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The brave new world of AI and IoT is changing the face of facilities management. Smart buildings notify the authorities when there’s an emergency like a water leak or a security breach. They send out reminders when maintenance should be scheduled. They use energy monitors to accumulate usage data and identify conservation opportunities. They know where every furniture asset is at any moment. They even monitor the bathroom soap dispensers and automatically restock the break room refrigerator. With all this automation, do we still need people to manage facilities?

Surprisingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job growth for FM professionals. AI and IoT eliminate a great deal of inefficiency in facilities management, but they cannot provide context for all the data they amass. Only a human brain can look at a collection of facts and figures, and interpret the meaning of the data in the real world.

Just as a building is connected to sensors and servers, an experienced FM professional is connected to people. When a building’s IoT system says it’s time to replace the roof, it can’t request three competitive bids from local vendors, or know that one of the vendors is going to offer good terms because they’re hungry for the work. But an FM pro knows that kind of information, because of people connections. When it’s time to staff up, AI software can’t chat with a candidate and learn that she helped out at her father’s HVAC company as a teenager. But a facilities manager can make that sort of people connection.

There’s simply no substitute for human insight.

True, the FM professional’s skill set is expanding beyond the traditional construction, engineering, and management arenas. Knowledge of IT is essential nowadays. Leadership ability is more important than ever, and according to Facilities.net, strategic business skills are a must-have.

Automation is an invaluable tool in modern facilities management, with a doubt. Energy efficiency, timely maintenance, RFID equipment tracking, or reducing a bulky storage footprint through automation will all yield positive results for the bottom line. But despite changes in the nature and medium of FM tasks, the need for a skilled professional manager still remains.

 

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