Over the last several years, the operating environment faced by facility managers has evolved significantly. Today's facility managers navigate a role that extends beyond the conventional responsibilities of overseeing day-to-day operations. They are now tasked with managing the seamless integration of innovative technologies and meeting escalating compliance challenges, while still grappling with rising supply costs and lingering inflation.
So, what’s ahead in 2024? We spoke with Mazen Rihani, an executive vice president at KBS in charge of innovation, who shared his thoughts on what facility managers can expect as they prepare to navigate the road ahead.
1. Commercial Cleaning Robots Will See Renewed Interest
The use of advanced robotic systems to sweep, scrub and/or
vacuum floors is poised to accelerate in 2024, as the technology matures
and the demand for automation and efficiency continues to grow. If the
recent annual ISSA conference is any indication, Rihani anticipates an
uptick in the pilot programs and adoption of these systems next year. At
the show, Rihani says nearly every other exhibit was promoting some
type of robotic cleaning solutions.
“The latest models are cheaper and more self-sufficient,
which boosts usage and overall ROI,” Rihani says. “For example, the new
generation of robotic scrubbers are able to recharge themselves via
charging stations, and also dump and refill water on their own.”
Rihani adds that the latest cleaning robots have also appear to have improved on most of the challenges seen in previous models, including localization, troubleshooting, planning routes, or the need to remap when the environment changes, making them “less dependent on human interaction.”
While the potential of commercial cleaning robots has always been strong, their widespread adoption has been modest so far and primarily concentrated in sectors like retail and those with large open floor spaces to clean. According to Rihani, it’s important to recognize that robots have significant limitations—they are strong at executing floor cleaning tasks but do not address all cleaning needs specified in a typical commercial statement of work. The key challenge lies in making sure they are properly integrated into a comprehensive cleaning program and are not left as standalone point solutions.
To unlock their full potential and achieve a strong return on investment, some facility leaders are partnering with experts who understand the technology and have proven experience developing and executing commercial cleaning programs at scale. KBS, for example, is currently delivering an integrated program for major retailers who invested in large fleets of robotic floor scrubbers to maximize their programs after they initially struggled to use them on a consistent basis, resulting in stores that weren’t clean and limited ROI. This approach ensures facilities actually meet the required cleaning standards, delivering not just technological innovation but also a consistently clean and well-maintained building.
2. The Use of Integrated Sensor Solutions Will Grow as Buildings Become ‘Smarter’
The landscape of sensor technology continues to evolve, paving the way for more-connected “smart buildings” that can boost efficiency and reduce costs. Traditional uses of sensors, such as turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, are evolving into more sophisticated facility management systems, says Rihani.
In this interconnected setup, sensors not only signal when restroom supplies like soap and paper towels are running low but also utilize location sensor technology on cleaning teams' equipment to track cleaning frequency and duration based on their movements. These and other key facility insights are collected and made available through a centralized, graphical insights platform that facility leaders can use to more easily manage and optimize resources and cleaning schedules and improve overall efficiency.
The shift from standalone point solutions to a unified dashboard aligns with the broader trend toward more intelligent and interconnected buildings that Rihani anticipates will continue to grow in 2024 and beyond. The market agrees, with Fortune Business Insights noting that the global smart building market size is projected to grow from $96.96 billion in 2023 to $408.21 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 22.8%. National providers like KBS can help facility managers determine if this emerging technology is a good fit for their facility, and if so, help to implement and monitor it, as well as support clients with regular data analysis and recommendations to get the most out of their investments.
3. Multi-Use Equipment Will Help Boost Operational Efficiency
A cheaper, more accessible way than robotics to increase productivity and efficiency is advanced multi-use equipment, which Rihani predicts will also grow in usage in 2024.
Multi-use tools and equipment typically integrate several pieces of cleaning equipment into one. A perfect example of this is a proprietary multi-tool system that KBS is deploying in the field on behalf of clients on an increasing basis.
This multi-tool system combines 5 different pieces of equipment to create a unified powerhouse tool that janitorial crews can use to tackle multiple cleaning tasks across a large area without having to go back to the janitorial closet for a new piece of equipment every time. Not only does the KBS Multi-Tool increase productivity – cleaning more than 25,000 square feet per hour – it also produces strong environmental benefits. According to extensive internal testing, the multi-tool reduces chemical usage by more than 66% and water usage by more than 75%.
4. Managers Will Seek Out Programs that Reflect Individual Market Needs, While Delivering Cost Savings
When it comes to outsourcing facility services, some facility leaders might be tempted to adopt a more regionalized method and choose local providers that they perceive they can build better relationships with. However, Rihani predicts that more and more savvy facility managers will choose a “best of both worlds” approach in 2024 and select a vendor that can leverage its national strength while also delivering am understanding of local requirements and strong engagement at the site level to get the best service and price.
National leaders like KBS offer important considerations that local and regional vendors simply cannot match, including scalable resources, hardened compliance processes, investment in the latest technology and equipment, and best practices culled from years of experience servicing industry leaders in various sectors. They also can offer a comprehensive portfolio of interior and exterior services, ensuring a standardized approach to facility management. In addition, they are able to buy supplies at bulk pricing that strictly regional providers don’t have access to. All of this translates into lower costs.
Because the operating structure was designed to deliver a “Nationally Strong, Locally Great” service approach, KBS also operates with an intense local focus that creates an intimate understanding of each market. Our local field management and executives are adept at navigating the dynamics of every market the client is in while cultivating trusted relationships with the client’s local team. Rihani said this approach is critical for both raising standards and lowering costs, giving companies the cost saving benefits of a large provider while still having a local touch involved in their operations.
5. Accelerated Return to Office Strategies Will Present New Facility Challenges
Over the last few years, employers have been testing and implementing hybrid work schedules with their staff. In 2024, we will see many more companies push for employees to fully return to office in order to enhance collaboration and productivity. In fact, a recent article by Forbes notes that 64% of global leaders anticipate a full return to in-office working by 2026, and a staggering 90% of companies are planning to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024. From increased wear and tear to accelerated cleaning and maintenance needs, facility managers should be ready to have more people in the office in 2024 than they have since the start of the pandemic.
“Before, we saw more of a hybrid approach for workers returning to the office,” Rihani says. “Now, we’re seeing that it’s still a hybrid approach, but more and more companies are asking their staff to be in the office more days per week.”
To help meet the needs of employees who are spending more time in the office, Rihani advises a proactive approach. Recognizing that cuts made during the pandemic years could impact service levels, he emphasizes the need for facility managers to ensure their service providers can quickly flex to meet their occupancy changes and are well-equipped to make the office a clean and attractive space for employees who will be spending more time there. This is especially important during the winter flu and cold season.
This shift towards a revitalized office experience mirrors the broader evolution in facility services. The landscape is witnessing a distinctive trend—a move towards centralization at the corporate level. Engaging with national service providers presents a strategic avenue for businesses to ensure better quality, consistency, and cost-effectiveness in their facility operations.
What's next for facility managers?
As we embark on the journey into 2024, facility managers need be aware of the top trends so they can better navigate today’s complex operating environment. By providing tailored outsourced facility solutions, KBS enables facility managers to solve many of their most complex challenges for next year and beyond. Contact us today to discover how KBS can help ensure that your operations remain resilient, efficient, and ready for the future.