilities of FSI's Concept Evolution CAFM solutions was identified as a development priority.  Rather than develop an IT solution from scratch, Excitech was identified as a highly suitable, complementary partner for FSI.  Both businesses had similar approaches to technology and are of similar age and market standing.

Excitech's capabilities in systems providing 2D and 3D computer visualisations of premises populated with extensive specification data relating to all building components (and plant, fixtures and fittings) from the point of architectural conception, through construction to handover, melds naturally with FSI's CAFM capabilities which can oversee a site and its totality of assets through its operational life. For example, when buildings, floors, locations, contacts, departments and assets are changed on the floor plans in AutoCAD or Revit, Excitech FM synchronises the changes into Concept Evolution.

This combination allows for total lifecycle management of a construction project, from inception and on through operation.  This requirement has increasingly become important in the marketplace, as Building Information Modelling (BIM) workflows have gained significant momentum in the UK, supported by the UK Government's BIM Mandate (2016) which aligns to an overall construction strategy.

For new projects the BIM imperative, and particularly the space- visualisation-with asset- data combination, has helped to see the removal of a costly and time-consuming discontinuity: the setting-up of CAFM once a new site was ready for use. Entering all the building and other asset data into the CAFM database - through surveys, audits and other data collection methods - to allow the FM function to commence operation - meant an initial set-up period, possibly of many months, when optimised FM was not taking place.

Elements of this data-gathering process were improved with some pre-population of asset data via intermediate transfers through spreadsheet import/export. However, BIM's insistence on a common, shared, federated model, into which all design and construction parties feed their involvement, can now allow, at handover, seamless delivery of all the relevant asset data directly into the CAFM system. Digital snagging takes place in advance. Details are available down to atomic level - such as which screws are used in door hinges, if needed - and maintenance schedules can be in place before plant starts operating. Asset-auditing labour costs - and associated inputs embodying human error - are reduced. Up-front set-up cost savings of 30 per cent are realistic.

In addition to the formal requirement for major UK public sector projects to now adopt the BIM approach, an increasingly enlightened number of private sector organisations are choosing the BIM route for new projects as they gain more awareness of this new, strategically advantageous way of working.

Space is money!
While there is unquestionably extensive additional benefit in the value of end-to-end asset data mapping to spatial information for new builds, there are also considerable advantages to its inclusion as part of any CAFM implementation.

There is an ease-of-use familiarity to the web browser-based interface used to interrogate visual representations of sites in 2D or 3D. CAFM data relating to the assets (highly customisable to specific business sectors) shown in the space being viewed may be on-screen while viewing or pop-up on demand by clicking a location point.  Changes and amendments can be made on-the-spot by authorised persons.

This creates a seamless continuity between the need to be able to do day-today space management, on the one-hand, and also to have at ones fingertips all the spatial data necessary for strategic planning.

Managers can thus manage the likes of complex responsibilities such as:

  • Moves/relocations
  • Organisational restructures
  • Agile working
  • Mission-critical projects

The graphical interface - and, where appropriate, the mobility of the tablet - brings space management out of the closeted ivory tower of IT/CAD specialism.  This democratises data access, control and editing. Stake-holding, operational departments can update, report on and manage timely spatial/CAFM data relating to their occupancy. Senior management can then view and assess an accurate, detailed big picture in relation to corporate goals for estates management strategies etc. Accurate dashboards and reports for planned and actual space allocation can be provided - critical for managing change within an organisation.

The cost/charging element of space management has a very clear role of significant value in the landlord and tenants scenario. Space and associated asset use at floor, room or desk level can be a dynamically changing expense perhaps requiring monitoring by the hour.  

However, even within organisations cost apportionment/charge-back processes are increasingly used to assess the relative value of contributions and/or the expense of departments, most critically, of course, in high-cost city centre locations. The more accurate and timely occupational information can be, the better. Similarly, funding finance may be apportioned by organisations, such as those in healthcare, partly based on the space occupied by the different disciplines working within a premises.

IoT enhancement
Feedback and status updating of the system from designated space/data auditors and now also from the ordinary employee at the work-face is being further enhanced with the arrival of the Internet of Things (IoT). Real-time gathering of data from sensors monitoring temperature, humidity and vibration when projected onto floor and building views can present a vital extra dimension in terms of environmental control, on the one hand, and identification of patterns of occupancy that support or detract from strategies of desk management, on the other.

Heat mapping of a property can indicate hot, or cold spots, and lead to their correction before personnel in the area begin to complain and productivity suffers.  And while the network connectivity reports relating to computers or telephones can be used as a guide to when a desk position is occupied, the increasingly wireless world means that vibration detection is becoming a better indicator of whether a seat position is free for reallocation.

Simply put, the imperative for achieving optimised cost control and operational efficiency has now become so important to so many organisations that the added value of incorporating spatial mapping within a CAFM implementation, from both the day-today and strategic viewpoints, is too great to be ignored.

Mark Magee is Senior Business Development Manager at FSI, developers of the Concept Evolution range of Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) solutions.  Richard Brayshaw is CAFM Business Development Manager at Excitech, developers of Space and Move Management solutions.