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SimpleFM | Facilities Maintenance Insights

What Is Facility Management?

what is facility management

What Is Facility Management?

If you were to ask the question ‘What is facility management?’ sixty years ago, it is unlikely that you would receive a concise or consistent answer. This is because decades ago the term ‘facility management’ was used as a catchall that referred to generic maintenance activity. By the 1990s the term had taken on a new meaning, having evolved into a specific professional management discipline. 

Now facility management is an interdisciplinary profession that is centered around the functionality, comfort, safety, and efficiency of a facility. In the context of facility management, a ‘facility’ is any environment that has been built, installed, or established to serve a specific purpose. Facility management works by coordinating people, places, processes, and technology to ensure that a physical environment properly supports and satisfies the needs of the organization it serves.  

What Does a Facility Manager Do?

Whereas facility management as an industry now has its own concrete definition, facility management as a profession is a flexible one that adapts to the clients they serve. Facility managers are responsible for ensuring that a physical space and assets meet an organization’s needs. Beyond that, the specific duties of each facility manager will vary greatly by client and location. The title of ‘facility manager’ can also vary depending on the specific career path that individuals may follow. Some alternatives to facility manager are:

  • Facilities Strategic Planner
  • Facilities Director
  • Facilities Program Analyst
  • Facilities Systems Specialist
  • Field Operations Manager
  • Space Planning and Logistics Leader
  • Director of Plant Operations
  • Strategic Site Planner
  • Compliance Officer
  • Building Maintenance Manager

Facility managers can be found wherever there is a professional building that needs to find ways to utilize and optimize its space and various assets in accordance with industry best practices. These can range from a school district with multiple locations, to a startup company that is renting space in a large office building, to a restaurant looking to expand the size of its establishment.

Facility managers are sometimes confused with property managers, with whom they can share some responsibilities. The primary difference is that property managers focus on the building itself, particularly as an asset for generating revenue. Facility managers on the other hand prioritize the people and processes within the building, specifically in the context of its operations. For example, if a sink is clogged it is the facility manager who must submit a work order for the drain to be unclogged. If the clog is a recurring issue due to weak or damaged pipes, the property manager is in charge of having the pipes replaced. Property managers can be thought of as the ‘hardware’ while facility managers are the ‘software’.

Property managers are also responsible for an entire building while facility managers work with specific tenants in a building. Sometimes this includes the entire building but it can also mean a single floor or office. Much like a facility manager, there is no standard for what a property manager’s daily routines and responsibilities might entail.

Facility managers sometimes take on other responsibilities traditionally beyond the scope of their primary duties, such as:

  • Project management
  • Real estate management
  • Workplace strategy
  • Sustainability

Primary Functions of Facility Management

Though the specifics are dependent on each client, project, and location, there are plenty of routine tasks and operations which all facility managers must attend to. Their duties are solution-oriented, prioritizing the outcome rather than adhering to a routine process. In other words, two facility managers may appear to be performing two different tasks when they are actually performing the same task in two different ways. 

Not only do they focus on the outcome, but they also seek to find the most efficient ways of achieving that outcome. What works today probably will not work in five years, and it might not work tomorrow. They must remain flexible and be capable of adapting to any and every change. Facility managers perform their duties with the intention of providing the following for their clients:

  • General efficiency optimization
  • Enhanced productivity of assets and personnel
  • Longer lifespan of assets
  • Cost reduction
  • Quality control
  • Mitigate effects of natural disasters
  • Workplace compliance
  • Improved security
  • Risk analysis and risk management
  • Sustainable maintenance strategies

The multitude of tasks associated with facility management and maintenance are broken down into two categories, hard services, and soft services. 

Hard services refer to parts of a physical structure that either cannot be easily moved or removed at all. Generally speaking, hard services are often required by law to ensure the health and safety of workers and tenants. The category is also called ‘space and infrastructure’. Examples of hard services include:

  • HVAC system management
  • Plumbing and draining
  • Fire safety
  • Water management
  • Energy management
  • Construction
  • Leasing


Soft services are the tasks that go into making the facility secure and comfortable. The category is also called ‘people and organization’. Areas covered by soft services include:

  • Recycling
  • Mail management
  • Housekeeping and custodial service
  • Animal, insect, and pest control
  • Parking lot
  • Catering services
  • Marketing

Facility managers may enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in facility management, or another relevant field such as engineering. A facility manager is typically not an entry-level position and most start in positions such as an engineer or assistant building manager. Others enter the field through internships or apprenticeships. The best training comes from programs recognized by the International Facility Management Association, which administers the Certified Facility Manager exam. Outside of the core job duties, they are expected to develop skills in the following areas:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Mentorship
  • Teamwork
  • Decision making


What are Facility Management Services?

The facilities services industry is a part of the facility management industry. Facilities services are the work outside of routine maintenance that do not require any changes in the way space is used, require new permits, or require additional engineering. They are billed as frequently or infrequently as they are performed, rather than following a payment schedule like routine facility maintenance. Some examples of tasks that fall under the facilities services industry include:

  • Event cleaning and support services
  • Natural disaster cleaning and support services
  • Installation, service, and repair of laboratory equipment
  • Moving and installing furniture
  • Upgrades that do not alter entrances and exits, entrances, walkways, or walls
  • Painting and carpeting outside of common areas that are performed independently of planned maintenance
     

The Importance of Facility Management

We now have a proper answer to the question ‘What is facility management?’, but facility management is now being subjected to other questions, namely ‘Why does it even matter?’. Much of what a facility manager does sounds like common sense, rather than something requiring a certified specialist. The fact of the matter is that facility management as an industry becomes even more important with every significant technological advancement we make. Further, social trends are influencing the expectations that business owners have on facility managers. Going forward, facility management will also include responsibilities such as:

  • Sustainability and reduction of environmental impact
  • Health, wellness, and general well-being of personnel, tenants, and guests
  • Talent retention
  • Overseeing the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Procuring, implementing, and monitoring automation technology

SimpleFM’s facility maintenance software and experienced team help organizations manage, monitor, and control maintenance including: equipment, resources, and regulatory compliance. Let us handle your facility and job management needs and help your organization save time and money. Interested to see how easy facilities can be?  Sign up for a Demo or email us at sales@simplefm.com.

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