ARTICLE | Insights from 2023 Fexa Innovation Summit

The Role of AI and Technology in Facility Management

At the heart of the 2023 Fexa Innovation Summit was a panel session that sparked intriguing discussions on technology’s evolving role in facility management and energy utility. Key industry leaders shared their insights on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), the significance of data integrity, and the imperative of system integration to streamline operations and enhance efficiency.

Here’s how technology can transform the landscape of facility management.

PANELISTS:

Ashley Bolden – Process Improvement Project Manager, AutoZone
Keith Isoldi – Director of Facilities, Chipotle Mexican Grill
Mandy Rennehan – CEO & Founder, Freshco.ca
Joshua Witte – Director of Energy & Sustainability, Dollar Tree
Ted Atwood – Chief Compliance and Sustainability Officer, Fexa
Kim Goei – President, Fexa

Key Points

 

What is the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Facility Management?

In the energy and utility management industry, we are witnessing a significant turning point. The buzz around AI is hard to miss, with new platforms emerging daily. Joshua Witte from Dollar Tree says that while it can be both terrifying and exciting, AI’s impact on facility and energy management cannot be underestimated.

The introduction of AI-based technology in stores has the potential to revolutionize energy consumption management. This includes leveraging machine learning and predictive analytics to enable virtual submetering, automated demand response, and proactive maintenance.

Currently, the challenge lies in dealing with disparate energy management systems across multiple store locations. However, the development of a software platform that harnesses AI and machine learning aims to integrate all data into a single, actionable interface. This real-time solution empowers users to drive positive change at a store level and optimize operations.

Two facility managers in a warehouse

How does data integrity play into AI & technology, as well as ESG?

In the realm of ESG compliance, starting with accurate information is crucial.

One of the main challenges lies in managing data scattered across various systems, leading to redundant efforts and data review. The integration of touch points can streamline data entry and review, reducing complexity.

According to Ted Atwood, Microsoft’s M language is an emerging tool that facilitates data sharing between companies and reporting structures, especially when using Power BI. While there may be other platforms available, efficiency is key in maximizing capabilities.

For example, Trakref’s partnership with a work order system enables effective management of service-related data, eliminating redundancy and enhancing streamlined processes.

Simplifying and optimizing data management is essential in navigating the ESG compliance space.

What are the benefits of integration and automation in the trades, and how can they improve operational efficiency and communication?

Integration will be crucial for future success.

Witte says that closed protocol systems that operate in isolation are becoming obsolete. We need systems that can seamlessly integrate carbon accounting, work order management, and utility bill management.

A system that can bring all these elements together will be a key player in the marketplace, especially since everyone wants a user-friendly and flexible system.

Mandy Rennehan adds that automation in the trades brings about seamless integration between on-site tools and in-house systems.

This integration enables efficient communication and data exchange, even with external factors like taxes. For instance, when platforms like NetSuite are leveraged, data from the field can be easily integrated into financial systems.

This connectivity is crucial in connecting all the dots and ensuring smooth operations. Simplifying processes through automation is an exciting prospect that offers immense benefits to businesses in the trades sector.

Machine Learning on Keyboard

Why is having a comprehensive system important for managing operations?

According to Keith Isoldi, after spending 30 years in the industry, having a centralized system for tracking and managing operations is crucial.

Using a facility management system like Fexa offers exceptional flexibility and adaptability. It consolidates data and analytics, enabling better control and analysis of expenses, even in large-scale operations..
A work order system ensures proper tracking and accountability, and with a comprehensive system, operators are empowered to effectively manage all aspects of operations.

Why is it important to track and understand the depreciation of assets from the beginning?

In order to effectively track the depreciation of assets, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of initial costs.

According to Ashley Bolden, by knowing the exact amount paid for each asset at the beginning, it becomes easier to monitor their depreciation over time. This prevents situations where repairs or replacements end up being more expensive than the asset itself.

Additionally, having a comprehensive reporting system that alerts when an asset requires replacement helps optimize maintenance efforts. Capturing detailed information about asset breakdowns and repairs is essential not only for efficient vendor communication but also for legal purposes. It provides a reliable record that can be referenced in case of disputes or legal actions.

Overall, implementing these best practices ensures better asset management and cost-effective decision-making.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the integration of technology, particularly Artificial Intelligence (AI), has the potential to revolutionize facility management.

By leveraging AI-based platforms and tools, such as machine learning and predictive analytics, energy consumption management can be optimized, leading to proactive maintenance and improved operational efficiency.

Data integrity plays a vital role in ensuring accurate information and streamlining ESG compliance efforts. Additionally, the benefits of integration and automation in the trades sector cannot be underestimated, as they enable seamless communication, data exchange, and streamlined processes.

Having a comprehensive facility management system is crucial for tracking and managing operations effectively. With the advancements in technology, businesses can embrace these solutions to drive positive change, enhance operational efficiency, and achieve better control over expenses.

Full transcript from the AI & technology panel

Kim Goei: “Let’s talk about technology, so Mandy, definitely Mandy’s favorite topic, technology, technology, even though she’s like, ‘I don’t do it, whatever,’ but it’s so great, and you ordered a technology summit, but um, so where does technology play a role in this? I’m actually going to call on a few of you, but first, Josh, since I know I made fun of Josh earlier, but he really is one of those people that spearheads thinking differently about how to leverage technology. So, where does AI and so forth come into this, and give us some of your brilliant thought leadership on technology. Thanks.”

Joshua Witte: “We’re at an interesting inflection point within the industry, especially in energy and utility management, and you know, AI is really buzzy right now, and if you follow AI at all, it seems like every day there’s a new AI platform out there that is at both terrifying and exciting at the same time, especially if you start having conversations with these little bots. Um, it’s very interesting stuff, but it really does have can have a significant impact on how you manage your facilities and how you manage the energy usage and consumption out there. We’re looking at deploying AI-type technology into our stores that will have the capability to utilize machine learning and predictive analytics to develop virtual submeters down to all of our units at the store to enable automated demand response to adjust set points and create work orders before there’s a problem, to become truly proactive instead of reactive, which is how we all live in our world, you know. Our current state right now is I have among my 16,000 stores, I have at least five disparate energy management systems across that portfolio. I say at least five because I probably have some store out in the middle of nowhere that has a bunch of thermostats on the walls, and I just don’t even know it, and none of these systems talk to each other. They don’t integrate, and I literally have analysts swiveling in their chairs, logging out of one system, logging into another, every single day, trying to manage this portfolio. You know, by utilizing AI and machine learning, we can develop, as we’re working on developing a software platform, what we call a single pane of glass that sits over all of that, integrates all of that data into a data lake, makes it actionable, makes it real-time, and will really truly empower us to impact some positive change at the store level.”

Kim Goei:: “That’s awesome. Ted, do you want to add a little bit more color on data integrity and your thoughts on that?”

Ted Atwood: “The hardest part in the ESG compliance space is you need to start with good information, and the core of it is having good records on assets, and a lot of this data gets siloed, it gets parked in a different system somewhere, like you were just referring to, swiveling chairs. And I think the key, at least in the next few years, is that integration between these touch points, that’ll streamline the number of times that you have to enter data or even review data. You’re talking about data lakes, Microsoft’s done some incredibly powerful things in this language that you’ll hear very little about right now, but it’ll probably change, called M language, and it allows you to share data between different companies and different reporting structures, as long as you use Power BI, and it’s really, really fascinating. So it may not even be the best platform, but if it’s the most efficient platform, it really does enhance what you’re able to do. And even things like what TrackRef accomplishes with the service people that we work with is only manageable when we have a good partnership with a work order system because that data is not redundant, but there’s a lot of similarities, and I think streamlining that’s key.”

Kim Goei: “Any other thoughts on technology?”

Josh Witte: Yep, just to build on that, I would say integration is going to be key moving forward in a future state. The days of closed protocol systems that don’t talk to anything else, those are done. I mean, we’re moving away from that, and the system that can integrate that will integrate your carbon accounting, which will be essential as the SEC continues to shove their faces in how we operate our businesses, uh, between the work order management system, your utility bill pay and management system, whatever you have to start to marry all of these together. And you know, where’s Mark? Mark, a system that integrates that will be a key player in the marketplace. Take note, I’ll come back, I’ll talk to you in six months, we’ll see where we are. As you say, I see an easy button, a flexible system. Everybody wants that one, you know.

Mandy Rennehan: “I just wanted to go back just one step to just say, yes, I am taking the mic on a technology answer here, but I just wanted to talk about the automation perspective and how, when we talk about people in the trades, you know, the external and the internal, even with taxes, when we start seeing the automation be integrated between what they’re using out on site and what we’re using in-house, and they talk to each other, and then you look at a giant like NetSuite, for instance, and then all of a sudden, you’re able to take that, Mark, are you listening, buddy? Okay, buddy, and you’re able to take that, and then you’re able to integrate that back into, you know, all of your financial systems. This has been something that’s been really key for us, is how do you connect the dots with everybody that’s important. So I am excited up here, people, like I am excited. I love this, and I just, you and I can’t have a drink later, Josh, because it’s not going to be good.”

Kim Goei: “That’s awesome. Um, Keith, do you have any thoughts? I know you mentioned your work order system, which is not yet Fexa, but hopefully in the future soon. Um, when you’re… don’t worry, it’s not a soft sell, it’s a hard sell, no just kidding, but you mentioned managing, you know, technology. You mentioned to me before that, you know, nothing happened, it has to all be tracked. Do you have any, um, thoughts as far as that?”

Keith Isoldi: “Thoughts on the system or being with Fexa, which is it? I can honestly say, on the record, no pressure, it’s not being recorded, I would, well, let me make sure I phrase this right, no no no no, honestly say on a record, if you need a system, you should be with Fexa, without a doubt, all right, without a doubt, it’s the most flexible out there. Wow, but see, I’m not trying to jump on board, you know, but it’s the most adaptable out there right now, so, and I’m not just selling it for them, I’ve been in this industry 30 years, I started with, I started way back when when there was no system, there was two companies, Service Watch and Outbound, for any of you old-timers out there that used to pick up a phone book, right, there was two companies, East Coast and West, that did consolidation, and that was it, but the big thing is tracking it all in one system, that is so huge to me, and over at Chipotle, we do not even call a fire department unless there’s a ticket in our work order system. You have to be that stringent about it. Nothing happens until there’s a ticket, yeah, something has to, it has to be there, and you have to get the operators on board with that, you need to support them, you need to help them with that, but you have to have it all in one place, and including my team is in one system that I can look at analytics, and I can analyze any bit of data on the money I spend, and you know, having 3,200 restaurants, I know we all have different budgets, but I probably spend like 1.5 million dollars a week in cash out of the company, so it’s very easy to be looked at, and I can chop it and dice it any which way, so I think it’s very important.”

Kim Goei “Awesome, thank you. Go ahead.”

Ashley Bolden: “So we all kind of talked about it on a call, um, beforehand, we had like a little practice call, but just, uh, especially when new stores, uh, tracking your assets from the beginning, you truly need to know and understand what your depreciation is. If you don’t know how much you paid for that HVAC unit in the beginning, how can you really track the depreciation of it, you’re starting when it breaks down. So you have to start in the beginning, and that’s something that we’re learning years into the game, that we haven’t been doing, so this is a best practice that we’re going to put in, that everything from the LED light that we installed to the 12 units, we need to know in the beginning, how much did we pay for it, so then when it breaks down, we truly know, well, we paid ten thousand for it, why are we spending twenty thousand to repair it. So, and then we also want a system, our reporting system, that will tell you, ding ding ding, you need a new unit, do not, don’t repair it anymore. So, just also, and then he said, I’m sorry if I’m rambling, he mentioned about getting the information, we, we struggle with capturing exactly what happened, when you have guys in the field, their focus to is to repair it, them putting it in the system is like admin work to them, they don’t want to do it, but we need it. I need to know it broke down and why, so when we call the vendor, we call the right vendor one, and two, we have a record to go back from, and a lot of people don’t realize, when you capture all the details, say five years later, somebody decides to sue you, you had that information, you have a record to go back and look at, you have notes, you have, it’s time-stamped, and so it’s very, very important.”

Looking Ahead to FacilitiesX: Fexa Innovation Summit 2024

The journey into the future of facility management continues with the 2024 FacilitiesX: Fexa Innovation Summit. Set to take place on April 7 at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, TN, FacilitiesX promises to be a convergence of innovation, technology, and industry leadership.

Register now at FacilitiesX.com.

Future-proof your facility today.

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