It may seem like Industry 4.0 barely started, yet Industry 5.0 is just around the corner. But what is Industry 5.0? Instead of applying technology only to achieve maximum efficiency and profit, Industry 5.0 takes a turn and argues technology should be used towards greater sustainability and social justice.  

Will Industry 5.0 change Maintenance and Facility Management significantly? And what will they potentially look like? We talked to industry experts across several countries (UK, Spain, Portugal and Brazil) to find out their outlook on Facility Management’s future challenges and trends.

Facility Management will be human-centric

The biggest shift will be towards user experience, challenging the laser focus on operational efficiency. Rui Gomes, country manager at ISS Facility Services Portugal, says “experience” is the right word to describe the future of FM. He predicts FM departments will grow closer to Human Resources: [HR] gives us precious insights regarding experience and how to best engage with users. People are right at the centre”

All the way across the Atlantic, in Brazil, Cláudio Azevedo shares this outlook. The current CEO of APP Sistemas, an FM company that specialises in hospitality services, also believes “experience” is the right word for the future. “Experience. Mainly in the tourism sector, which is already a little simpler to offer through customer attention and the activities we recommend to the guest. But that will become the norm for business hotels too, which will need to offer a fuller experience to meet their customers’ expectations.”

However, he warns that providing guests “with a cosy and human-centric experience, even when activities are automated” implies finding a good balance between humans and machines. Joaquín Olivares, a researcher from the University of Córdoba, in Spain, tends to agree: “Until now, people have adapted to machines, and Industry 4.0 made advances in adaptive and intelligent automation. The challenge for the next few years is the coexistence of people and machines, which is why we need to improve the interaction between them.”

Technology leads the way

Miguel Valério, head of Facility Management at Critical Software, also points out that one of the biggest trends for the future is the synergy between humans and technology. “We’ll see intelligent workplaces, which are completely digital ecosystems where the synergy between the physical and virtual worlds will be enhanced. ” At the same time, he highlights that “decision-making will become wholly data-based, which allows us to improve the user’s experience whilst optimising costs and the organisation’s performance”.

But choosing the right technology, which provides the best experience to users whilst supporting managers in their decisions, is challenging. Paul Ashton, CEO of Birkin Cleaning Services, believes one of the most significant challenges is indeed “understanding what’s the best investment among so many possibilities”. Nonetheless, he doesn’t doubt that  “the key to our future is integrating humans with all aspects of tech”, including cobotics and sensor tech.

Roberpaullo Eller, facility manager at the Orion Group, one of the biggest Brazilian companies working in FM, sums it up pretty well: “The industry relies on technology more and more, and there’s no way around it. Both professionals and FM companies need to be knowledgeable about management, but also about information technologies, database management, AI, machine learning, data science, and so on. The challenge from here onwards is not implementing technology, but rather knowing what to do with it.” 

Training and upskilling

So, how can companies face this colossal challenge? Much like Roberpaullo Eller, Irimiar Palombo, from the Brazilian Facilities Association (ABRAFAC) highlights that using the available technology implies mastering technical concepts, especially in building maintenance. Therefore, the experts we interviewed advise that a complete digital transformation requires upskilling and formal training. 

Léa Lobo, a content manager at the Brazilian magazine “InfraFM”, goes as far as saying that the greatest trends for the future are “upskilling and training”. She considers investment in digital systems must go side by side with the proper training, but unfortunately that’s been neglected due to economic turmoil. Cláudio Azevedo adds that “to offer guests a complete, safe and practical, managers need to adjust their processes, train people, and invest in their businesses.”

However, even if a digital transformation implies upskilling, it sets companies apart. Since “the future will surely be more competitive” and “delivery will be heavily scrutinised” it’s precisely the ability to implement new technologies and deliver facility services in “differentiated ways” that will ‘make it or break it’ when looking for a provider, explains Miguel Valério. 

Resilience, Sustainability, and Ethics

Due to its focus on people and on digital transformation, experts also expect Industry 5.0 to make companies more agile and resilient – much more than we were before the pandemic. Guillermo Miró, an applications engineer at the Spanish company ATTEN2, which develops monitoring technologies, hopes this will extend to Maintenance and FM. “New technologies have brought resilience to these complex times, and the flexibility of all agents will further this resilience.”

Finally, although resilience will lead to greater prosperity, it’s not Industry 5.0’s only contribution to society. Rui Gomes explains that FM can improve building sustainability and adds that “clients have set ambitious goals already, and they expect providers to help achieve them.”. Besides, Irimar Palombo predicts successful companies will “act in an ethical manner” and that “ESG [Ethics, Sustainability, and Governance] principles should guide companies’ ethical responsibilities in every decision.”