Facilitating a revolution

Data-driven integration transforms facilities management

Nick Lerner
13 November 2020

4 min read

While spectacular cityscapes demand attention, the almost invisible facilities management (FM) industry that maintains them – which Frost & Sullivan estimates will be valued at US$1 trillion by 2025 – is experiencing a quiet revolution. Compass spoke with François Amman, co-founder and co-president of Aden Group, one of Asia’s largest FM businesses, about how the industry is evolving.

COMPASS: Tell us a bit about Aden Group’s history, objectives and current work.

François Amman, Co-founder and Co-president, Aden Group

FRANÇOIS AMMAN: Since Aden was founded in 1997, we have grown to be a big player in China and Southeast Asia. We have a staff of 26,000, more than 2,000 customers and an extensive business and partnership network. Aden manages our clients’ non-core business aspects, helping them optimize operations, meet regulations and reduce environmental impacts of their built assets.

How would you recommend that building owners should view facilities management?

FA: The capital lifecycle cost of a building counts for 80% of its total cost, with 20% for initial construction. Clients often focus on design and construction and less on capital lifecycle. However, environmental regulations and market forces are pressuring building owners to reach more efficient energy and utility usage and improve their operational strategies and systems. This is a huge opportunity for FM and especially for Aden. We have been innovating with digitalization, using a connected and integrated enterprise platform.

Which aspects of FM tend to deliver the greatest benefits?  

FA: Integration, which very importantly includes the combination of services and technology. You can create huge value by digitalizing, linking and optimizing the many aspects of a building’s daily operations. Instead of putting every component into its own box – energy usage, asset performance, space management, employee and visitor comfort – you can use tools like our platform to get a much more comprehensive view of what is happening in the building, backed by hard numbers and data. That’s when you can really start creating workspaces that are more productive, efficient and sustainable.

“Making a 3D virtual twin at the conception stage lets us simulate the whole building and fine-tune operations before construction.”

How does a platform improve building maintenance and operations?

FA: We digitally integrate every asset and function of a building, but that only becomes useful when it is brought together on a single, unified platform that delivers the big picture and all its details.

Making a 3D virtual twin at the conception stage lets us simulate the whole building and fine-tune operations before construction. We can specify, optimize and maintain very efficient and productive systems and operations, while understanding exactly how it impacts energy consumption and maintenance productivity for the whole life of the building. For existing buildings, we retrofit.

Which types of customers see the greatest benefits?

FA: We work across many sectors, including commercial and government property, manufacturing and healthcare. Energy savings alone can be 20% up to 80%. For poorly built or badly managed situations, savings can be even higher. Each system that is integrated and optimized brings similar productivity and efficiency gains.

Aden Group uses dashboards to create data-driven facility monitoring cockpits like this one to follow operations and make adjustments as needed in real time. (Image © Aden Group)

Which data do you collect and reference?

FA: All equipment, such as elevators, pumps and other technical assets, is monitored, along with energy consumption, temperature, airflow and waste output. We also track people to understand where task optimization could save time and reduce worker fatigue. This enables streamlined workflows and better use of machines and assets to reduce costs.

How does data enhance predictability of maintenance and operations?

FA: Lifelike 3D simulations comprehensively reveal the often hidden or unknown reality of buildings – equipment age, maintenance history and condition. This lets us accurately predict and plan maintenance, because when data equals intelligence it points to requirements. Where previously maintenance was often random, we add efficiency and greater productivity because we know what needs fixing and when and how to efficiently carry it out.

Which processes can be automated?

FA: Automatic monitoring and control can be added to all equipment; and robots and drones can take over many tasks previously done by people.

In hospitals, for example, supplies and medical consumables can be non-contact delivered by robots deployed through the Internet of Things (IoT). These also collect data on the status of disinfecting, stock levels or building condition. This is of great value in lowering COVID-19 transmission through reduced human interactions. Monitoring and treating airflows to neutralize the virus is also of huge benefit.

What other lessons from the pandemic are being put into practice?

FA: A digital twin of two hospitals that were built in 10 days during the pandemic in Wuhan, China, in February 2020, incorporates all hospital equipment, workflows and associated team knowledge. The technology enables 3D simulations to demonstrate and prove long-term hospital operational concepts and practices and provide them to 25 governments around the world that are interested in rapidly building and running healthcare facilities. Each new hospital will take 150 days to build, with the first completed in 2021.

What other benefits can FM offer to society?

FA: Taking a human-centric approach to FM, we can make buildings better for people. Controlling the internal environment, noise reduction, adaptive lighting, as well as precise temperature and airflow, mean that we can make buildings safer, healthier and more comfortable. These technologies also immediately reduce environmental impacts by cutting water and energy use.

How do you see the future of FM?

FA: Bringing advanced simulation to FM is a game changer. By adopting the same established processes and data manipulation used by manufacturing industries, we are in partnership with a digitally driven revolution.

Adopting a single unified enterprise platform that handles the massive data that buildings generate brings a conservative industry into the modern age. In coming years, we will see further visibility and integration of FM processes, accelerated by technology that finally delivers the integrated thinking, decision making, and actions that this industry has needed for so long.

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