UAE general manager of ENGIE Cofely, Bart Holsters, talks about the firm’s IoT platform and the ongoing FM tech revolution
ENGIE Cofely’s technology and data-fuelled business models aim to assist its customers to shift from a traditional cost management approach towards tangible optimised business productivity, says ENGIE Cofely, UAE general manager, Bart Holsters.
Talking about the firm’s IoT platform, Holsters says: “We have developed our own IoT platform called iCEE (Integrated Controls for Engineering & Environment) to monitor the condition of both assets and environment by means of IoT sensor technology. This allows us effectively to maintain equipment just in time and to reduce costs significantly whilst increasing the reliability of the systems. It also allows us to monitor and improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in the workspace to ensure the wellbeing and productivity of the occupants.”
The firm has also integrated a machine-learning enabled energy management platform (ENGIE C3NTINEL) into its CAFM system and service delivery model to ensure energy efficiency to ISO50001 standards for its customers. The other innovative platform, Holsters says, is the ENGIE SMART O&M tool which effectively replaces or monitors legacy BMS systems whilst integrating any other structured or non-structured data source to drive predictive maintenance programs. He explains: “This enables us to seamlessly integrate and centralise in our new OCC (Operational Command Centre) in Dubai where a team of data scientists and engineers work together to enhance the customer experience. The best part about it all is that there are no upfront implementation costs to our clients, and it is all offered ‘as a service’.”
In short, ENGIE Cofely’s digital platforms enable services such as remote monitoring and advanced analytics to optimise the operational management of a facility. This provides the firm with the capability to deliver sophisticated client advisory services in terms of asset life cycle management and guaranteed OPEX cost reductions at the start of the FM contract.
Holsters says: “In my opinion IoT-enabled maintenance will revolutionise the industry as it has the capability to predict maintenance and scheduling interventions at the most suitable moment, allowing us to budget costs more accurately. The ultimate goal would be to completely eradicate breakdowns, along with their associated costs and inconveniences.”
The firm also views services such as remote monitoring and diagnostics, integrated energy and systems management, as well as overall operational improvement ‘as a service’, which will become the standard for all FM contracts over the next five years. Holsters says: “Simply excelling in service delivery will no longer be sufficient, it needs to be complemented with the robust use of data analytics by 2025.”
According to Holsters, “technology has changed our way of life drastically and has been identified as one of the key sectors to spur economic growth for the region. Building assets and functions are following similar trends and are getting increasingly more connected and integrated with the conventional building technologies.”
The total cost of ownership of a facility can be broken down into costs related to its design, construction, operations and maintenance, capital improvements and ultimately disposition. To enable strategic decisions and planning, the facility manager needs to be aware of various parameters to determine the condition of a facility, Holsters says. He adds: “Strategic FM is a complex and data intensive activity where the gathering and analysis of building data plays a crucial role in terms of the strategic planning. There is no doubt that the emerging technologies such as IoT, big data and advanced analytics can add significant value to the process.
“The adoption of such digital technology enables the capturing and analysing of the many parameters a typical facility generates throughout its lifecycle. Data analysis facilitates the development of cause and effect models, which provides the necessary insights to drive strategic decisions. Today’s successful FM companies have already adopted a more service-orientated approach, placing the customer support central by means of integrated ‘as a service’ digital platforms. This approach is shifting the business relationship slowly from FM supplier to trusted advisor.
“One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is handling the vast amounts of disparate data, which make analysis difficult. Most of the IoT data flow is indeed non-structured, for instance, different data formats, different sampling frequencies and usefulness of data are for most legacy systems quite an issue to capture and handle.”
The ongoing digital transformation across the FM industry is based on three pillars: IT infrastructure, data and analytics. He explains: “These pillars are redefining business processes as we speak and enables direct decision-making. In fact, the intelligent building landscape itself is largely supported by the service providers as our role becomes increasingly more important to drive the Internet of Buildings (IoB) transformation along with other technology partners in the industry.”
This current digitalisation allows the FM industry to gather big data through the various systems available in the built environment. Subsequently, possibilities to connect these “data dots” through machine learning algorithms unleashes even more possibilities to drive efficiencies. In reality, the use of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence have already proven to be very powerful tools. Once mastered, the technology does provide several possibilities to expand the role of FM towards the strategic level, Holsters says.
Greater adoption needed
The FM industry has not gone through much innovation over the past decades, Holsters observes. Giving an example, he says that the regional industry is driven by a preventive-maintenance approach, which is based on instruction sets that do not take into account the actual asset condition or the asset use. This results largely in over-maintaining the equipment and in inefficient use of resources. In addition, the costs associated to labour are increasing year-on-year, making the ability to respond to market cost reductions more difficult. Technology-driven FM services bring relief to the declining margins. Technologies such as IoT, data analytics and artificial intelligence can reduce the need for preventive maintenance, increase reliability, assist in CAPEX planning and increase the energy efficiency of a building as a whole. IoT solutions can now track asset condition; in addition, analytics have evolved from descriptive (ability to produce rudimentary analysis of something that has occurred) to predictive (ability to predict what is likely to occur) to prescriptive (recommend actions with predictable outcome) and can now optimise maintenance programs.
Holsters says: “Adopting new maintenance approaches allows for a significant reduction of labour and material costs as the algorithm simply sends out a message to inform that an asset requires maintenance. Adopting emerging technologies in the FM industry are currently still not ulitised to their full extent. However, their adoption is simply critical for the industry. The physical assets and systems within the built environment are digitalising at a rapid pace and the services industry wants to leverage on this.”
“The facilities manager of tomorrow will require training and upskilling, along with being an engineer. The future FM will have to develop serious analytical skills and familiarise themselves with the world of data science to fulfil their new strategical advisory role,” Holsters concludes.