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Data-driven future

Author : Amanda Vlietstra

28 November 2022

We take a look at the ways sensors and data are transforming FM...

There’s no doubt that the world is becoming increasingly data-driven. From our mobile phones to the smart tech in our homes, data technology is transforming our lives, enabling us to be more productive and efficient. 

The same is true in facilities management – and across all the verticals connected to the sector. Sensors and data-driven technology deliver a measurable, positive ROI – to the point where integrating this tech into facilities management is just basic common sense. As Lynda Gillson (pictured), Product Director at Spica Technologies, the SmartCloud division of leading BMS Integrator Nordomatic, told PFM: “It’s impossible to improve your facilities management and operations without first knowing how you’re performing. What can be measured, can be managed. Understanding your portfolio and any risks or weaknesses is essential to making improvements and achieving operational excellence. 

“In my experience as Product Director at Spica Technologies, I’ve seen clients make millions in savings annually simply from measuring their space usage,” she continued. “Deploying the sensors is just the start. Specific, measurable goals must be set and actioned to see the greatest results.”

Endless possibilities

The possibilities of what can be achieved with sensors and data are almost endless – and indeed, many companies are using this technology in all sorts of different ways. Lighting system control specialists Prolojik told PFM that they have seen a vast increase in the demand for smart analytic sensors in the past two years. A spokesperson said: “The trend started with forward thinking clients like Arm and Schroders pre-Covid, but has accelerated with many developers and consultants requesting and designing in everything from environmental monitoring, through space utilisation to smart analytics. 

The spokesperson added: “We have integrated our sensors to a variety of data analytic platforms such as AWS, Facilio and Symbiosy providing property owners, facilities managers and end users detailed insight into how their buildings perform.”

Other applications are, of course, available. “Real time temperature, water flow and air monitoring can identify risks proactively and help ensure a healthy environment. By providing intel on which rooms and facilities are in use, sensors and data are intrinsic to facilitating a seamless hybrid working experience,” Ms Gillson said. “Additionally, live footfall and occupancy data can give crucial insight into the capacity and safety of a building. Having up to date access to quality data means that issues are dealt with promptly therefore promoting a smooth, high calibre service for building users.”

She continued: “Collecting and analysing data on all of the above produces insights which can prove transformative to a building. Comprehensive data on a building's usage, for example, allows facilities managers to make any necessary adjustments and plan effectively. Analysing data from a building management system can help ensure that the building is optimised for comfort, health and productivity. 

“These findings can be even more powerful with the use of IoT data analysis and an accurate digital twin of a portfolio. Using a digital twin gives facilities managers the capability to deploy integrations, predict future behaviours and solve problems before they occur,” she concluded.

Predictive and reactive

One of the key advantages of data-driven technology is that it enables organisations to be both predictive and reactive. “Digital maintenance provides proactive fault detection using real-time analytics and a lifecycle management approach to building maintenance,” said John Dorward, Senior Design Partner - Healthcare at IoT technology company Trend. “ This drives better outcomes by helping improve performance while reducing costs. Prioritising maintenance based on what needs to be fixed rather than by following a pre-defined schedule has the potential to help improve operational efficiency, according to Trend’s experience with its clients. 

He continued: “[T]he insights generated by a fully implemented digital maintenance solution can help drive decision making based on real-time building insights, rather than around rigid, routine service patterns. This can help reduce the administrative load.”

James Burt, Senior Project Manager/Data Insights Lead at Quintain, agreed that data analysis can be “hugely powerful”, specifically, he says, when it comes to improving operational and maintenance outcomes in residential properties. “We’ve taken this from theory to practical application in Wembley Park, through the creation of the innovative Utility Monitoring Tool,” he told PFM. “This has demonstrated that data analysis can deliver tangible results, including reducing utility wastage and identifying maintenance issues even before residents are aware of them.”
He went on: “In a nutshell, the Utility Monitoring Tool reads the meters of every rental apartment across the Quintain Living portfolio at Wembley Park (more than 3,250 in total) every 15 minutes. It takes account of factors such as size, orientation and number of occupants to identify any anomalous readings, which are flagged up in a daily report to the operational team. 
He added: “So far, the tool has identified issues such as lights left on in empty apartments, leaks and toilet cisterns continuously flushing. By using data in this way, the Quintain Living team can proactively address maintenance issues and arrange swift corrective action. It is supporting improved operational and maintenance outcomes, as well as enhanced sustainability.”

Sustainability goals

Indeed, data-driven technology can also help organisations achieve their sustainability goals. Turck Banner, specialists in industrial automation, have been working with Lawton Yarns at their factory in order to help the carpet yarn producers deliver cost and efficiency savings. Lawton Yarns was founded in 1902, and their factory is located at Ravens Ing Mills in Dewsbury. Looking to make improvements through upgrading rather than replacing existing equipment, which was installed in the late ‘90s, the company turned to Turck Banner.

As Turck Banner told PFM: “Monitoring the condition, primarily temperature and vibration, of moving parts in equipment and utilising learning algorithms to predict when a part requires maintenance can significantly reduce costs. Repairing a part before a catastrophic failure also reduces waste, the maintenance can be scheduled which eliminates the unplanned downtime and the unnecessary costs of emergency repairs, which often include special transportation of both people and equipment, adding to the environmental impact.”

In 2020, Turck Banner developed a solution that used sensors and an inverter to detect when a thread of yarn had broken in the system, reducing the energy being expended in an air sucking process to prevent balls of yarn building up should this occur. As a result, Lawton Yarns saw an 80% saving in energy over a six month period. Polly Fisher, the engineering manager at Lawton Yarns, produced a report that showed if they installed this small decentralised solution across all 20 machines across the site at a cost of £57K, the ROI would be nine months for the complete solution. As it stands, the cost savings made by Turck Banner’s solution has freed up money for the Lawton Yarns to reinvest in the factory, and the investment has brought them closer to sustainability status they need to receive Government funding.

Reducing energy is, of course, a significant step towards Net Zero goals; regardless of whether it’s done for sustainability reasons or to reduce costs, the outcome is the same. And this is what data technology can deliver – this smarter, more sustainable way of working. As the country slips into recession, with the cost-of-living and commensurate cost-of-doing-business crisis in full swing, everyone will be looking to make cost savings. Investing in technology that offers a clear ROI is one very sensible way of doing this. 

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