When office buildings became ghost towns during the pandemic, upkeep was still required to keep them running. Corporations and other businesses needed to maintain landscaping, snow removal, sanitation and plumbing systems and make repairs — whether or not the buildings were populated. Pipes still froze, bushes got overgrown and icy walkways were still a liability.
And, with everyone working from home, the demand for maintenance and repair services in residential buildings, such as HVAC, plumbing and janitorial, for example, skyrocketed with more foot traffic and occupant usage throughout the day. Industrial, commercial, residential facilities and service providers were a hot commodity and, in fact, were deemed essential workers by the federal government.
So, where are do we go from here?
Commercial buildings are coming back, but things will be different.
Office buildings are starting to come back, but what’s going to change? Obviously, demand for services won’t only return to pre-pandemic levels but likely surpass them — with more frequent services such as increased sanitation protocols. As fire safety has long been a compliance trade for decades, now janitorial has moved in this direction with new standards for cleaning and disinfection per the GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council). GBAC validates a cleaning company’s cleaning, disinfection and infection prevention program to help its facility customers prepare, respond and recover from biohazards and infectious agents, such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19.
The proposed federal infrastructure plan will generate more service jobs.
Not to mention, the federal government’s proposed infrastructure plan may infuse more than $200 billion for housing and commercial buildings and includes an upgrade, including green initiatives, for 4 million commercial buildings. This will mobilize a greater workforce to service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, new IoT devices, electric appliances and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and are less costly.
The remote, mobile workforce is officially mainstream.
Since Covid-19, the world has forever changed and the workforce will remain remote or in the workplace at different times. Some companies have asked for their workforces to report back for duty asap, especially some of some major investment banks. Then of course there’s the rising Delta variant which is causing major employers from Apple to Facebook to Google to Twitter to delay a return to the office.
However, one thing is clear: A mobile remote workforce is now mainstream. Every industry needs to embrace a digital transformation to keep pace well beyond the pandemic.
Facilities management is slow, outdated and very much not digital.
With all this said, it’s important to note that the process for deploying repair and maintenance services, and for those who consume them, is incredibly outdated, slow and time-consuming.
The service supply chain is nothing but consistent with its failures. Traditionally, field technicians or subcontractors are sourced through personal Rolodexes; deployed via phone, call centers or even fax; and managed through excel spreadsheets. Communication has always been hit or miss — contractors get lost and show up late or not at all. Follow-up and quality control are abysmal, especially remotely, when the property manager or management company can’t be on-site to monitor every job.
These archaic, manual processes are incredibly inefficient — and when an unforeseen crisis like the northwest heatwave hits and demand skyrockets, they become a major roadblock. HVAC technicians need to be deployed on a dime, literally to save lives.
Automation is desperately needed to keep pace with today’s 24/7 on-demand world. Technology is finally allowing sweeping changes to the service industry, but it’s just in its infancy.
But, the industrial revolution didn’t happen overnight, nor did Uber or Amazon. Uber transformed the ride-hailing industry and has grown to become one of the most valuable companies on the planet over its 12 year run to date. Amazon revolutionized e-commerce and product delivery over the past 21 years and today is one of the world’s richest and most ubiquitous businesses the world has ever known — and growing.
So, too, repair and maintenance services — not at all sexy but critical to everyday life — are ripe for a massive transformation. The time is now because of the widespread market penetration of smartphones.
Take a page from the digital playbook.
Forget location, location, location. If you’re a property owner or manager, it should be all about technology, technology, technology. Remote and digital communication, quality control, invoicing and payment, GPS tracking, weather reports and more, all need to be integrated into the facilities management industry so commercial or residential buildings can consume services in a more efficient and fast way, and subcontractors and those who outsource them can be sourced and paid faster.
In other words, if you own and manage properties — it’s time to step away from the fax machine. If you’re not able to function digitally and remotely in today’s society, you’re going to be left in the dust — most especially post-Covid-19 when that expectation will be table stakes.
Buildings are coming back — hopefully, stronger than ever. In order to ensure this, property managers and service brokers must embrace automation — it’s time to find a technology partner that can help you automate your repair and maintenance service calls so they are more seamless, fast and trackable — and so your customers are more satisfied.
In doing so, it’s key to find one that’s specifically built for — not adjacent to — your business. There are platforms that are built at the top of the supply chain (for facilities/buildings) and those built for the bottom (for contractors), and then there are those that sit in the middle of the supply chain (that broker transactions between the two constituencies). Based on where you sit, you should be looking for the right solution for your specific needs.
The intersection of smart technology with trusted contractor networks and reliable mobile applications will play a significant role in helping property managers facilitate efficient and successful repairs for their portfolios.