Chris Browne, Director, Corporate Solutions Operations, Jones Lang LaSalle (November 2012)
CFOs may not think they need to know the status of a HVAC unit in a data center hidden in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. And they may be right — sort of. What the C-suite does need is confidence in the reliability and efficiency of facilities equipment throughout the global real estate footprint. Ask any manufacturing line manager: Plant shut-downs cause ripples throughout the global supply chain that cost millions in both dollars and customer sentiment. The C-suite notices.
Today’s emerging facility management platforms are generating data that, more than ever before, can be aggregated in a meaningful way to inform business strategy at a high level — both in terms of managing risk and informing strategic planning.
Within many of the most popular facilities management systems in use today, building automation merely drives the efficiency of individual systems and components, which certainly has value in and of itself. But today’s integrated facility management encompasses far more than individual building efficiencies — rather, it provides a global approach.
Through new open-platform, remote facility monitoring and data aggregation systems, corporations and other building owners now have the ability to gather operations data from their facilities around the world. And with that ability to gather source data also comes the technological muscle to create meaningful business analytics.
But let’s speak in the language of the CFO. Integrated facility management platforms have evolved to provide comprehensive facilities intelligence. Coupled with skilled professionals to implement and interpret trends, a sophisticated integrated facilities management system will:
- Reduce risk of operational failure directly impacting getting products to market;
- Increase energy efficiency, driving cost savings meaningful to shareholders;
- Aggregate data to drive best practices; and
- Anticipate necessary capital expenditures.
Information Is Power
Operational data for individual buildings or a global portfolio can be surprisingly hard to come by — and even harder to aggregate. When you lack data, an apples-to-apples comparison of locations in different parts of the globe becomes nearly impossible, and benchmarks are challenging to establish. But new technologies are bringing this data together, and to dashboards fit for an iPad in some cases.
Following is an analysis of several new trends in integrated facilities management, and how they can help corporate real estate departments to drive positive business outcomes:
- Business intelligence is being gathered within, around, and between buildings, and analysis of that information is increasingly rapid and easily accessible. While building automation systems can generate reports, more sophisticated systems can begin to forecast energy needs, maintenance requirements, as well as capital expenditures.
A variety of platforms in the marketplace are increasing the sophistication of building data aggregation. The key value-add is the ability to deliver real-time value (identifying a need to fix a piece of equipment immediately to avoid a breakdown, or to tweak an HVAC setting to drive cost savings), as well as longer-term forecasting and analysis that the C-suite will find meaningful to driving business strategy.
- Continuous, remote monitoring of facilities now allows companies to affordably conduct 24x7 observation and analysis, and to compare trends across a portfolio, anticipating issues so they can be managed in advance.
The Jones Lang LaSalle IntelliCommand portfolio management system is one such system. It leverages technology from Pacific Controls to deliver seamless solutions for worldwide portfolios from a central location. This system’s continuous commissioning monitors performance of building systems and equipment, from HVAC to air compressors, to ensure that all systems operate at peak efficiency individually and in combination with one another. It also tracks all the building data, making usage trends and other forecasting available for determining challenges and opportunities; overall, it can inform innovations to make all the company’s facilities operate more effectively.
- Real estate and energy management technology is becoming more integrated, more platform-agnostic, and globally compatible within, between, and among buildings and locations. As a result, a fully integrated facilities management system should be able to gather data from a multitude of different facility types and aggregate the data to inform decision-making — a critical capability when you consider that a company may acquire facilities as a result of significant mergers or acquisitions (M&As) and deals with previous owners.
Talking the Talk
CFOs typically want to know how soon systems can be aligned following building purchases or an M&A. In fact, platform-agnostic systems like IntelliCommand can make systems integration much easier, since they work with nearly any standard building automation system in use today. Using the information gathered through such systems, an integrated facilities management team can diagnose and resolve any issue in real-time, 24/7, fine-tuning operations for optimal performance through proactive and continuous monitoring.
Building productivity is the holy grail of creating savings through strategic portfolio management. At CoreNet (November 2011), Jones Lang LaSalle launched IntelliCommand™, the industry's first integrated building management solution that combines cloud-based, smart-building technology with a world-class team of engineering and operations professionals to enable 24/7, real-time remote monitoring and control of facilities and portfolios worldwide. Chris Browne describes how predictive analytics can pinpoint building maintenance and management issues through more productive and efficient management.
But the full value of smart building facilities management systems is realized only when system-enabled buildings are connected to a smart grid. For example, such systems can act as a translator between individual buildings themselves and other energy systems — including managing the inflow and outflow of building energy. Imagine new revenue streams from selling excess heat generated by a building rather than the expense of covering a spike in air conditioning. The possibilities are in their infancy since most cities lack smart grid infrastructure, but this open communication between buildings and the surrounding grid lays the groundwork for significant energy efficiencies and cost savings.
Location selection has always relied on economic, real estate, and labor market statistics to inform decision-making. But as smart buildings, smart integrated facilities management systems, and smart grids become increasingly available, CFOs and corporate real estate executives are likely to find that these technologies affect where — and what types of — facilities should be located to best support innovation, cost-efficiency, and productivity.