UK-based Government Solutions provider KBR is no stranger to the Facilities Management market. A major partner to 20% of the British armed forces, KBR also takes on contracts where they provide a client-side and strategic role.
It’s a role, the company notes, that requires them to take a more technological approach.
“We’ve got contracts where we act as a client-side integrator or managing agent,” said Colin Kenton, managing director of FM services at KBR. “Part of our role is using technology to support our clients in their decision-making process.”
To provide the quality service they’ve become known for, KBR follows a similar formula throughout all of its projects.
“In all of our projects, we will implement a fully-functional CAFM system which provides the client with real time access to asset and service performance metrics,” said Kenton. “The company uses these systems to perform a number of functions, including services such as identifying assets and work order scheduling and distributing, which is accessed by both the client and service providers. This creates the opportunity to factor in a single system that we can use on all of our contracts. Something that will provide both transparency and efficiency.”
But that’s not all, KBR also utilizes several other systems to provide their services. “We use a number of additional systems depending on the client’s requirements. KBR uses tablet technology to perform condition surveying and to gather data into their asset system and will continue to do this. However, into the future, KBR is embracing new technology to support what they see as a fundamental shift from planned to condition based maintenance.
“If we could get clients to invest in upgrading BMS systems, we could upgrade to a much-better form of maintenance. In the process of going from planned or scheduled maintenance to condition-based maintenance, which is the next step, the use of monitoring devices and BMS is fundamental.”
It’s a step KBR believes must be reached before facilities management providers can even start talking about future predictive AI technologies.
The move, however, is one that is hindered by investment costs.
“Connecting the BMS to a centralized platform is critical, but restrictive, in terms of the investment cost and the return on investment,” stated Kenton. “Suppliers find it difficult to make that investment themselves [because] it should be a joint investment between the client and the supplier.”
The issue reveals a growing sentiment that both suppliers and clients should invest in improving the quality of one’s estate. This notion, however, hasn’t gone without criticism, as many clients tend to push investment costs solely on FM providers. This is a move that KBR feels restricts the full potential of a collaborative supplier-client relationship.
“It has to be a joint effort. It’s the client’s estate. They own the assets on the estate,” Kenton continues. “The supplier can bring the technology as part of their delivery, but the client does ultimately need to invest in upgrading the estate.”
This goal, the company believes, can be realized through a true open-ended BMS platform and better occupancy monitoring, amongst other steps, that ultimately will see effective ROI’s for their clients.
KBR has taken measures of its own to help develop this. For instance, the company has recently invested in sensor technology that will provide more accurate occupancy level information. Combining this with “a well-connected BMS system which is already coming into our control center, and we’ll be using that data to move to condition-based maintenance in some of our client’s assets and properties.”
The company intends to reach condition-based maintenance on all of its contracts at some point, but notes that it must show the cost benefit of doing so first.
While the full transition to condition-based maintenance may still be a way off, the company’s work to allow for more accurate occupancy level information is currently underway.
“The other bit of work that we did in terms of technology is that we’re providing sensors to monitor occupancy levels on some of our client’s buildings,” continued Kenton, “Our clients want to prove that it is possible and beneficial to monitor individual spaces and individual guests.”
But the company recognizes that it faces challenges in its efforts to provide the best-quality FM services. This can be seen through KBR’s efforts to overcome the disparity between client needs and demands. Specifically, this is witnessed through clients’ efforts to gain more access and insights into their FM data—something which KBR notes hasn’t yet been made available to them.
“Clients are writing into their specifications what data they need,” Kenton notes before highlighting the problem with this. “But quite often they don’t know what they need until they see what they need to be able to define the specification.” In an effort to try and resolve this issue, KBR looks to strike a middle ground that works for both clients and for suppliers.
“Suppliers need to be adaptable to clients’ requirements, but FM suppliers should have a really good understanding already of what’s important to their clients.”
Because of this, KBR believes that it is fundamental that FM suppliers should be able to provide clients with the information they need from a position of truly understanding their requirements. It’s here that data analytics becomes key.
“Where the added value comes is having people on the supplier’s team who are technically-skilled and capable and competent to analyze the data.”
These individuals should be tasked with understanding what aspects of their FM strategies are going well and what areas need improvement. They then serve to bridge the gap between suppliers and clients by making necessary recommendations.
“That could be simple recommendations from changing service-level agreements and practical arrangements, to much more investment-based decisions on their estate and how their assets are performing in terms of cost and consumption.” This, Kenton notes, is key to satisfying what clients really want.
“Clients don’t always have the technical abilities in their organizations [to conduct this level of analysis]. I think it’s important that suppliers factor in both technology and people who are skilled in doing assessments of the data and in making recommendations” continues Kenton.
Part of KBR’s initiative to resolve these issues comes through with its K-SMART program. Three years in development, the program has now been live for several months and is already delivering valuable insights into a number of key data points.
“It’s going to take a minimum of six months to prove with empirical evidence that what we’ve done is a benefit,” he said. “You’ve got to have some form of quantifiable measurement identified before you even start doing it so that you can make it a success.”
As of now, however, K-SMART has already started to showcase a number of benefits.
“In terms of the desk space, office space utilization, that data is available and can be acted on today. So we’ve got meaningful data that was required to be able to prove that space utilization could be managed.”
Moving ahead with their innovations, KBR looks to defy traditional FM strategies dominated by cost-reduction. Instead, the company looks to put clients’ needs first in order to provide the best user experience.
“We haven’t been driven by market demands,” he said. “Unfortunately, the market has been driven by price reduction, and that’s never an enabler for advancements in technology.” Kenton notes, “However, that’s definitely changing.”
The change comes as clients expect more from their FM providers. With better FM services and more reliable data suppliers will be better equipped to serve the needs of their clients. For this reason, more demands are being placed on FM providers to optimize their clients’ return on investments.
For now, KBR looks to continue testing its innovative FM approach to better meet changing client needs. In doing so, they have demonstrated why they have become a leader in providing timely, comprehensive, and quality FM services.
Written By Graham Perry, MSC, MIET