What Does a Facility Manager Manage?

11/05/2012 | By Christopher Curtland

Just what do facility managers manage?  It's more appropriate to ask what they don't do, since their responsibilities are often varied in scope.

The question is paradoxical in nature, because although the answer is simple and finite in one regard – i.e., “the facility” – it is actually vast and seemingly endless.

As budgets continue to tighten, and with increasing regulations dictating decisions, it is helpful to analyze the wide-reaching responsibilities of facilities management teams.

Day-to-day Tasks Are Important

Operations and maintenance represent a major effort that needs to be organized well and made to run like clockwork.

“A medium-sized, major headquarters can have 50,000 requests for service annually and four times that number of preventive maintenance items corrected,” notes The Facility Management Handbook Third Edition.

The space occupied must be tended to at all times. That requires systems to be maintained, repaired, altered, or renovated constantly. Furniture is moved or swapped out. Lighting fixtures are relamped. HVAC systems break down. Operations and maintenance are a high volume part of the business.

Dollars, Sense, and the Bottom Line

Planning and budgeting are an important aspect of FM responsibility, but sometimes it gets overlooked.

Many facilities managers cling to their technical backgrounds where it would benefit them to be more business-oriented. Treat FM as a business – gather systems requirements, arrange them into programs, and finalize them in a budget.

Be proactive instead of reactive. Familiarize yourself with strategic and annual planning. Doing so will help you prioritize various goals and projects, as well as anticipate costs and expenditures. Facility planning should be an integral part of the organization’s business plan, not just an add-on, the handbook advises.

Sustainability Equates to Viability

Going green isn’t a fad. In fact, it’s an essential part of the job that has far-reaching benefits.

Among the major benefits of going green are reduced costs, improved employee satisfaction, and an enhanced business image. Use lifecycle analysis and other facts about carbon emissions and energy consumption to organize a sustainability program that’s in synch with your organization’s goals.

Becoming more sustainable and energy efficient achieves both short- and long-term savings, giving the facility manager a brand new area of focus. In fact, sustainability manager and energy manager are new job titles that are becoming more and more common on facilities management teams.

Be Prepared and Secure in Case of Emergency

Emergency preparedness is a managerial function that commonly falls on the facility manager’s shoulders. You should have a proper framework in place within your organizational community to reduce vulnerability to hazards and disasters. The safety of both the facility and its occupants is essential to smooth operations.

Any facility in any location is can be subjected to nature’s forces, technological failures, or man-made destruction, the handbook notes. Security programs enable you to prepare your company for worst-case scenarios. Your facility needs to be protected from any disastrous occurrence, whether it’s a fire or vandalism.

Implementation May Require Partners and Technology

Unless you can apply all the technical aspects of the profession effectively and efficiently, you won’t be successful in your role of facility manager.

You must be a skilled communicator and know when it’s appropriate to outsource or partner on certain projects. Know how to best utilize your existing personnel and when it’s time to call in reinforcements.

Technology also helps with communication and other aspects of facilities management. Building control systems and information technology will become essential to your performance if they haven’t already.

Looking Ahead

What does a facility manager do? You’re responsible for operations and maintenance, budget and business planning, lifesafety and security, and so on. Buildings are commonly likened to living, breathing entities, and you’re responsible for keeping it alive.

By implementing sustainability practices and energy efficiency measures, your role is growing, but so is the longevity of your building.

Sure, a facility manager manages a facility. That, and so much more.

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