Facilities Management is a dynamic and strategic business discipline central to keeping the built environment resilient, optimised, comfortable and running smoothly. Over time, the role of the Facilities Manager (FM) has evolved significantly alongside higher expectations from property users about their living, working, and leisure environments. The responsibilities of a facilities management and operations team have advanced with the advent of new technologies, data accessibility, sustainability demands, cost pressures and more.
Our panellists will delve into:
- The new focus areas for FM’s;
- The key environmental drivers of these changes;
- Skills required in today’s market to thrive as a next-generation FM;
- Adoption of data, digitisation and technology at the property level;
- Predicted trends for the future of the discipline.
The session is the third in a series on ‘The Future of Property Operations’, which was kicked off with lively discussions on ‘Embracing Data and Digitisation’ and ‘The Role of Operations in Achieving Net-Zero’. Following the success of these first webinars, we look forward to facilitating another equally insightful session and are excited to welcome our passionate and curious industry colleagues.
- Annie Scott, State Manager-Facilities, Centuria Capital Limited
- Varun Nair, General Manager - Operations and Environment, Scentre Group
- David Walsh, CIM Founder and CEO
Hello. My name is Anthony Caruana and on behalf of CIM, I'd like to welcome you to today's webinar, where we'll be exploring the evolution of the facilities management function. Just before we start, I'd like to respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting today and recognise that these have always been lands where learning has taken place by storytelling and through the sharing of experiences. We pay our respects to elders, past, present and emerging. And we do take that acknowledgement very seriously. This is a place today of discussion and sharing and telling of stories. So if you do have questions, please feel free to put them through the Q and A function on the webinar software and we'll be able to answer those hopefully as we go along today.
Today's webinar is the third in a series on the future of property operations. We started off with some really interesting and lively discussions on embracing data and digitisation and the role of operations in achieving net zero. And following the success of those first two webinars, we're looking forward to having a really great webinar today with a really insightful session. And we're really, really happy to see so many passionate and curious industry colleagues in again today.
So today we have a panel of three people joining us as industry experts. They're all super passionate about advancing property operations and facilities management as a discipline. So I want to welcome Annie Scott, who is the State Manager for Facilities at Centuria Capital. She's based in Western Australia and has over ten years of experience in facilities and ops management, procurement, compliance and project management. She's super passionate about the facilities management industry and she's also the current WAFMA Committee Chair.
We're also joined by Varun Nair, the General Manager of Operations and Environment at Scentre Group. Varun’s got heaps of experience across design and construction. He's worked with global consultants Arup and AECOM as well as various roles over the last nine years at the Scentre Group, including facilities management, engineering, procurement, capital and strategic planning.
And finally, we have David Walsh, or Dave Walsh. I think he prefers Dave these days. He's the founder and CEO of CIM, the world-leading property operations software company. And CIM has brought us together today for this discussion. David was inspired to create the company because of this black hole he saw in the way data was being used in commercial buildings. Dave and his team at CIM work with major property players globally to drive operational efficiency through data-driven facilities management.
The panellists today are going to look at a few different areas. They're going to look at the new focus areas for facilities managers, the role of the facilities manager in driving sustainability progress, skills that are needed in today's market to thrive as a next-generation facilities manager, adoption of data and technology at the property level, and predicted trends for the future of the discipline.
As you're watching and listening please feel free to shoot those questions through using the Q and A function at the bottom of the screen. And it's really helpful for us to make sure that if that question is for a specific person, to make that clear to us when you ask the question. So if you do have a specific question for either for Annie, Varun, or Dave, please make sure that that's clear so that I can address the question to the right person. If we do run out of time and you have left us a question, then we'll kind of try to follow that up as soon as possible after the webinar, and everyone will obviously have access to a recording after the fact as well. The last thing, just in terms of a bit of administration, is that at the end of the webinar, you'll see a very short survey. We do take that super seriously. It's a way for us to continue improving and working on the way we deliver these webinars. And we do have a fourth webinar in this series coming up early next year, and we will use the feedback we get from you today to make sure that we deliver an even better webinar next time around.
So with that, we're going to get started. We're going to start by talking about the evolution of the facilities management focus areas, which is a bit of a mouthful, but we're going to get there. So facilities management is a dynamic and strategic business discipline that's central to keeping the built environment resilient, optimised, comfortable and running smoothly. But over time, as the requirements and conditions have changed, the focus areas for facilities management have moved along as well.
FM focus areas
So, Annie, just starting with you. In your experience, what have been the biggest shifts in priorities for facilities managers?
Okay, thanks for the question. Thanks to CIM for inviting me and having this very important conversation today. I guess the biggest shift in priority we've seen coming out of the pandemic, I think if there's one thing that the pandemic taught us, it’s to make the invisible visible. I think that there's been a real big spotlight on FM during those, I would say, last two years, and making the back of house, front of house, making the services visible to the occupiers of the building. And I think that the pandemic also cemented the FM as a critical role within the built-in environment. So I think that that's the first shift we saw is back of house, front of the house.
The second shift we saw, which is obviously one of the predominant topics now when it comes to FM is, FM is now people's business. So I think the tenant experience, the end user experience, is really at the forefront of the service delivery. I think the shift to having the tenants’ need in everything that we do, in the service that we deliver, is really a predominant focus.
So I think the two of them kind of fit together quite well. For example, when it comes to making the invisible visible during the pandemic, we would never see cleaners in a building, but there was a need to have this visibility, there was a need for the premises to obviously look clean, look sanitised. So it goes for FM driving all the soft and hard services to have this visibility, but it also extends to the service providers onsite to make sure that we have visibility around the mechanical contractor that comes onsite to obviously maintain your HVAC. I think tenants now are very welcoming of this visibility.
That's really interesting. Annie, I love that phrase about the front of house and the back of house really coming together. Varun, from your perspective, what are some of the top priorities for facilities managers today?
Thanks Anthony, and thanks again also for having me. I probably will build on that point from Annie. I really loved how that was phrased around making the invisible visible. I think more broadly, what we saw across our Westfield centres is people and customers are being more selective with their time. That's a trend that I think will continue. Expectations have shifted, and of course it's things like the hygiene and the HVAC and all those environmental factors, and it's also around what people do with their time. The way we look at our assets, it's no longer about wallets or retail sales, it's about how long people spend, how often they come and we really need to capitalise and capture on that.
So whether it's an office or whether it's a public venue or a shopping center, I think that expectation shift has meant that in an operational environment we need to adapt and change to that. So from a priority perspective, it's around safety and comfort, and the comparison when we're competing with people's time is not just around our traditional competitors. So at Westfield, we're not competing with other shopping centres, we're competing across asset classes and the best customer experiences people have had globally. Whether it's a resort, a library, a public venue, an airport, it doesn't matter. The beach, we always say Bondi. We are competing with Bondi Beach, not just the local shopping centre. So how do we capture that audience?
And operationally, we measure things like net promoter scores at a very granular level around cleaning, parking, vertical transport, so that's lifts, escalators, moving walkways, amenities and bathrooms are another one that comes up. So across all of these touchpoints, we get some really good data on what people care about.
So for our FM teams, the priority is on balancing their focus across those areas, being very responsive and even predictive where you can be and continuing to provide that safe and comfortable experience. The trick is often to balance that with the sustainability objectives and responsible business objectives of the business. And I always say, people on my team always know this. I say providing an exceptional customer experience is not mutually
exclusive to being operationally efficient. You can do both. And I think what we saw in the last couple of years with the resourcing and capability gaps more broadly in our industry has probably given us a good opportunity to invest more into our people, systems and technology to really capitalise on that so far.
So Varun, one of the questions that’s just come in from the audience for you is, can you give an example of how your FM teams use data to be predictive in their role?
Sure, it's a great question. I think we're at the very beginning of that journey. But some of the modelling and what we've seen in technology around car parking occupancy is a good one that comes to mind. So we have parking guidance systems and have a pretty good gauge on how busy our car parks are going to be at any point and time of the year. Sometimes we get caught off guard with unusual spikes, but generally we’re able to use either external road data or even trend data on sales for previous weeks to predict how busy a centre is going to be. So, for example, over Black Friday this year, we're able to then operationalise that into specific targeted car park management plans, which means some sections of the car parks are closed, but we're able to direct that traffic so people aren't doing laps of our car parks and spending 15, 20, 30 minutes finding a car spot. So we've got more people on, our operational teams are geared up for it, and hopefully that's around ultimately providing that better customer experience.
So, Annie, one of the other questions we just got is, do you think COVID has changed what's expected of facilities managers forever?
Yeah, definitely. I think the pandemic did, but in a good way. I think if there's a silver lining in all of this for our profession it’s that making the invisible visible—I’ve just got to get T-shirts made up because I love it—is actually a good thing, because it's about educating your end user.
I think the more you educate your tenants, the more it's actually going to be easier to
manage your building to the new standards. I think the invisible was not doing us any favours, to just be behind the scenes and doing maintenance. I think visibility is actually going to be our biggest ally in driving sustainability, in driving all of the changes that we need, because it's going to take a village. So I think the more you have visibility of what we already do and what the pandemic has shifted us towards, the less work you have to do to educate your end user.
And to go back to what Varun was saying, we are also competing with the home. The office environment is now competing with the home. So I think Varun’s point was around building
an environment that people want to come to. And then I think with visibility and with the
pandemic, we can demonstrate that better because essentially it's visible, a spotlight on how you can use the building better is really great for us operationally.
So we've heard quite a bit there from Varun and Annie about some of the things that are going on in terms of priorities and the shifts in priorities. Dave, what do you see as the influences that have driven this evolution of the facilities manager's role?
One of the things is, I think it's been a challenge for facility managers and property owners because an awful lot of the software vendors, including ourselves, hadn't made that user experience seamless enough so that a nontechnical facility manager can work with a
solution to get to the bottom of those issues. Let it be car parks, let it be HVAC, BMS.
What's really changed, I suppose, is for us as a technology partner for the various different owners out there, the ability to get data from buildings has opened up with things like BACnet to transfer and store the data. It's getting cheaper with AWS and 4G cards to get the data off the site. And then as AI models have become more mainstream, you’re able to interrogate the data. We were doing a lot of that three, four years ago. But it's only over the last up to 18 months that we've been able to bring it to quite an intuitive workflow solution whereby a nontechnical person can use this data to significantly change the operation and get that operational excellence that was talked about.
I think there's technology stack stuff and then there's the pandemic, where people had to do an awful lot remotely, it helped that the likes of us were remote monitoring assets. But then there's also the drivers. The tenants are demanding green leases in the office environment. I read a study whereby people under 30 years of age wanted a high-performing environmental building ahead of [inaudible] facility. So you're getting people that are just quite simply demanding of their employers, and they have buildings that they operate sustainably. These assets have to be best in class.
And the Australian property sector has been at the top of the game for a dozen years when it comes to this. But the pressures as well with the market forces, with work from home and then the decrease in capital value, and it means that all the outgoings and all operational efficiencies just has to be looked at in every area to see how you can get more with what you already have in an asset.
One of the things that we've spoken about before, Dave, has been that facilities managers, even the skill set they're bringing into the job has changed. They would typically, we don't want to sort of stereotype all facilities managers into one bucket, but there were a lot of people that came into being facilities managers from being technical experts and engineers. And from what I'm hearing from Varun and Annie, there's this new focus on having, for want of a better word, business skills that go adjacent to those technical skills. Is that one of the things that you've seen that's changing in the FM role as well?
Well, I mean, Annie and Varun would run teams that would know a lot more about, let's say, specific teams. But if you look at hard and soft services and facility managers, I think more and more what I've seen is yeah, technical people are essential in teams, but really they're looking to technology to kind of bridge that technical gap, and then they're looking for more people that are engaging with tenants, running the raffles, ensuring that there's an awesome customer experience, and it's a good place for technology. Maybe I'll hand it over to Annie or Varun.
I could build on that as well. That distinction between front of house and back of house is sort of fading away. And certainly across our 42 centres, the FM team is almost 150 people. There's so much diversity now in that team. We can't expect to get broad technical skill sets on every single one of those people. So the mission for us has always been, how do you get that balance? You do need that technical knowledge, you do need that soft skill set, excellent contractor and business partnering skills, tenant and customer engagement. We almost want all of this, but it's not possible in one person perhaps, or very few FMs are able to bring all of that together. How do we get that in the team, balanced across teams, supported by regional leaders? And of course, Dave mentioned the technology. How do you use that to complement our teams on the ground?
Yeah, to add to Varun, what we are talking about is occupancy. I think that's the thing that we have to most worry about as FMs is maintaining occupancy and keeping occupancy. And within that, the biggest factor is the human factor. So I guess that's the biggest skill for human factors, it's being a problem solver and being adaptable.
So I think if you're talking about an FM top skill now, over someone with a technical background, you need someone that is absolutely adaptable to situations and I can see demonstrate leadership and demonstrate strategy. I think Varun touched on being preventive. You have to almost guess the needs of the end users to make sure that the experience is at the best. And who better to do that than an FM that already knows how the building is running in the background? So how are you going to deliver thermal comfort for an end user? What does that mean now in comparison to five years ago?
I think that, David, you made a point that technology has advanced so much that now you've got what I call usable data, which is universal data. It's data that you can interpret yourself as an FM. It's data that you can take to your tenants and actually demonstrate whatever kind of environmental focus you have. You can demonstrate that now outside of the NABERS rating and outside of those bigger certifications. That really assists you in demonstrating how your building is shifting towards the new modern workplace.
And I guess one of those areas where we see that the FM's role is continuing to evolve is around sustainability. And we now have this need where we've got to operate property portfolios more sustainably and we're trying to meet these increasingly ambitious net-zero targets that are out there. We know that Scentre Group is committed to sustainability. It's reduced its emissions already by almost a third since 2014. But what are some of the big contributions that FM teams can make to achieving those net-zero targets?
Yeah, I think it's a good shout, Anthony, around the focus in this area. As I mentioned before, sometimes it's a balancing act in hitting all of those objectives as well as providing that customer experience. So for me, FMs are uniquely positioned, being at the centres, understanding the needs of customers, and being able to find that balance and ultimately directly controlling or influencing energy usage.
So when we look at net zero, there's three pillars to our strategy. There's reducing usage, which is the first and most obvious and probably the lowest-hanging fruit. There's procuring renewable power and there's obviously offsetting your usage. And for us, that last pillar is only if absolutely necessary. And the first two pillars you can do in parallel. So we procured renewable power in Queensland for all of our centres there, but we still invest in initiatives to reduce energy usage because the bang for the buck there is still massive. Our investors care about it, our customers care about it, our business partners care about it. So I think there is a natural curiosity.
If I think about how the FMs, on top of just directly managing the energy usage, can influence outcomes here, we've seen engagement more broadly across asset teams when you create a culture of awareness and operational excellence around environmental sustainability. So I think some of the things that we've sort of actioned in that area is around providing the best tools, measuring and tracking initiatives, sharing success.
Being great storytellers has been really important for us. It's not just around the data. The 30% from 2014 is amazing. We love our NABERS ratings as an operational tool to benchmark centres. But for us, the stories around what people have done, the impact it's had on communities, those are having almost a network effect, not just within our centres, but also more broadly in the industry with some of the initiatives that we've rolled out.
Also, Annie, Centuria has got this great track record around sustainability as well. And you've made some really significant progress across your organisation's portfolio. Have net-zero targets become an imperative for the facilities managers? Is that something that they're really heavily focused on?
I think considering that 40% of the built-in environment will be standing in 2050, it's essential. Imperative seems awfully directive. I like the word essential because I think you have to shift the way you're thinking about managing your property to have sustainability at the front of your mind. It's not a nice to have. It's not a, yes, I'll do that, and then I'll do a little bit of sustainability in 24 months. I love the memes on the internet. I can't remember something along like, is it only 84 months left until 2030? And I look at that as an FM and I go, how many budgets is that? How many year budgets is that? How much do I have to do it within that time frame?
Varun touched on reducing, and I think to reduce, you need to know how, you need to know when, and you need to know where you're using. I think in the commercial environment, and in WA, we've got a very big commercial portfolio, around 274,000 square metres, which is a big portfolio. Trust me, we're there. You need to know how, you need to know when, and you need to know where you're using. As soon as you've got these answers, and they're not easy to get, trust me. We've got buildings that were built in the 70s, we've got buildings that were built in the 80s, 90s, they all have very, very different challenges.
As soon as you ask those three questions, you have those three answers, then you can start learning and sharing the knowledge. I think what's very essential in the sustainability movement is that you educate and then you share the knowledge. You can't just leave it where it is, because you need the end user to understand how they are using the building to reduce waste, to reduce using it in a manner that is wasteful. So the first part in that pivotal shift that we're having is for FMs to educate themselves and then go and educate the end user or whomever they are dealing with on the building.
Our managers at Centuria, we’re very lucky, they are very well educated. Our finance people are very well educated. So we’ve got very, very, very smart tenants in our building that are a lot more educated than us. So it's about sharing this knowledge and working together towards a sustainability role. So essential is definitely the word for me.
I think there was something else you said in there, and that’s that your sustainability project has to be sustained. You can't just do it once and say we've achieved sustainability. It is an ongoing initiative. Varun, just a question that's also coming from the audience. Can you just give us a very quick example of how you've communicated on your net-zero progress
internally in order to help build that culture?
Yeah. So for us, again, I think that was sort of touched on there by Annie around sharing successes. So in the past we may have done initiatives at centres and people have come up with great ideas and we almost operated assets. We don't look at that now. It's much more of a portfolio. We’re a more aligned, vertically integrated business, and things that we do in operations are also having a big impact on how we design and build new centres.
So for me, sharing stories comes in many forms. It's recognised through, we call them DNA awards, which are awards of excellence internally in our business. We have newsletters internally, we call out success.
But for me it's really small things can have a big impact here. I was in Adelaide last week, in Perth yesterday, and walking around with our centre teams and actually highlighting something that I saw, for example, at Whitford City around organic waste diversion and how we've significantly improved as a direct result of a passionate person there working with retailers and business partners to separate their waste. And calling that out has a big impact on creating that culture. And I think one of the things we always try to do is anyone visiting a center, whether it's the CEO—Elliot was in New Zealand looking at food court recycling initiatives that we've got. So I think anyone in our business is sort of charged when they're visiting our centres to be curious, to call out these successes or ask questions. And I think that creates that culture where people want to go above and beyond to deliver great outcomes.
Annie made a really great point in what she was saying before about having the different challenges of buildings that were put up in the 70s, and the 80s, and the 90s. They've all got different design constraints, different building substrates. There's so much variation that happened decade by decade as buildings have gone up.
And the question coming from the audience sort of says, facilities managers basically manage whatever they inherit. What's changing in terms of the end user experience expectations that are being acknowledged by architectural and service design teams? Varun, I think that's probably a question directed to you, but either you or Annie might want to pipe in with that one.
Well, I guess that's a learning curve, so we got to be patient with the environment as well, but it doesn't mean that we have to be passive. So I think that is a very good question. The shift that we are having in FM is also happening in other disciplines. So you will find that with the new NCC coming out, thermal comfort and thermal envelope is going to be at the forefront. I'm by no means an expert, but obviously this is something that I keep in the back of the mind and have a look at. So that shift will happen there as well. I'm not awfully worried about architect or designers.
And also, as an FM, I would not be passive. If you're in a meeting where you have a retrofit happening, you’ve got a voice. You can just say, look, lesson learned, we've done that. We've got sustainability targets now, so we're looking at changing the space to have more, I don't know, outside air coming in, or we're looking for the space to have a well rating or we're looking at this.
So it's our role as well as an individual to share your knowledge if you know more than the people that are in the room. It’s going to take the whole of the built-in environment. So it's not like we can do that in insular caps. Who's going to be the best at sustainability? It’s just not going to be that way. We're all going to have to be good, and we are all going to have to support each other for the whole of the built-in environment to reach the targets that we need to reach to reduce carbon footprints. I think if architects or project teams are struggling with a new concept and if we are in a position to sit, then we should be able to.
And answering the question about what we inherit is what we inherit, yes—I get that 100%. There's no one that gets this better than I do. But the thing is, you can ask the same question, and there's not one road map to sustainability. You can improve in different ways, you can make your own path in different ways in whatever building you inherit. If you do not have the capex to start replacing AHUs, because they were built in the 70s and no one had a look at that before, you can start with your waste management, you can start with bits and pieces that are not so expensive. There's not one road that fits all. I think what we inherit, we've got a duty of care to just peel it off, put our expertise in there and understand which way can we take it, and then bring the rest of the stakeholders on board. But architects and project managers and construction people are already on board. Maybe we don't have as much visibility over those type of projects, but they're there for sure.
One of the things we've touched on as we've gone through this discussion so far is around skills. Dave, we know that facilities and the environment around us have evolved quite significantly, and that means that the skills and aptitudes that we expect from our FMs have changed as well. So in today's commercial property market, what does it take to thrive as a next-generation facilities manager?
The answer’s around what Varun said about curiosity and what Annie said about everyone coming along. In any industry, what it takes to thrive is a growth mindset, right? And if you manage a building, they are large complex assets, not just office buildings but large retail assets, they're going to be complex to manage. So you have to be adaptive, you have to be curious. So when different types of technologies come along, not just ours, we can see it with certain sets of owners, like the adoption and the activity on the platform is off the scale. And you can see that with a culture within an organisation.
And if you see there, everyone from the CEO all the way down through the actual org structure looking at different initiatives, it's the exact same thing when it comes to embracing technology and that next generation of facility management. Are you looking for opportunities to make things successful or are you constantly complaining about scarcity of resources or lack of skills? That comes from good culture within organisations. It comes from calling out and storytelling and rewarding and looking for win detection versus fault detection within a business.
But from the other side, from vendors like ourselves, it comes from sitting down and talking to the actual users on our platform who are the facility managers. Because when we’ve stopped talking to them, you go away and you start building things that they don't use. Or when you don't really understand the ideal client profile or the user journey, then you're just not helping. And for technology vendors, for product people, you just absolutely have to stay very close to facility managers, to the users, and then ensure that the next feature you're putting into the technology is actually something that is getting used. So listening and curiosity, Anthony, is what I’d say.
So building on that, Varun, Dave’s saying listening and curiosity are big skills. What can we do to upskill facilities managers to help them get to what they need to do not just today, but to be ready for tomorrow and beyond?
That's a great question for the facilities industry more broadly and it's something I've spoken to the FMA about around competencies and formal qualifications. I think from my background as an engineer, one of the things that I sort of missed when I had the fortune of looking after the facilities function at Scentre was around that clear structure and career progression. And it's one of those industries in facilities where you sort of fall into it. And I think I think it's important to invest as an industry in, what does a good FM look like? What does success look like? What does a career pathway and progression look like? And the skills are changing.
So we talked before around balanced teams. For me it's around, how do we provide that balanced facilities management function and capability? People that are technical experts are absolutely critical and essential, and so are people that are excellent at partnering with contractors. And we're seeing a lot more now that are digitally savvy and are able to use this technology and grasp that a lot quicker.
So for me, some level of formality as an industry would be important. I think there are some uni courses and TAFE accreditations now that Annie can probably talk to, being closer to the FMA. But also, I think in our business, it's around empowering our senior leaders to be able to be leaders, not just great, strong FMs, but to be able to use their knowledge to upscale and train others and really emphasise and reward that. Not just say, you're a fantastic senior FM. And we've had a few that have been with us for 15, 20, I think I saw someone in Adelaide that had been with us for 35 years. So give them the time as great leaders to be able to pass on their skills to the next cohort. And I think that's really important for our industry as well.
So Annie, there's been a question that's just come in from our audience around the question of skills and talent. How does Centuria try to identify the best talent for its FM roles?
That's a good question. I've got the luxury of having been born curious, so I guess from this I've always kind of kept a finger on the latest trend on where my industry is moving and how it's moving and where it's moving to. So I think that if you have that knowledge, then you can … not foresee it, that sounds very arrogant. But you can have a guesstimate of what you're going to need going forward.
When I recruit, we've got a big team here, there's two things that I look at within someone's personality. Are they a problem solver or are they a problem finder? Because it's good to find a problem, but if you don't have the ability to solve it—and I'm not talking about solving it in a technical point of view, I'm talking about a deliverable. Being able to deliver an outcome to a solution is the top skill right now. That outcome could be something as simple as communication throughout an issue, right? If people got this kind of ability to manage themselves and manage a situation well, then that's my top human factor when I look for FM, someone that can have a look at a holistic approach of the built-in environment and see how everything fits, like a puzzle solver. Take one piece and make it fit there. And take one and make it fit there.
So you need a little bit of technical skills, but you also need a little bit of having a look at the bigger picture. And if you don't know something, then just have this want and drive to go and get the answer. I think knowing everything and educating along the way, we spend a lot of time trying to educate on the latest trend. We partner with people that know what we need to deliver our service so that we can assist our FMs and our FM team in their growth as well. The chances are, if you've done things how you've done them five years ago, you're going to get left behind in this industry.
Varun made a point, it's a newer profession. If I talk about it on the FM side of things, someone fell into that profession. Your background was construction, your background was technical, your background was ops management, and you ended up in facility management. And I think that at the moment, the association are doing a lot of work towards creating very clear pathways to learning, partnering with unis to just give you a clear pathway to becoming an FM. There's a diploma available at the moment, accreditation is available. Obviously, we don't have the same model in the UK, for example, where you've got a different level of accreditation, but I think that all that is coming, and it's coming in fast, because there's a very big need for FM at the moment within the built-in environment. We need to change it, so we're going to need people to change it.
Certainly. I have a family friend who was working building exhibits in a museum. He's an artist. And he's now working in the facilities management team at a university in America. People do certainly fall into FM from all sorts of different walks of life and career experiences. Varun and Annie, I mean, you're both involved with the FMA quite heavily and obviously, Annie, you’re the chair in WA. Would owners and managers think about supporting facilities managers’ traineeships to help advance the industry?
Yeah, sure. In our team, certainly we support, Annie mentioned the diploma. There are a few of our teams that are going through that. We support them. In terms of the facilities management function, we've had people come in sort of similar to your story there, Anthony, from very different roles, whether it's with retailers, car parking, team members. I can think of someone now in one of our teams in the ACT where we did a program of rotations across different operational roles in our centres and they actually ended up loving the quarter that they did as a facilities assistant. So, to me, I think providing those opportunities in our organisation means people find that career that may not have otherwise found it. Over to you, Annie.
Yeah, I'd like to just break this down into two. I think the first thing that we need to do before we promote a graduate program is what I would call it is, one, support the existing workforce, future-proofing them. Because obviously, if we don't educate the existing workforce that we have towards the delivery of sustainability, the delivery of what the FM profession is moving to, then we are also failing as employees. So we need to consolidate that. So anyone that comes from different background, we need to consolidate that knowledge and just send them on the pathway to FM.
The second thing is about visibility. Traditionally the image of the FM didn't bring a lot of diversity to the front. You know, you didn't have a lot of women in the workforce, you didn't have any minorities. So I think the first thing we need to do is showcase diversity. The more we showcase diversity within the FM, the more it will be attractive to others to join. So I think we've got a very big role in showcasing and giving visibility towards the industry that obviously it's welcoming of youth, it's welcoming of women, it's welcoming of different backgrounds.
And I think, going back to this, people are going to want to be in this industry, the built-in environment and how we're shifting towards sustainability. I think that we're going to start attracting a lot of graduates that are sustainability-minded, that want to make a very big difference in the built-in environment. I mean, the time is right now, we need it right now. So I think it's about promoting what FM is about and how we translate sustainability into the built-in environment and how we bring it to the future with more visibility. I think that we will start attracting young people from university because there's obviously not a clear pathway at the moment for FM, but there will be in the near future.
Data and technology
So we've spent quite a bit of time now speaking about the human side of facilities management and how critical it is and it is certainly a super important element of what we've been talking about today. Let's have a little bit more of a chat around the data and technology and how that's used to empower people and make them more productive. Varun, we've heard about the Scentre Group's concept of the Next Gen Living Centre. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and how your facilities managers and facilities management teams are contributing?
Sure. Thanks Anthony. The Next Gen programme for us started in 2016. So it was, I guess, an initiative that from an operational perspective I led, and I partnered with the technology team internally. So it was really around bringing technology and operations together. And for us it meant coming up with a mission statement that was emotive, that people could relate to, rather than here's another technical initiative that we would like to roll out. And that mission statement, if you will, was to provide safe and comfortable environments through being digitally connected and adaptable for our customers, business partners, and our own teams.
So where we landed when we did workshops with the teams, understood the technology landscape and identified the gaps, was that we needed a central support team, which we've now got, which are a team of four people that sit in the Parramatta Office that we've got here that have the digital connectivity to all of our building management systems across Australia, and then use analytics platforms like the PEAK Platform to support our Scentre-based teams.
The real objective is, rather than team spending hours a day analysing what their BMS is trying to tell them or triaging requests from contractors, how can we best support with a central team? But we're also made up of FMs that have strong operational experience as well as HVAC experts to then be able to complement the FM teams on the ground to deliver the biggest bang for buck initiatives. So not 300 alerts that we need to action this week, but what are the three things that we can do this week to have the biggest impact on our energy efficiency?
So the Next Gen phase one has been all around energy efficiency and it's led to better positions around capital allocation. I think going forward, it's around more broadly providing real insights, feedback from the teams at our centres back to our central operations function, who are then able to leverage broader and bigger data sets. I think what Dave alluded to before, it can be bigger than energy, it can be vertical transport, those key priorities that I mentioned earlier around cleaning, amenities, all of those things that contribute to exceptional customer experiences. How can our operational teams be best supported through data and technology? And ultimately we see a big value in that centralised Next Gen team to help us prioritise and help Scentre teams close the loop and action those insights.
That's really interesting. Thanks for that. Annie, just very quickly, just in the interest of making sure we do finish on time today for all of the people listening in. From the perspective of a facilities manager, what's the benefit of moving towards data-driven maintenance rather than the traditional approaches?
I think David could do that speech any day of the week. But traditional maintenance, it served a purpose for a time, and I think that time has changed. I think that technology data is there for us to lean on to make sure that we actually are doing smart maintenance. I think if we can put smarts on equipment that tells us how it's currently functioning and how it could function better if we had this type of intervention rather than a traditional maintenance intervention, then why wouldn't we? We've got to evolve. Technology has evolved, and analytics have evolved in the last five years so quickly, and that technology is now readily available. I'll go as far as saying that it's actually affordable on properties and it can be scaled. So I think, again, it's about keeping the pulse on what's trending and what's coming in and being smart with what you implement on your building.
But the biggest issue in data-driven maintenance towards traditional maintenance is if you do things the same way that you've done before and then the environment around you is changing, the chances are you're not going to do the right thing and you're going to get left behind. So data-driven just helps you target your management. A simple example is with lifts, or even with HVAC. If you don't have to come to site, and you're reducing your carbon footprint by not coming to site because you can fix something electronically, how great is that? It's the bigger picture in all this.
And this is one of the things where Dave talks about the black hole that he saw many years ago. Dave, what are you seeing out there?
So, look, it goes back to visibility. We spoke about visibility from the facility manager up, but the property owners, they don't care about how hard it is to get the data. Even from older buildings in the 70s and 80s, they actually produce an awful lot of data. But it took us a long time, maybe four or five years, to get to this stage where you can improve the visibility for the facility manager towards the back of house—BMS, HVAC, lifts, all of the foot traffic data. All of the information that allows for better decision making.
Because that's what this is all about, right? There's no analytic platform in the world, not just us, but if it doesn't allow the team that Varun mentioned in Parramatta or any of the teams around the country to make better decisions, then it's just a waste of money. The good thing is, with the technology stack and the work we've done, Annie mentioned about it being affordable, it's now very affordable, right? You're talking about cents per square meter. And when you have multi-billion-dollar assets that can tap into this data and completely change their workflow and engage the contractors and take a lot of that hassle for a facility manager, it's not nice being a facility manager and having head office asking why NABERS ratings are slipping or why costs are increasing or managing the contractors is not straightforward. So being able to sit in the middle with analytics and really help the facility managers to fix problems faster just changes everything.
Equally good for the vendors as well. It's about fault finding, David. Rather than just wasting time trying to find a fault on a mechanical plant, it's about being efficient on this side as well. It doesn't remove the need for anyone in that process. It's just a smarter way of conducting maintenance.
The worst thing, Annie, that we find, like with the feedback we get from contractors—say they're mechanical contractors, BMS contractors, plumbers for cooling towers—is the good contractors, they hate checking things that work. It's a total waste of their time. So planned maintenance is a total waste of, like, going around. If there's one faulty sensor in a building and there’s 100 in total, it means you have to check 99 sensors that work perfectly to find the one faulty one. With analytics, you can go straight in and fix the one faulty sensor and then move on to the air handling unit or whatever, the fan belt. And it's very hard for contractors to go and do standard maintenance. They know it's low value and disconnected and manual. And the owners want things that are broken, fixed. So analytics sits in the middle.
Future of FM
And I guess that's when we start looking ahead at what's up there for the future. That's the thing, it's about being a lot smarter. We've talked already about being more sustainable by not just being better about the energy that we use. It's the energy of the contractors and the energy of the facilities managers being put to better use. It's not just the electrons running through the wires, it's the humans that are doing stuff that we've got to be better at as well.
So, as we look ahead a little bit towards the future, I'm going to ask the three of you to polish up the crystal ball and look ahead a little bit to what's coming next. Varun, if you're looking at the facilities management in the next few years, what do you think it's going to look like?
Very broad question, but I think there's some clues there in what Dave and Annie had said as well around demand-based operations. And I think more broadly, we've sort of touched on today, the expectations are shifting of people and users in the built environment. How do we, as managers and operators of those assets, be more responsive, be more adaptable?
Of course, technology has a key role to play in enabling that, but I do see that as an enabler.
So there is still, if I look to the future, I think there's an evolution of how the processes, the systems that we've got, they need to be able to close that loop so that the technology solutions are really driving that action.
So I think for me, that's what the future looks like. It's going to expand to all areas of operations. It's going to require real-time responsiveness. At the moment, the data that we've got there can be a bit of a lag, whether it's parking or vertical transport. It's things that we can fix for tomorrow or next week. How do we get systems—and video analytics is one we're looking at now—where you can actually drive that responsiveness and adaptability in real time. So when I think of FM, I think it's making sure that our teams are equipped to be able to utilise that technology, reengineer our processes if we need to, and upskill our people and capability to be able to deliver that for our customers and tenants.
Thanks for that, mate. So just very quickly, Annie, because I’m mindful we've only got about four minutes left before we need to finish up and I need to make sure that Dave can have a say in this as well. How do we create some more pathways and get more young people excited about facilities management so that we've actually got this sustainable pathway into the future with new people coming through?
The future is bright. I think that this whole industry is moving towards a very, very interesting environment. So I think that organically it will become attractive. I think what we're missing right now for the youth is about more visibility. That's all. Because it was a profession that you used to fall into. Now FMs hold the pillars for the modern workplace. So the profession is becoming so much more critical, so much bigger than where it started, that inherently it’s going to create more visibility and then youth or people that come from university or different pathways are going to want to actually make a change in the built environment. If you want to make a change in existing buildings right now, this is the place to be. FM is the place to be, because we are going to be the ones, we're going to be the workforce driving that change.
So I think that if you are coming into this space, go and talk to the experts within the field right now. Go and ask those questions. But why would you want to join the FM industry right now? Why wouldn't you want to? Because the next two years are going to be so exciting. I think we're going to see some real changes in retrofitting. We're going to see some, taking a built environment and making it future-proof, I would say, is a lot more difficult than building from scratch. So that is exciting. What an outcome to have, when you've just taken a building from a three-stars NABERS rating to a carbon neutral property. It's just going to be absolutely phenomenal.
So I think I've got from you two T-shirt designs, one is ‘make the invisible visible’ and ‘FM is the place to be’. Dave, just to finish us up, what are some of the final thoughts you've got on what senior leaders can do to better ensure their operations and FM teams are empowered to do great work, not just today, but into the future?
It's resetting the bar. Companies that are good at sustainability are also leading in profitability, leading in safety. So I think the higher the bar that leaders set, then you're pushing the bar up from underneath, and then as you provide the people on the ground with good tools, it means that they are able to deliver the goals that the company sets.
So, I mean, it's impact. Annie was talking there about, why would people join? Like people want to join this industry because they can have a massive, immediate impact on the environment by getting to the root cause of issues and getting them fixed. And it's a very rewarding career and it means that when people want climate action, being able to action items that are causing incredible wastage, it's just quite exciting for people.
I think the thing that I take out of that is it's just such a very direct way to make a difference to the world. And if you can do what Varun and Annie have done in their organisations and reduce carbon emissions by huge amounts over a period of time, then you are actually contributing to a very direct and sustainable change to our world that makes it a better place.
So with that, I want to thank our panellists who have been extremely passionate and generous with their time today. They've given us just so much to learn from over the last hour. So thank you very much, Annie, Varun, and David, for your time today. It's been really appreciated.
There are a handful of questions we didn't quite get to in the Q and A, but we'll try to answer those offline afterwards. And please, before you sign off or as the webinar finishes, you will get a little reminder for a survey. It will not take long, I promise you. It will only take you a few seconds to fill in, so we're not going to keep you there for an extra ten or 15 minutes and grill you over a whole bunch of questions. But please make sure you answer that, because it is really super useful for us for the next webinar.
And with that, thank you to everybody for your time and we look forward to seeing you in the new year.