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May 2017
Interview

AutomatedBuildings.com

Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Hugues MeyrathEMAIL INTERVIEWHugues Meyrath and Ken Sinclair

Hugues Meyrath, Chief Product Officer,
ServiceChannel

Hugues is responsible for driving and executing on the company’s product strategy and roadmap with the emphasis on enhancing and simplifying the user experience throughout the ServiceChannel software portfolio. His charter also includes fostering and driving key technology partnerships as a way to accelerate product innovation.

Hugues holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Louvain, Belgium. He has also earned a Masters in Business Administration degree from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.​


On-demand Economy Impacting Facilities Management

The facilities management industry is undergoing a transformation, driven by technology, automation and the need for visibility, transparency, and intelligence.

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SinclairHow is the on-demand economy impacting the facilities management industry?

Meyrath:  The on-demand economy is impacting the facilities management very similarly to what we see across many other industries, driven primarily by heightened expectations in service levels.  Facilities managers and service providers must adapt and respond to real-time expectations, or face losing revenue and business to competitors who have adjusted their strategy and operations accordingly.

The on-demand nature of the consumer experience, e.g., shopping, video streaming, etc. is translating into a heightened expectation in the relationship between facilities managers and providers. For example, if a mission-critical asset, such as an oven in a restaurant fails, a facility manager may decide that the best service provider for this scenario is not the lowest cost, but instead, the one that he knows has the parts for his oven and can be on site within one hour.  Uptime is the key goal to ensure continued revenue from the restaurant, with minimal downtime of the asset.

The on-demand economy also means that end customers have greater expectations overall specific to the facilities they are frequenting.  In commercial office space, it means that employees want more control over the temperature and other environmental conditions; for retailers and restaurants, more desirable physical environments can drive greater revenue because customers are more likely to stay longer and visit more often.

These changes in expectations translate into a host of new technology requirements for our business. Asset management needs to be granular and integrated into the Internet Of Things (IoT) solutions for the manufacturers of said assets. Facilities managers and business owners need to be connected at all times to their providers. Dynamic matching of qualified technicians, relevant parts, and location must now be part of a real-time coordinated solution. Mobile solutions with elegant and purposeful user interfaces need to be re-thought for critical tasks. And historically siloed facilities data joins the data lake of business data to generate more efficiencies and create more experiences.

SinclairHow do you see the facilities management industry and the business world in general changing over the next few years?

Meyrath:  The facilities management industry is undergoing a transformation, driven by technology, automation and the need for visibility, transparency, and intelligence.

We spent the last 10 years transitioning to a workflow-based software, which yielded a base level of automation, reporting and of course, efficiency. But in the next 10 years, we will see an aggressive shift to self-managed facilities driven by IOT integration, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. In between, the industry ecosystem and the relationships between stakeholders need to mature. That’s why we believe marketplaces are key: they deliver solutions designed to address specific problems, under the orchestration of well-defined business relationships and platform support. Examples of these solutions include trade-specific applications for paving, landscaping, and snow removal; vertical-based applications for restaurants, office buildings, and stadiums; and, other more functional applications including compliance, facility mapping, supply management, and payments.

This transition is positive for facilities managers because they are being given greater choices of vendors with deep knowledge that can unlock additional productivity and cost synergies. Of course, with technology, there can always be challenges in stitching it all together into a centralized dashboard. Having a robust service automation platform underneath that ties together all of these marketplace-type apps will be critical to delivering on this vision seamlessly.

As mentioned earlier, the shift towards the Internet of Things (IoT) will have several implications.  The world is getting more automated, and we expect to see more and more sensors – but that also means an infrastructure is needed to manage the alerts, filter them, and in some cases even perform service remotely. Today, the IOT market is extremely fragmented, and the technology implementations have varied degrees of risk and cost. Facilities managers will need to rethink the technology and partner ecosystem they rely on today, to ensure that they are ready to capitalize on these newer technologies.

A correlation can be seen between facilities information and the business that actually occurs in the physical locations, e.g. in retail; you want to optimize your facility for the comfort of your shoppers.  This trend elevates the decision making of the facilities management professionals to having a strategic impact on the revenue side of the business.

SinclairIn what ways do you see emerging technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence impacting the day-to-day business of facility managers?

Meyrath:  One of the critical dimensions of machine learning and artificial intelligence is data, and the ability to analyze, report and act intelligently, in real-time. In this context, more data from more sources and from longer time periods is needed to unlock the true potential. This requires not only data science expertise but also domain expertise to deliver relevant solutions.

The good news for facilities management professionals is that these newer technologies are specifically designed to automate repetitive tasks and tedious information gathering that can consume precious time.  With machine learning and artificial intelligence, many processes and even decision making can be automated to either make a decision on a facility manager’s behalf based on past behaviors or by presenting them with an organized way to see patterns and benchmarks.  This sort of automation will free up valuable time for facilities managers to focus on more value-added activities.

In addition to freeing up time, these newer technologies also drive automation that lowers costs, increases productivity, and helps support sustainability.  As an example, you will be able to track and optimize energy consumption or introduce predictive and preventive maintenance to equipment before it fails.

SinclairWhat are the key attributes to look for in selecting service providers? 

Meyrath:  Selection of service providers will vary from one facility management professional to an another because the criteria may be different based on their specific business needs.  However, I can recommend two things to consider when selecting your service providers:

1)    Define your own specific criteria for your service providers; and,
2)    Define a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics by which you will measure them.

Control Solutions, Inc ServiceChannel has built relationships with more than 50,000 service providers over the past 15 years, where we track very specific detail on provider performance at a granular level.  We track not only factors such as on-time rate and first time to fix, but we are also tracking information including exactly what they worked on, how they delivered, and their domain expertise specific to assets.  By having this information and making it transparently available for all parties, we help facilitate a productive dialogue and ongoing business relationship anchored on data.

It is also key to remember that the perfect service provider will be different based on the situation or the facilities manager’s goals. For one situation, the better provider could be the lowest cost while for another it could be the higher quality. Or, in an emergency situation like a restaurant without a working oven, the perfect solution can be the one that fixes the problem the fastest.

SinclairTell me a bit about Decision Engine and your offerings for building automation/management?

Meyrath:  ServiceChannel recently introduced Decision Engine which is a set of advanced machine learning capabilities. It revolutionizes how facilities managers interact with their data through powerful prescriptive analytics and historical data in the service workflow, resulting in faster and smarter decision making.

Decision Engine improves on today’s decision making processes with statistically derived, data-based insights. By leveraging more than 15 years of historical data and past decisions and applying prescriptive analytics, we automate routine facilities management decisions, streamlining daily processes. And, inherent to advanced machine learning technology, Decision Engine evolves to become smarter over time, making even better recommendations as its arsenal of data grows. In other words, the technology mimics what the humans intend to do (and that may be different from customer to customer).

This is just a first step in technology that will help free up the valuable time of facility management professionals, who are strapped for resources.  By automating repetitive tasks, they can focus on more strategic decision making, central to driving outstanding customer experience and rolling out new value-added offerings.


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