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European perspective from Zurich

15 July 2007

Report from the proceedings of the EFMC 2007 in Zurich, June 2007

More than 350 facilities managers from across Europe gathered in Zurich in June for the EFMC2007 event, making it the biggest and best of these events so far, and the only pan-European event that offered unparalleled opportunity to share experience from 30 presentations and 41 speakers from 15 countries.

EuroFM focus of education, research and practice was well represented in the conference programme within the context of an increasingly globally aware business sector. As Professor Lothar Spath declared when opening the conference, “European countries depend on exports and cannot fight globalisation. FM depends on global processes. It needs local site managers and networks, but needs to find new ways of financing beyond borders.”

Paul Yearly of Jones Lang LaSalle and Dave Wilson of Macro (UK) predicted that global brands will increasingly follow the lead of Sun Microsystems, Motorola, Nortel and others, and break down the ‘feudal’ and separate spheres FM and real estate (RE) to conclude global deals for the management of their operational estates across the globe. “There is a danger that some FM business will get left behind as very few partners will be able to deliver services across multi-geographies in both hard and soft services. Some great country service providers will perish in this model,” he said. Wilson urged delegates to “change their expectations of what is possible” and look at what global corporates are doing.

The take up of technology in the FM sector in Europe is leading edge. In ‘Things that Think’, Gregor Hotz of Zurich-based pom+ Consulting Hotz demonstrated how using RFID in a hospital had helped increase the efficiency and effectiveness of cleaning beds between patient use. With 1,600 beds allocated to different cleaning centres and storage rooms, RFIDs installed around the hospital helped track where they were, resulting in overall reduction in the number of beds needed, less cleaning materials used, lower overall costs and a measurable reduction in the average patient stay.

Dr Visal Mallick and Bruno Ruettimann described a three-year study for ABB’s new HQ in Zurich had shown that by levering IP convergence technologies to offer FM services reduced occupancy costs. Using a web-based room booking system automated the process of booking 1500 meetings, it raised meeting room utilisation from 35-75 per cent, identified unused meeting space to converted office space, reduced secretarial staff and costs.

From the Netherlands, Jaap Wijnja and Gerhard de Vries examined five case studies and found that location, flexibility and image combined with atmosphere are critical to the success of a building for its occupants. For example, the Friesland Bank transformed its HQ of 75 years by linking the four existing buildings with a plaza that provided communication between different parts of the businesses whilst retaining a link with the business’ roots. In Rotterdam, a former coffee, tea and tobacco warehouse in Rotterdam built in 1931 and nominated for UNESCO’s World Heritage site, has been transformed into a multi-tenanted business. Now called the Van Nelle Design Factory, the building attracts companies from the creative sector wanting to share in the ‘Van Nelle feeling.’

Alongside the FM conference, the FM Research symposium reflected an increasingly vibrant research community developing in Europe’s universities. Eleven research papers were presented within key themes of FM Operations, FM Processes and Organisations, FM in Healthcare, Workplace Design and Management and Usability of Workplaces. Typical of the span of research is that presented by Daryl May and James Pinder of Sheffield Hallam University who examined whether the contribution of FM in the NHS can be measured in terms of health outcomes; Austrians Alexander Redlein and Gregor Fleischmann of the Vienna University of Technology suggested methods of modeling reference processes in FM with data from 21 case studies in Germany and Austria; and Dietmar Wiegand, Priska Mebes and Veronika Pichlet of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich demonstrated how event based simulations can improve the lifecycle and risk management of facilities.

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