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Operators opt for property technology in facility management

By Victor Gbonegun
30 March 2020   |   4:25 am
With the reality that facilities management in construction industry occupies about 80 per cent of the total real estate life cycle, there is an increasing integration of technology...


With the reality that facilities management in construction industry occupies about 80 per cent of the total real estate life cycle, there is increasing integration of technology into workplace management, building operation productivity and environmental management in commercial projects.

The trend globally involved the deployment of tech tools in the sub sector of the real estate such as Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, big data and analytics for facility management.

As access to intelligent machines and big data increases, real estate brokers can streamline much of the traditional transaction process, and even match investors to a property type.

Nearly $2.6 billion was invested in real estate technology endeavours in 2016 alone. The Venture capital investments in prop-tech companies also hit about $14 billion globally as of mid-year of 2019.

Industry experts say, with prop-tech comes the opportunity for a potentially faster, more insightful transaction process and software tools, drone technology and Computer Aided Design (CAD), now give potential buyers, investors and tenants the ability to truly visualise a space without ever stepping foot inside of it as well as effectively help in building and facility management.

Prop-techs are innovation and origination poised to disrupt the way commercial real estate processes are done.

Although not totally new-to-the-industry concept, however, a new wave has presented even more sophisticated capabilities that incorporate specialized applications such as, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to aid efficient commercial facility management.

For instance, big data is closely associated with AI, which can automate building processes and give property managers insight into what’s working for their building, and what’s not. Prop-Tech provides insight into a property’s operating efficiency, financial performance and others.

Property managers can easily compare building performance from time to time and identify future opportunities to enhance their portfolio.
With demand for Prop-Tech on the rise, Nigerian facility managers and operators say they are responding actively.

The Acting President, International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), Nigeria Chapter, Mr Segun Adebayo explained that using information technology/software has helped to achieve sustainable, effective and prudent way of managing commercial facilities.

“There are several software used from various location to monitor the consumption level of diesel and the rate at which power is being managed to guide against waste, manage stocks and inventories through an automated process and to monitor security situation of the commercial facilities from anywhere. You can also programme the timing of bulb replacement in a facility through a workflow schedule. What operators are deploying is Internet driven services because the workflow facility management system is enhanced by technology software to enjoy remote control access or check and most of the system are built on apps.

There are improved Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) that could be managed on phones and see from Lagos what is happening on facility in Abuja by logging into the CCTV portal, this driven by data through Internet protocols.”

He said effectiveness of prop-tech in the industry is largely determined by the involvement of facility managers at the time a commercial project is being conceived.

“From the Computer Aid Design, it means that if you are building a structure like a 12 Storey building for example, in the project team, a professional facility manager must be involved as a project member to be able to advise and also interpret the efficiency of whatever materials to be used for post construction. There are some energy management solution bulbs that are purely artificial intelligence based and respond to signs from human beings. We have green building in Lagos built to that standard and managed by reputed FM organization. Full Prop-tech in FM is a destination and operators are on that path of migration”, he stated.

Speaking on the issue, a facility manager, Mr. Lekan Akinwunmi said with the myriad of prop-tech tools now available globally, each operator customizes which of the tools they thought best for use.

Specifically, he observed that the drone technology is being deployed for facility management in Nigeria although, he said it hasn’t come in large scale due to the peculiarity of the environment like the South West for instance, which has a lot of thick bushes. He said if such is massively deployed, many of the drones might be lost.

“Within facility management, drones are primarily being used for inspections in hard to reach areas such as rooftop equipment and to measure hectares of land and take the aerial view of it instead of using the tape. We now have a kind of app that can help to test the maintenance of structures and to determine when to service the generator, the consuming capacity of the generator, and the power supply. There is an app that can be deploy for that”.

He said stakeholders are already deliberating on the use of Artificial intelligence, robots, Internet of Things, big data and analytics for facility management currently used at international level but their reception into Nigerian space seems slow because they are capital intensive.

He reiterated that the challenge to massive deployment of Prop-Tech for the industry is basically the absence of capital and the inability of clients to be able to pay for some of the services if the tools are in place, which could slow down projects.

Akinwunmi said, “You have to adopt the ones that the people can pay for. The technological know-how too is another issue. We need experts that can quickly rectify faults with the tools if they arise. If you start artificial intelligence and by the time there issues, is going to rectify it”.

The Chief Visionary Officer, FilmoRealty, a Lagos based facility management, Luqman Edu said recently that operators have been able to spotlight feature video through adoption of Microsoft’s cloud-base tool for secure workplace and to optimise its services, build growing portfolio of Prop-Tech products Analysis and insights that equips clients with the information needed.

He said one of such tool includes Microsoft’s Power BI, which supports operations with big data to make powerful strategic business decisions related to the management of real estate portfolio.

“We are moving from just managing sites and responding to situations, to understanding trends in maintenance issues, resolution times, contractors’ Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for facility services, customer satisfaction levels and everything we need to optimize management services”.

“Operations control center runs on VAMP, flagship proprietary software helps to monitor our clients’ sites and is the engine that supports our services.”

A facility management consultant with ShelterCare FM, Mr. Collins Osayamwen said, Prop-tech in facility management is still very nascent as against the expectation of majority of people stressing that not many organisations are aware of the role of Prop-tech in the management of facility.

According to him, players in the industry are still not exposed to the various tools that are available.

Osayamwen said, “Do you know what technology can do in managing our facilities, we are talking about COVID-19 raging the world and the country, some managers have come up with the idea to use drone technology to fumigate properties that they currently manage. Through that, the coverage becomes more effective”.

“10 years is enough to catch up with the rest of the world yet facility management has been operation in Nigeria for 20 years and we can’t say it is a new profession in Nigeria. We are still operating facility management at operational and tactical level with ‘bolt and nuts’. We need to go beyond that and become operational and look at the strategic level of Facility management”. Those operating in the sector are only making sure that the AC and generators are working by getting technicians to fix it instead of translating facility management to the people to ensure their comfort and safety. There should be a long term strategic approach in looking at   facility management”.

He said Computer aided facility management software solution, Building Information modeling, and others are ideally basic software every organisation should have even though they very expensive but today some operators don’t use the system because people seem not to appreciate the role of technology in modern way of managing facilities.

“If we are talking about big data, who analyse what he or she is doing in the industry today. People don’t care about data in Nigeria because they don’t analyse their data. Technology has come to influence the way we live but it’s still very far from really influencing the facility management sector because the industry is fragmented and no direct involvement with governance. People do it as a necessity and not as a profession. Anybody can just wake up and say he’s a facility manager without any form of training and expertise. We need legislation that back up the profession in Nigeria to contain falling apart of infrastructures in Nigeria”, he said.