Business leaders are itching to solve the labor shortage puzzle—and for good reason. In critical trades like plumbing, HVAC, construction, and manufacturing, there’s been a 70% decline in labor force participation since the end of 2019 due to the aging workforce. Today, the average facility worker is 51 years old. As older employees retire, there aren’t enough young prospects with the skills—or interest—to take their place. For people in positions like facilities management, this has a drastic impact.
In charge of overseeing the maintenance and operations of places like residential communities, commercial buildings, manufacturing facilities, and more, facilities managers heavily rely on trade workers to keep their facilities running. Today, 45% of all facilities managers say that they can’t find the skilled workers they need, with the application rate of plumbers and electricians dropping 49% between 2020 and 2022.
Ultimately, the lack of available labor makes it difficult for facilities managers to operate regular facility maintenance, resulting in deferred maintenance issues, inefficient energy consumption, higher equipment repair costs, and equipment downtime.
Along with the labor shortage, outdated and paper-based processes make it challenging for facilities managers to keep track of equipment maintenance, building operations, and worker whereabouts. Without a streamlined logging and tracking system, field teams can’t access necessary real-time facility data like equipment performance, potential facility issues, and building energy consumption, while managers don’t have the information and reporting they need to make site-specific decisions.
Mitigating the labor shortage, supporting those in the industry, and reducing costs and energy consumption means adopting more advanced technologies such as rugged mobile devices.
Rugged Devices and Facilities Management Software
Rugged mobile devices, like tablets and laptops, are especially useful for on-the-go jobs. Thanks to their extreme durability and ability to withstand harsh outdoor and indoor conditions, workers can bring them into the field without fear of damage while performing maintenance activities. When coupled with tools like facilities management software, they’re a powerful solution to increase efficiency and productivity.
Facilities management software ranges in complexity, but it ultimately acts as a singular platform for facilities managers to coordinate work orders, scheduling, upcoming projects, and more. When this software is harnessed on rugged mobile devices, field workers can use it to record and log maintenance activity on-site. With access to these key data points, managers can decipher trends from past projects, like how often a certain piece of equipment typically needs maintenance. This historical data is a game-changer for facilities managers, as it gives them the power to harness predictive analytics.
Predictive analytics is the process of using data to forecast future outcomes. With access to crucial data like recent maintenance projects, the frequency of that specific project, and overall machine health, facilities managers can more easily predict machine downtime and begin maintenance before a problem arises. Having this knowledge reduces the likelihood of an equipment malfunction, which in turn reduces the number of workers needed as there’s less maintenance that has to take place.
Facilities management software also lets managers keep a pulse on information like energy consumption. Today, poor maintenance and a lack of visibility into operations increases energy use by 30% to 60%. With managers struggling to keep energy consumption and costs down, they need tools that let them analyze consumption trends. Like machine health, facility workers can use management software via their rugged tablets to log and report a facility’s energy usage. This includes logging energy bill information, energy consumption interval data, and notating anomalies.
Advancing Data Analysis via Connected Equipment and Rugged Mobile Devices
Connected devices like smart thermostats, air filters, and smart lighting systems also change the game when it comes to data trends and analysis. Smart systems harness Wi-Fi to connect to apps —like management software—that give managers and field workers updates on how much energy is being used at a facility, what time of day typically sees the greatest consumption, and which utilities use the most energy. They also give insight into unseen faults, like clogs in an air filter, which can cause a shorter equipment lifespan and excessive energy consumption. Smart technology detects these issues, details why the problem occurred, and helps managers determine which issues to focus on first.
Once again, holding this knowledge on a facilities management platform lets managers harness predictive analytics to determine which times of day, month, or year use more energy than others. This is then used to create a smarter strategy for heating and cooling efforts throughout the year. Once a strategy is established, facilities managers can use the platform via their rugged devices to schedule when heating or cooling comes on, adjust temperatures, or even connect to other smart devices. For example, managers can schedule lights, or instruct heating and cooling to turn off at certain times of day when they know occupancy is low, ultimately saving costs at an average of 15%.
Even when facilities managers are off-site monitoring another property, rugged devices that connect to smart devices and facilities management software help keep tabs on their other facilities. Take the previous air filter scenario for example. If a manager is at a different facility and gets an alert that there’s an air filter clog at another location, he or she can immediately connect with field teams on-site to go in and solve the issue. Managers don’t need to go back to the facility, assess the issue, and then give team instructions, as they already have access to the issue’s cause via their rugged laptop or tablet.
This saves drastic amounts of downtime, which is critical for facilities like manufacturing plants, where downtime can cost up to $260,000 per hour.
The Future of Facilities Management
By 2030, the demand for skilled workers is expected to outstrip the supply, resulting in a global talent shortage of more than 85.2 million people. The only way facilities managers can get their jobs done with less available labor is by reducing and simplifying maintenance operations. With tools like rugged mobile devices, equipped with facilities management software, predictive analytics, and smart equipment data, facilities managers can brace themselves for the future while reducing equipment malfunctions, energy consumption, and other facility costs.
Michael Trafton is the business development manager at Panasonic Connect North America.
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