Roundtable: Keeping up with facilities management

What are the key issues, challenges and opportunities facing facilities management teams at today’s HE campuses?

The third in our series, Steve Wright quizzes Gordon McVean, international sales and marketing director at Truvox International Floor Cleaning Machines.

Q. What new challenges are being faced in facilities management (FM), and specifically within higher education?

An overall fall in student numbers, an uncertain funding future and a shift towards online learning means that universities must adapt to attract students. A great campus with fantastic facilities is essential when it comes to a student’s choice of university.

At the same time, universities and other HE establishments are becoming more outward-facing, building relationships with the community and encouraging businesses and the public to use their facilities. University buildings are increasingly being used outside of conventional hours and term-times. 

FM services, therefore, need to be constant but flexible, so that they don’t inhibit the use or enjoyment of the buildings. Cleaning teams, for example, cannot afford to leave floors wet after cleaning, and should avoid using equipment with trailing power leads, if staff, students or visitors are present.

The HE sector is also under pressure to procure value-for-money services and machinery, which offer greater operational efficiencies, safety and productivity. Increasingly, purchasing teams are also thinking green when buying cleaning materials, and investing in energy-efficient machines. 

Q. Are there general rules for good, effective FM – and pitfalls to avoid?

Professional standards are critical for those working at all levels in the FM profession. 

For example, education, training and product knowledge are crucial for floor cleaning operatives, regardless of whether they are part of an in-house team, or employed by an outside contractor. Floor maintenance is a particularly specialist skill, and the best training programmes will teach people to use equipment in the most efficient, productive and safe way possible.

Floor cleaning machine manufacturers have a big role to play in this, as clients now fully expect them to be partners rather than mere vendors. 

In today’s century cleaning sector, it’s not enough to simply sell the machines and walk away – distributors who want to develop and maintain their customer base need to prove they are in it for the long run. Providing initial and ongoing support in the form of equipment training is an excellent way to do this.

Q. Is technology making FM easier and/or better?

Technical advances are making a big difference across all aspects of FM. For example, the latest generation of floorcare machines are a world away from their predecessors in terms of efficiency, manoeuvrability and sustainability.

Q. How do estates management and FM overlap, and is that relationship changing over time?

There is certainly overlap, and the relationship is evolving. The efficient management, maintenance and development of a university estate involves the provision of multi-disciplinary services including construction, design and surveying, refurbishment and facilities management. Facilities management itself covers a wide range of areas including health and safety, risk, business continuity, procurement, sustainability, space planning, energy, property and asset management. 

Facilities managers typically oversee activities like catering, cleaning, building maintenance, environmental services, security and reception. At the same time, the facilities management profession is changing, and now extends beyond the built environment to encompass workplace design and management – emphasising its ability to make a real contribution to an organisation’s performance. This is reflected in the industry body’s recent name change to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM).

Q. Are there certain elements to good FM that are often overlooked?

Training and education in the proper use of machines, such as cleaning machines, can often be overlooked. However, this not only fulfils health and safety requirements and enables the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene, it also helps to control costs, as machines are used more efficiently. Good battery maintenance, storage facilities and care, and the correct dosage of chemicals – these practices help to get the most out of your machine. Teaching cleaning operatives about these issues is important, and a regular training schedule enables them to stay up to date on the latest developments and trends in floor cleaning technology.

Q. What opportunities will the internet of things (IoT) provide in FM?

If adopted correctly, IoT presents a huge opportunity to change the way FM works. Buildings are alive with technology, presenting the industry with new opportunities to maximise efficiency and performance. Devices and buildings embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity enable important data to be collected. 

This data about the built environment could result in operational, environmental and cost efficiencies. For example, cleaning operatives could prioritise areas which are used most frequently, rather than spending equal time in every location. But the data will need to be managed by skilled and knowledgeable professionals who have a full appreciation for the way it can connect with the culture of organisations.

Q. Is the value of FM properly acknowledged in higher education?

The Workplace Advantage Report by the Stoddart Review in 2016 quantified the sector’s contribution to organisational productivity when used effectively. Previous debate on productivity has tended to ignore the role of real estate, FM and workplace. The latest machines, for example, can make a major contribution to increasing productivity and efficiency and can help universities to come out in front during tough times.

Panellist websites:

Truvox International:


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