When we talk about maintenance, it’s easy to think only of the maintenance of production machinery or large equipment. We don’t always talk about the maintenance of the building itself, although it is one of the best ways to increase the value of the property and continue to give a flawless user experience. On this subject, we want to recap a pleasant conversation with Claudio Celino, from the Brazilian company Sinergia, a specialist in building maintenance with over 20 years of experience in the field. The talk is still available on our Youtube channel, if you happen to speak Portuguese:


The current state of affairs: what is the main challenge in building maintenance?

In Facility Management, outsourcing is the norm. McKinsey estimates that outsourcing already accounts for more than half of the FM market and the trend is for companies to hand over all FM to a single partner. But, for the time being, most still deal with multiple providers. For instance, one company for daily cleaning, another for façade cleaning, another for security systems, another for escalator maintenance, and so on.


As it is difficult for (internal) managers to control everything that each provider does, “they become a fee-payer”, says Cláudio Celino. And that is exactly the first big challenge of building maintenance: the lack of control. But what are the causes for this lack of control? And what are its ramifications? In his experience, the lack of control stems from three factors:


Lack of personnel

The first contributing factor to the lack of control is a lack of personnel. Facility Management departments are often understaffed. The machinery maintenance serving the core business is a priority, but everything else is seen as a “cost”. Therefore, companies lack people focusing on facility management or on collecting, analysing, and auditing useful data for building maintenance.


Lack of systems

The second factor is the lack of systems. Even if each provider uses a software and has a good internal organisation, there is rarely a system that centralises all information. Therefore, it is very difficult for the manager to keep track of what each provider is doing, obtain up-to-date information, have an insight into pending work, and cross-reference data.


Lack of processes

Lastly, processes fail. That is, even when there is some awareness of FM, and there is a system to enter data into, there is no well-defined process. For example, there may not be well-defined information collection points. Or the team does not always record the opening and closing of work orders. The result is unreliable information that is almost always out of date.


Regarding the last two factors, McKinsey’s report recalls that Facility Management lags behind other sectors, including equipment maintenance, both in digital maturity and technology penetration. While there is no shortage of options, there is a lack of digital skills, and it is not a priority for management, who focus on cost reduction.

Smart platforms, capable of integrating with a plethora of tools, are one of the most disruptive options for the sector. By bringing all the information together, they allow you to regain control of daily operations. But that’s not all. There are two other major challenges in building maintenance, which influence and are influenced by this lack of control: lack of time and lack of appreciation. Both can significantly improve with the help of technology.


A vicious cycle: why is Facility Management not valued?


Infrastructure management, monitoring work sites and daily operations require time, attention, and dedication. But, as we have already said, most companies do not prioritise FM. Often, there is only one person overseeing all maintenance. This means that you must focus on the essential services, and everything else falls to the background.


Obviously, the constant lack of time leads to a lack of control. On the other hand, as there is never enough time to implement control systems or processes, FM is even more time-consuming than it should be. Here we already start to enter a loop of inefficiency and disorganisation, which brings its own consequences.


Since there is no time to do all the tasks nor control processes, it becomes impossible to demonstrate results. “What cannot be measured cannot be managed”, as we have so often heard. Since you can’t demonstrate results, or prove that FM influences the company’s bottom line, management continues to neglect it and insist on cost-cutting. It is this cycle that leads to the “cost-cutting” and “lack of prioritisation” pointed out in McKinsey’s report.


How to argue for investments in Facility Management technology


Ironically, cost-cutting may be costing them dearly. With an appropriate FM tool, the manager can control the monthly cost of maintenance, the expenses with reactive maintenance, insert information about what he invested, the return he obtained, and even the assets’ depreciation. Over time, he can get an idea of the useful life of each piece of equipment and predict whether it will need to be replaced or serviced.


Put another way: systematic data collection brings predictability. As Cláudio Celino explains, “with that predictability, I already know when I have to replace that piece of equipment. I can plan maintenance much better and reduce the number of reactive maintenances. But always keeping the same number of preventive maintenances”.


For the customer, it’s also much better. “You have to demonstrate that the maintenance was performed – when, by whom, and for how long – and that it was performed according to the maintenance plan”. This makes it much easier to demonstrate the service provider’s work and highlight the FM’s role in increasing the building’s value and enhancing the user experience. The latter is one of the main trends in Industry 5.0, which is looking more humanised.


“We need a synergy between systems, people, and processes”, he concludes. Having said that, there is no shortage of reasons to embark on a digital transformation and reverse the current scenario. It’s time for building maintenance to stop being an inglorious battle!