Facility Management in 2021: Trends and Challenges

By: Ryan Lee

Promoting Social Distancing at Work

COVID-19 is the big elephant in the room for facility managers in 2021. Even if vaccines are released in early 2021, social distancing will still be an issue for FM. Different demographic groups will be vaccinated at different times. And then there’s the renewed hypochondriac in us, which won’t go back into the closet that easily.

Many companies will likely continue to operate remotely. But for those that are slowly returning to their headquarters, FM is key. Sensor technology and analytics can be used to monitor desk occupancy, washroom distancing, and cleaning regimes. Plus, temperature and humidity sensors improve comfort and minimize the chances of spreading the virus through air.

IoT & Remote Control

If there’s one thing COVID-19 brought to the forefront, it’s remote monitoring. Fortunately, facility managers had IoT on their side. Sensor technology has almost endless applications in FM, including asset tagging, lighting, HVAC, fire suppression, security, inventory management, and equipment monitoring.

We won’t know exactly how many IoT devices were activated in 2020 for a while, but it’s clear companies have been counting on them to face the global pandemic. IoT has had numerous applications during COVID-19 outbreaks, including in remote working, stock management, healthcare, and industrial manufacturing. This trend is likely to continue and evolve, as key players fine-tune their IoT devices to improve efficiency and accuracy.

Move over, stand-alone software

What’s interesting about those studies is that they all coincide in one thing — between 40 to 60% of IoT devices rely on interoperability. Interconnectivity is inescapable in 2021. Plus, there’s a new generation of facility managers — 40% of today’s facility managers will retire by 2026, so millennials are quickly taking their place — and they will not settle for anything less than a mobile-first mindset or a user-friendly platform they can control with the tip of their fingers.

Predictive Maintenance

Speaking of repairs, it’s only appropriate if we close our predictions for 2021 with AI-based predictive maintenance. As maintenance managers know, preventive maintenance sometimes relies on excessive or unproductive work – which means we’re wasting time, resources, and throwing away parts before the end of their useful life. Predictive and condition-based maintenance decrease that waste, and are more sustainable all around.

The good news is that the sheer amount of data facility managers can collect from sensors alone is enough to make maintenance more predictive. Sensors embedded in equipment can help determine when components should be replaced. However, you can double down with AI models that analyze patterns and failure modes over the asset’s lifespan. AI-based maintenance, powered by IIoT, is definitely one of the trends to watch out for in 2021 and beyond.


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