For facility managers tasked with keeping a site up and running seamlessly, creating a networked, smart building is quickly becoming not only a badge of honor but an essential part of ensuring operations are fully optimized. The smart building taps into the Internet of Things (IoT) by integrating automation software into building platforms, such as HVAC, lighting, security, and safety. These platforms have the capacity to collect unprecedented building intelligence – ranging from employee productivity to energy usage and opportunities to save – which all have a major impact on the health of a business with the ability to optimize business operations. But the C-suite, who is dealing mostly with priorities that include meeting revenue deadlines, scaling the business, and making sales numbers, in many cases doesn't even know what type of intelligence is hidden within their building.
So how can facilities and operations teams advocate for adopting a smart building platform in their organization? Below are four benefits of the smart building you should know to make the case to the C-suite:
Benefit 1: The Smart Building Offers Unprecedented Operational Intelligence
When a facility is connected to an intelligent network, a plethora of operational data can be collected. This data harvesting and analytics can shed insight into how the facility is managed and operated through occupancy trends and employee traffic patterns. Intelligent lighting systems, for example, can provide a heat map to show how a facility is being used – from what time of day employees arrive, to the aisles they primarily work in – which can have a larger impact on inventory management. The facility manager may find that inventory in the back of the facility is particularly popular and workers are spending lots of time in transit, so there is an opportunity to streamline processes by relocating inventory. Separately, intelligent HVAC systems, particularly when networked into an intelligent lighting system, have the capacity to understand what areas of the facility are in use and at what time, and know to heat and/or cool those areas only when necessary.
Benefit 2: The Smart Building Improves Employee Engagement/Productivity
Networked solutions actually create a better work atmosphere, as a smart environment offers fewer distractions and more comfortable and, in some cases, individualized settings. Not only does that make staff more engaged and happy at their job but also more productive team members, which of course is a top goal for the C-suite. Here’s why:
Connected platforms are able to take into consideration occupancy, time of day, and available daylight in order to maximize energy savings without employee distraction. For example, intelligent lighting systems offer dim settings, so light only goes on in a section of a facility or is dimmed at a certain level or rate depending on staff utilization or occupancy, which makes for a friendlier, less distracting environment. And for employee comfort and engagement HVAC systems integrated with connected lighting platforms allow setting comfortable facility temperatures, depending on time of day or outdoor temperature, etc., to ensure a pleasant working environment.
Another critical application the smart building offers for employee productivity relates to asset tracking via indoor positioning technology. By adding beacons to intelligent light fixtures and tagging assets, like inventory, managers can have real-time access to the exact location of the assets. This solves the “where is the box” problem that many warehouses face, allowing facility staff to stay efficient and therefore more engaged.
Benefit 3: The Smart Building Enhances Facility Security & Safety
Smart solutions not only increase the physical security of a building, but also safety of the building’s equipment and emergency systems. While it may be obvious that intelligent lighting platforms can prevent break-ins by turning on the lights when the sensors detect movement, they can also perform tedious and time-intensive, but extremely critical, testing on a regular basis, ensuring that if the power goes out, emergency lighting is turned on. This prevents hazardous situations for employees, and also provides automated confirmation that a building or facility meets the necessary safety certifications.
Because intelligent lighting systems offer heat maps and occupancy data over time, facility mangers can identify high areas of traffic that require special attention to employee safety. For example, facility managers can strategically plan forklift pathways across the facility so that they move in areas of least occupancy, preventing any accidents and decreasing the potential safety risks to employees.
To further maximize security, managers are also utilizing occupancy sensing data to create virtual fences around particular areas within a facility. If there is trespassing into any virtual zone during certain hours of the day or night (set forth in advance by the facility manager), the connected platform immediately alerts the facility manager so he or she can respond to any possible breaches in real-time.
Benefit 4: The Smart Building Contributes to the Bottom Line
Networked smart buildings have the capacity to reduce energy costs, optimize staffing and asset usage, and improve security, thus delivering a meaningful impact to the organization’s bottom line, which is always top of mind for the C-suite.
Intelligent lighting systems, which use already efficient LED fixtures, have the capacity to save up to 90% on energy-related expenses simply by better managing operations, such as turning off when the area is not in use and using daylight harvesting to dim the facility when possible. As the system’s heat map can show areas in which inventory isn’t being used or accessed, the C-suite can also see areas of business where products may not be selling, which provides them with the valuable data that can be applied to manufacturing planning. A heat map can also track equipment utilization, so organizations know if they should (or shouldn’t) make additional investments, be it loading dock equipment, trucks, or lifts. Separately, an intelligent security system can replace or complement employee security to ensure facilities are protected against theft, thereby reducing salary allotments and/or losses related to potential stolen materials.
All in all, while the C-suite might not care about the "smart building," they do care about the aforementioned benefits that the smart building provides. By showcasing the power of a connected network, facility managers can get the buy-in they need from the corner office.
Kaynam Hedayat is VP of Product Marketing and Management for Digital Lumens. For more information, please visit www.digitallumens.com.