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Practical IoT for facility management

3 ways to improve efficiency and customer experience 

Discussions about facility management and IoT usually veer into “smart buildings” and other capital expense heavy investments; state-of-the-art HVAC control systems, smart lighting, self-diagnosing machines, and sensors that can detect which parts of the building are being used by people.

When creating new buildings, architects and engineers can design everything around these technologies, taking into account their total impact over the building’s whole lifecycle.

But what about existing buildings? Given the structural features, legacy machines, and energy efficiency of many old buildings, the feasibility of heavy investments into new control systems may be questionable. Efficiency and return on investment being the restraints for most companies, easier and lighter solutions, especially ones that can be retrofitted quickly and economically is something worth looking into, right?

Moreover, in a broader sense, the efficiency of your building means much more than energy consumption and automatic lighting control. It’s how processes such as cleaning, maintenance, deliveries, catering and other services for the users are run.

Often these processes are much more important to the users of the building and have a greater impact in your success than any smart atmosphere control systems.

Luckily there are simple things you can do to improve your building’s efficiency.

But first, let’s look at few cases.

1. Monitoring the subjective air quality at an office:

A multi-tenant office in downtown had high turnover rate in tenants. People complained about headaches and tiredness, and the issues were tracked down to poor ventilation. When ventilation was fixed, it was important to gauge the happiness of the people visiting and working in the building. Happy and sad face bttns were installed on each floor, so anybody could report how they feel about the office air that day. Not only did the statistics allow maintenance to make adjustments, they also communicated to the tenants that their wellbeing is important and things are being done.

<img src=”Granlund IoT button.jpg” alt=”IoT button as a feedback interface to a service measuring well-being of buildings and users”>
Granlund uses IoT buttons as a feedback UI in Granlund PULSE service that measures the well-being of buildings and their users.

 

2. Mitigating downtime at a factory:

A factory with 12 manufacturing lines, each consisting of several machines working in sequence. Like with any manufacturing line, downtime is expensive. Our customer was able to mitigate their factory’s downtime by introducing a simple alert mechanism. A bttn was attached to every single machine. Whenever there’s a malfunction, quality issue, an abnormal sound, or other maintenance need, staff just press the bttn and a ticket is posted to company Slack channel to alert maintenance crew to the right machine, with the right tools and spare parts.

<img src=”Maintenance_service_need_to_Slack.jpg” alt=“Factory using IoT buttons to post a maintenance need to Slack channel”>
Mitigating machine downtime in a factory with a simple alert mechanism: press the button to post a machine maintenance need on a Slack channel.

 

3. Improving meeting efficiency at an office:

Real estate investment company offering office space and meetings rooms. Customers often rent the meeting rooms by the hour, and then meeting technology and catering must work fluently so customers are happy and keep coming back. How they made their meeting rooms run smoothly five days a week, from morning to late evening? Whenever there’s a tech support or catering need, attendants can just press the bttn to signal the need and get an immediate response from the staff. A/V tech issues are bound to happen, but getting the technician there in one minute makes a the whole difference.

<img src=”Lindstrom_invest.jpg” alt=“Lindstöm Invest uses IoT buttons in their meeting rooms to improve customer service and efficiency”>
Need tech support or catering services during the meeting – just press the button. Efficient meetings offered by Lindström Invest.

In all examples, all that was needed was a way for building’s users to send a signal when their location needs attention and the process that happens when the signal is received (or not received). When you want to improve efficiency, pay close attention to three core components: people, places and processes.

 

What’s the best way to integrate these components to managing your building then? The following guidelines will push you in the right direction:

 

1. Efficient planning and use of resources

What’s the optimal schedule and interval for maintenance visits? How many people are needed to serve a given facility–be it an office space with meeting rooms and their tech support, cleaning, catering or whatnot.

A well-versed facility manager who knows the facility in and out has a good grasp of this. But how easy it is to scale up such people?

Are there ways to gather such data to base your decisions and resource allocation on? Some more systematic approach? I can tell you’re onto something. Statistics and analytics. Magical words that open new perspectives.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Place bttns to key locations in facilities: meeting rooms, production facilities with machinery etc. and label them with simple explanations, e.g. “Press if you need help”. When a need arises, people just press the bttn to signal a service need, be it cleaning, support, catering or maintenance. 
  2. Bttn cloud service provides statistics and analytics from the bttn presses and can also provide data on the response times.  
  3. After gathering evidence for a while, you’ll have data for optimizing your human resources needed to serve the specific location.

 

Tip: For planning and testing purposes, you don’t have to develop any integrations to your existing systems. The action can be just an email or SMS message sent from the bttn cloud to personnel and managers whose tasks it relates to. At this point It’s the end-user experience and workflow functionality that matters.

2. Need-based facility management

Assuming you’re already gathering statistics and analytics from your existing processes in order to optimize them, next hurdle is to develop new services.

Think about an ordinary property and your maintenance guy making scheduled maintenance rounds. In most cases it’s a visit only to discover that everything is in working order. And the next day light bulb(s) break or plumbing gets clogged to the annoyance of all residents. What do they do–wait until the next scheduled maintenance visit? Or call the guy back? The only thing given in all of this is the dissatisfaction towards the service provider regardless of the cause.

With a need-based model (or on-demand model, like we call it) there are no scheduled maintenance rounds. Here’s how it works:

You deploy IoT buttons to various places within the facility. If there’s broken light bulb, clogged plumbing or whatnot, the resident presses the bttn to signal the maintenance need.

With resource efficiency in mind which is the more efficient model? By eliminating needless moving from place to place, need-based model allows you to do more without increasing staff count.

Tip: need-based model also allows you to rethink the business model in maintenance. Do you charge a flat monthly fee, or introduce pay-per-visit and response-time based compensation? Customers may be happy if they can pay for just what they use.

3. Improve the quality of facility services

The easier you make it for residents, tenants and employees to order services the faster you can solve their problems. That has a direct correlation to the customer satisfaction. And what’s more, this is a direct effect of the previous methods to increase efficiency.

 

Tip: For a simple way to get this type of use with bttn, there’s an existing Flow you can use with Outlook or Zendesk. 

Simple, easy and platform agnostic IoT solution

As said, IoT button is a light solution when it comes to capital investments and setup. It can easily be retrofitted to any old building.

It’s also platform agnostic. If you’ve already committed to some platform, you’re good to go. And in case you don’t want to commit to any platform yet, you don’t have to.

 

Start testing with free virtual bttn 

 

Guides

How to make integrations

bttn works out of the box with Microsoft Flow

bttn management tools for businesses

 

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