by Bill Conley — Originally published in August/September 2017 issue of FMJ
Perception, it is sometimes said, is reality. What people think about a subject is often more meaningful than what is really true. Once an opinion is formed, improving or altering a perception can be very difficult. In fact, the only way to change it…is to change it.
As a case in point, when the term “facility manager” evokes images of screwdrivers and wrenches, it means work needs to be done on the perception of facility management. If a facilities department in an organization is focused mainly on maintenance, that reflects a department that is focused on reaction over planning, and the screwdriver and wrench perception is exacerbated.
To sway general opinion and re-frame how the profession is viewed, improved and relevant performance is the most compelling argument. As a department becomes more strategic and buildings become more “managed,” the importance of what facilities means becomes more pronounced.
Making the transformation from a maintenance-based team to a management-based team requires a redesign of the entire facilities department – everything from mission statement to process management – but it can be done.
The case for change
One facilities department that successfully made the transition is the Cypress, California facility of Yamaha Motor Corporation, which serves as the national headquarters for Yamaha Motors, U.S. It is a multi-functional facility with administrative offices, Research & Development, warehousing and it is the home of the Yamaha racing team.
Stakeholders aligned with the buildings come from varied professional disciplines with different needs, all of whom need quality service from the facilities department. Due to the diversity of the customer base and the ever-changing role of management in the built environment, business as usual from the facility team no longer met with demands and needs.
To meet these changing needs, the facility department underwent a dramatic, self-directed transformation, culminating in the recognition of a successful facility program that has fully emerged in the past year. It moved from a facility maintenance organization to a department focused on facility management and sustained performance – a thorough change in form and appearance.
The department switched from a reactive, toolbelt-centered department to a more proactive, strategic team focused on facility needs. The team focused on developing sustainable operations and resource management – energy, water and materials; environmental health and safety; and bottom line impacts.
The department stance went from being embedded in a routine, hum-drum mode to playing an exciting, integral role in the facility. This led to a renewed sense of dedication and fulfillment in the department while enhancing pride of ownership for the facility.
Yamaha Motor’s overall mission and vision is to deliver excellence driven by passion and with respect for all stakeholders. The company strives to respect the environment and emphasizes safety in their decision-making to ensure a strong company and improve operational efficiency.
To further accentuate the shift in priorities, the facilities department created a new mission statement that aligned closely with that of the corporation:
“The Facilities Department is determined to provide best-in-class customer service while delivering operations and maintenance of the buildings and grounds in a cost-efficient, effective and sustainable manner.”
It is a well-known adage in facility management that if something isn’t measured then it is difficult to manage.
In a maintenance-first culture, there is neither the time, opportunity nor the means to implement a comprehensive measurement process. Reactive maintenance simply does not allow for measurement. This presented another fixed perception that needed to change – the internal perceptions of team members.
During the transition, the facilities staff understood that part of the responsibility of managing the built environment is knowing the present status of systems, the future needs to optimize them and having the data to support those activities.
Changing mindsets to fully embrace this shift meant education and ongoing discussion among the department’s team members. The facilities staff possesses a variety of skills that serve short term needs and maintenance. Now they would be required to focus on longer term initiatives dealing with health, safety, and streamlined operations.
Their duties are still a mix of daily tasks, such as responding to customer needs, monitoring ongoing operations through climate control systems and carefully watching water usage. However, there’s now the added layer of paying attention to long-term projects that support alignment with the department’s goals and objectives. Pervasive throughout all these tasks and responsibilities is the common theme of customer and stakeholder satisfaction while creating and meeting high-level expectations.
The first step in preparing staff for the transition from maintenance to management was for every member to take the Essentials of FM courses. It was important that they understood their task was to ensure a good working environment for all employees while maximizing efficiency and minimizing expenses. Having these formalized courses in a group learning environment showed them how to perform accordingly.
Through the courses, staff learned to integrate long-term plans in facilities, including lighting retrofits, indoor air quality testing, energy efficiency and computer networking, and how these actions save money and serve the company better. They learned to ensure the effective functioning of the facility, which provides an efficient and safe working environment for employees and their activities. They also achieved a more sophisticated understanding of finance through vendor interactions, training, and balance sheet reviews. In short, they learned to use best business practices to manage resources, services and processes to meet the needs of the company.
The facility team is deeply involved in the management of processes and in assisting employees on the premises to be more productive through safety and ergonomics training. The responsibilities of the facility department intersect with all departments, including working with human resources to develop safety policy, office standards and legislative compliance and ensuring that all business segments are empowered to meet their goals.
They coordinate conservation in the facility, as well, by implementing and upgrading HVAC systems, lighting and water conveyances, and adhering to resource management standards. This has resulted in the reduction of energy consumption, water usage and a marked decrease in customer complaints.
Although it is difficult to quantify improvements in productivity, empirical evidence suggests that employees are happier, more content and spend more time at their workstation than in previous years. There are few complaints about climate controls, noise, odors, or other such distractions. As the facility management approach matures, productivity appears to be equally on the rise, which contributes to the bottom line. Over the recent past, almost all comments regarding the team’s performance and response time have been positive and appreciative.
In more concrete examples, energy cost savings has exceeded $100,000 over the last two years, with the more dramatic savings in the last 12 months. Water conservation has also been successful. The facility has realized a savings of more than $70,000 over the last two years. And the amount of water saved, especially in drought conditions, has been significant.
As these savings mount, facilities transmitted this information to employees and the outside world. The company culture is a very close-knit and family centered. Employees are proud of the sustainable actions taken by the company and the facilities team is dedicated to taking care of everyone in the workplace as if they were, indeed, family.
Team members pay close attention to the results of their actions and the impact they have on employees. They are learning to take a more holistic view of facility management throughout the enterprise, and to explain the impacts of improvements to vendors and customers alike. All these activities comprise a major departure from how business was handled in the past, where the department was referred to, and served as, a maintenance group.
Successful companies understand the need to be proactive in the marketplace. Only being reactive to customer expectations will invariably lead to disaster. The facilities team took this approach to heart, looking ahead at possible challenges in the workplace and devising means to minimize them. In managing the facility and looking for ways to anticipate needs, the department is focused on satisfying them before they become problems.
Staff seeks to attain stakeholder appreciation and has found that their approach and success in the workplace has minimized complaints while encouraging dialogue and accountability for their actions. Ironically, customers are now more willing than ever to contact the facilities department with questions or concerns. In the past, there was hesitancy to engage in this type of interaction based on either fear of response or the lack thereof.
No longer mired in the reactive, knee-jerk role of hammers, nails and maintenance responses, the department now relies on experience, knowledge and foresight to handle the needs of the built environment.
The overall impact of this program can only be projected, as there are only a couple of years on which to gauge results. However, in 2016, the facility used 34 percent less electricity compared to 2013, before these changes were implemented. Also in 2016, the facility used 42 percent less water than 2014 and 35 percent less than 2015. These are positive signs of success in the future. Further, money saved through streamlined operations, the elimination of redundancies and the continuing education of staff will contribute to ongoing improvement.
As evidenced above, facility and resource management are providing benefits, saving money, and contributing to a more sustainable operation. The attitude change has increased morale and productivity gains will continue over time as long-term goals are realized. Managing the facility from a strategic platform and realizing the cumulative effects of actions are creating positive results in the overall structure of the organization. These changes work toward fulfilling the corporate social responsibility the company seeks to foster, supplementing its philanthropic efforts and the use of renewable energy. There is plenty of work yet to be done, but this program of management and strategy has set a foundation for further success.
Due to its success in transforming services, the facilities department in Cypress has been tasked with overseeing all corporate facilities to establish consistency in operations and cost savings, while ensuring that all departments and personnel are treated fairly and with equanimity throughout the organization. The department will be expected to replicate their management style in other facilities in the United States. A Facilities Policies & Procedures document has been created as a part of overall company standards, as well as a newly re-vamped Injury & Illness Prevention (IIP) document.
The shift from maintenance to management will spread to the other facilities in the corporation and affect over 1,000 employees. Every department, customer and stakeholder has benefitted from the new approach, not only from improved service but from refined processes, environmental comfort, and an improved quality of life. The proactive approach has led to fewer customer complaints and a more productive workplace. Every aspect of the new approach is focused on adding to the intrinsic and extrinsic value of the built environment serving all its stakeholders. Additional projects are planned for long-term solutions:
- A lighting retrofit led to better lighting quality, while improved controls and the replacement of over 3,000 fluorescent lamps with LED lamps have contributed to a significant decrease in energy consumption.
- The proper use and monitoring of a Building Automation System (BAS) has allowed the team to customize scheduling, temperature ranges and air flow, leading to a more comfortable environment.
- The implementation of a green cleaning program complements employee well-being and ensures a healthy workplace.
As the department has created higher visibility, scrutiny is more present than ever and there is added pressure to weigh performance. However, success breeds success. The positive strides make it easier to convince senior management to support facility management initiatives.
For this relationship to work, facilities must measure successes then document and publicize them. The corporate suite is determined to remain a global company that embraces sustainability and the triple bottom line. Through transformative actions such as these, facility managers are poised to become the standard bearer in this goal.
BILL CONLEY, CFM, SFP, FMP, LEED AP, IFMA Fellow, is facility manager at Yamaha Motor Corp. in Cypress, California, USA. Prior to that, he served as owner and chief sustainability officer of CFM2, a facility management and sustainability consulting company. Conley has more than 40 years of experience in the facility management profession and has been a proponent of sustainable operations for more than 20 years. Conley has served on the IFMA board of directors, is a recipient of IFMA’s distinguished member of the year award and has received the association’s distinguished author award three times. He has been a regular contributor to FMJ for more than 20 years and has authored more than 60 FMJ articles.