Technical Facility Management: a Covid-resilient business firmly focused on the future

Published on 29 September 2021

Rainer Hollang, officer of the Group technical Facility Management committee and head of the Efficient Facilities division for SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa, reflects on the impact of the crisis on Tech FM business and shares his analysis concerning the key trends shaping the future of this rapidly evolving market.

Rainer Hollang Officer of the Group technical Facility Management committee and head of the Efficient Facilities division for SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa

What was the impact of the crisis, and its periods of lockdown, on your activity? Are your customers’ buildings currently standing empty or are they partially or fully occupied?

It might seem surprising at first, but despite the low levels of building occupancy during the crisis and the severe economic difficulties faced by some of our customers, SPIE’s technical facility management activity has proven to be quite resilient in the pandemic era and has even experienced a slight growth during 2020! I see two explanations for that: the essential nature of technical FM services and the large variety of building types where these services are provided.

First of all, technical facility management, which encompasses the supervision and maintenance of technical systems such as heating, air conditioning, electrical systems, plumbing, elevators, or fire alarm systems, is essential to maintain the durable life of a building’s equipment and guarantee their full availability to the workers when they return. As it requires regular inspections and maintenance operations, our technical facility management teams were thus requested by our clients to be on site, whether their facilities were empty or not, during the whole crisis period.

The resilience of the tech FM business also finds its roots in the diversity of building types and customers from all types of sectors. Even if some industries (commercial buildings, aviation industry) were severely affected by the crisis, others, such as data centres or logistic sites, have maintained a stable or even growing activity. For instance, SPIE’s diverse portfolio of customers places the Group in a more resilient position.

How have the technical facility management services been adapted during the crisis to buildings partially occupied, fully occupied or at times empty?

At SPIE, our key objective, since the beginning of Covid, has been to offer our customers tailor-made solutions to continue their activities on site when they needed it, while guaranteeing their safety. To create safe environments, we offered new solutions, such as mobile washing systems, disinfection programmes, plexiglass wall installations, fever-measuring stations, low-contact door opening, devices to measure air quality and activate ventilation when needed etc. For open spaces, we rearranged to ensure the correct social distance between employees. To reach our “no risk” objective, we also made sure our employees were aware at all times of the latest updates on best practices to stay safe and protect their colleagues and customers at work.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for technical facility management in the coming decades? How do you plan to adapt to these trends shaping the future of your activities?

In the last few years, we have observed a growing enthusiasm among our clients for greener, more digital, and more flexible solutions in technical facility management. The Covid crisis has highlighted even more the need for flexible work environments, with offices that can quickly shift from open spaces to closed spaces, from smaller meeting areas to bigger ones, and which take into account varying occupancy levels of buildings due to remote working. Fit-out projects, virtual reality training, and remote-control solutions of technical systems (heating, ventilation) will be determinant to accompany our clients in these transformations.

On a broader perspective, we believe digital innovation to be at the heart of a successful transition towards more efficient and greener infrastructures. Therefore, we have increasingly been working with our clients, notably data centres, on intelligent systems to measure and reduce their buildings’ energy consumption and cut down carbon emissions. Moreover, in order to further accelerate the energy transition, we also are actively involved in cross country projects to develop and harness the full potential of state-of-the-art technologies such as BIM and IoT.