With artificial intelligence regularly in the news these days, editor of PFM, Dennis Flower examines whether AI is a threat or a benefit to the facility sector.

There have been a number of claims that the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will be felt throughout the FM sector and I’ve yet to hear too many arguments against this viewpoint.

While it’s true that initial estimates stating swathes of job roles would be replaced by AI in the near future have been refuted or readjusted, the majority of those ‘in the know’ agree that there is significant potential for this to be a true game changer in many areas.

Automated controls can simplify mundane reporting to ease the workload

Dennis Flower PfM Dennis Flower Editor of PfM magazine

Customer facing

We’re already seeing the impact of machine learning within automated responses to phone calls, leading many to question whether they are talking to a human being or not, which is driving discussion on how this will impact on call centre workers in the future.

This was one of the most popular topics of discussion with the PFM Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) last year, with members stating that the helpdesk function was one of the main areas most suited to adopting more automation.

The highly varied demands placed on customer-facing roles, such as reception and some areas of security, were deemed likely to require a human presence for the foreseeable future, according to our EAB members, essentially advising that it was important not to go too far too quickly when applying AI technology.

Automated reporting

There’s another area which isn’t always thought of as artificial intelligence but which is now having a beneficial impact on FMs who have understood the potential, and that’s smart controls.

Many building services now come with automated control functions that can simplify mundane reporting to ease the workload and improve productivity and performance. 

Modern air conditioning systems, for example, include sophisticated monitoring and reporting functions that will alert FMs to any issues with regard to unexpected energy use, as well as highlighting trends that can be used to alter schedules to reduce costs whilst still delivering a comfortable indoor environment for occupants.

AI can also be used to help FMs plan and diarise maintenance regimes, report on energy trends and efficiencies, and produce detailed management reports – all at the flick of a button.

In summary

There is always a need to consider the timing when engaging with the latest technology, of course, to ensure that budgets are spent in the most effective manner to deliver the best results, but this will always be subject to the requirements of each individual project.

However, those that are willing and sufficiently able to apply AI in the correct areas and at the most beneficial level have the potential to achieve the main aims of the majority of FM operations, namely reducing the cost of service operations while raising the quality of delivery in a sustainable manner that supports the aspirations of all stakeholders.

Dennis Flower is editor of PFM Magazine