At this point, there is no need to say that Facility Management includes all kinds of services for building management, from interior design to the maintenance of water pumps. But because these are (obviously) very different tasks, we can split FM into soft vs hard Facilities Management. But what is the meaning of “hard FM”? And what’s a “soft FM service?”
What is Hard Facility Management?
Hard facility management services (also known as “hard FM” or “hard services”) include all of the services that concern the physical part of the building. Due to their nature, hard FM services are essential to ensure the infrastructure isn’t compromised. Plus, they are almost always required by law because of health, hygiene and safety concerns.
In other words, if a particular service can be interrupted, then it probably falls into the hard facility management category. Here are some examples of hard FM services:
- electrical system
- mechanical equipment
- lifts and cargo lift
- fire protection system
- heating and HVAC system
- preventive maintenance of buildings and improvements
What is Soft Facility Management?
Soft facilities management (“soft FM” or “soft services”) includes all services that are normally used by employees and clients. Unlike hard FM services, these are not mandatory and are mostly seen as an “extra” because their goal is to provide more comfort.
If you’re thinking about a service where you don’t have to follow a manufacturer’s guide, then you’re probably thinking about a soft facility management service. Here are some examples of soft FM services:
- mail management
- waste management
- cleaning and housekeeping
- catering and vending machines
- decoration, landscaping and plants
- pest control
- project management, human resources, etc.
What Are the Goals of Soft vs Hard Services
The main difference between hard and soft facility management should already be obvious. One of them is machine-intensive, focused on machines and assets, while the other is people-intensive and concerns itself with the human side of the business. This difference means that each has a very different impact on the company’s budget, performance and day-to-day activities.
Hard FM services come with a heavy load of preventive and predictive maintenance. The main goal is to avoid unplanned stops and maintain a certain level of service; as well as managing costs, extending the life of each asset and maximizing its ROI, increasing compliance, and preventing work accidents. In short, these hard services have a stronger impact on the core business and cost control.
On the other hand, soft services do not have a direct impact on the company’s profits or losses – well, with the possible exception of cleaning services, because we are quite sure that you’d lose all of your clients if they started sneezing as soon as they step in, from all the accumulated dirt and dust.
The priority of soft FM services is comfort, the well-being of your team and making them feel valued, even if it doesn’t have an immediate impact on business performance. It is worth remembering that smart buildings, which rely on soft services, are a trend in Facility Management – in addition to a talent retention strategy.
Managing a Facility Management Budget: how to even Hard and Soft FM Services
So far, it seems like we’re describing the classic duel of machine vs. Man. There’s just one catch: if you let your equipment fail, you can’t assure the safety and well-being of those who use them either. That’s why hard services are essential and impossible to exclude from your annual budget, no matter how much it implies sacrificing well-being.
Still, you should set aside a slice of the budget for each type of service. We suggest you conduct a Facility Needs Assessment to understand which services are expendable and which aren’t, taking into account the needs of your team and the specifics of your business. These are the questions you should ask when you’re allocating your budget:
- Is this service essential for the company’s operation?
- Is this service regulated by any authority?
- If I suspend this service, are there any security risks?
- If I suspend this service, will there be losses for the company?
- Is this service key to customer satisfaction?
- Does this service make the team’s daily activities easier?
- Is this service efficient and does it fulfil the purpose for which it was implemented?
- Is it possible that this service is duplicated?
We can give you a little clue to improve the management of so many different services: use a CMMS or, better yet, an Intelligent Maintenance Management Platform. When you gather all operations on a single platform, from the most specific preventive maintenance orders to cleaning requests, you’ll save resources and get a global overview of everything that goes on in the building.
Outsourcing Soft and Hard FM Services
Finally, another issue that is almost as classic as the duel between machine and Man. After all, what services can you (or should you) outsource in maintenance?
As we’ve already established on this blog, every maintenance service, whether that’s a soft or a hard service, can be outsourced. Outsourcing hard FM services – as they require a great deal of specialization – is extremely common. A good example is the usual maintenance contracts for HVAC equipment and lifts.
However, in this type of specific service, everything depends on the needs of your company. If you have equipment running 24/7, it makes sense to have maintenance technicians always available on-site, even if you sometimes need to call on subcontractors. As with almost everything, you should weigh the pros, the cons, and the budget.
For soft services, it depends once again on your type of business. In a hotel, for example, there are more benefits to hiring cleaners than outsourcing it. In an office building, that’s probably not the best idea. So this is where you can play with your budget and with various levels of service.
Understanding the difference between soft vs hard services can simplify your life and maintenance schedule – and you already know that we love simplicity! If you want to know more about Infraspeak’s intelligence maintenance management platform, talk to one of our experts and schedule a demo.
Remote & Automated: What’s Next for Facility Management?
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