CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
Overview of special issue
In this 20th anniversary special issue of Facilities we have drawn together a few of the papers that continue to have a relevance to today's facilities managers. All the papers are drawn from a decade ago when facilities management had moved from being a fledgling concept to a major service industry. At that time people were asking key questions – "Is outsourcing the way ahead?"; "How do I measure what I value?"; "What does the intelligent building concept offer for the facilities manager?" Today the dust has settled somewhat. We know that outsourcing is not a "silver bullet". We understand the importance of service level agreements. We recognise the importance of providing user control in the workplace. Yet we are still faced with many unanswered questions. From the chosen papers it is useful to identify some of the points which are still relevant today and those issues which have moved on.
The first of the papers in the special issue, by Keith Pratt, originally appeared in 1994. It provides a practitioner's practical recommendations on the development of a service level agreement. This paper deals with many of the pragmatic issues which are nonetheless vital to the successful implementation of a contract. The paper's particular value is the detail provided in how to implement and review a service level arrangement.
In the next paper by Andrew Mawson, the activities of the Learning Building Group are described – an Anglo-Scandinavian group of companies that sought to address the future needs of user organisations. The group's objective was to develop a "holistic" teaming approach to the briefing, design, delivery and management of buildings, tearing down the traditional barriers between the different disciplines working in "splendid isolation". This paper reflects the growing realisation at the time that "building intelligence" is not about providing leading edge technology for some unknown need: rather, it is about satisfying specific organisational needs.
David Kincaid is one of the luminaries of facilities management research. In his paper on the measurement of physical performance, Kincaid describes a case study of IBM. Premature component failure was the apparent cause of excessive operational facilities costs at the time. It was found that six of the 31 elements making up a building were responsible for two-thirds of the value of the potential expenditure. Some striking conclusions were derived including the observation that "50 per cent of the reinvestment for all six elements could have been avoided with no additional first cost had design and construction quality been handled at least as well as on buildings where premature failure did not occur". This paper is an exemplary illustration of how powerful a case study paper can be and is in marked contrast to many publications today that claim to be case studies but provide little or not insight.
Keith Alexander has always been an advocate of the facilities manager as "changemaster". In the paper "A strategy for facilities management facilities" describes how managers can become involved in setting the business agenda. He also highlights the importance of professional and educational developments. In the ten years since this paper was published it is true to say that many steps have been taken along the lines suggested, particularly in the European context.
In August 2002 an outbreak of Legionnaires disease in Barrow in Furness, UK, resulted in more than 100 infections and four fatalities. Initial inspections of the air conditioning plant at the Forum 28 in the town centre suggested it may have been poorly maintained and not properly disinfected. The paper by Brundrett on the prevention of Legionellosis continues to be relevant given the continued occurrences around the world. Such diseases are no longer seen as "acts of God" and it is increasingly the facilities manager who appears in the spotlight.
The paper by Low Sui Pheng is an interesting reminder that alternative approaches to facilities management prevail around the world. It suggests that the predominant literature neglects an alternative Oriental approach. The paper puts forward a large collection of management "rules" which, to many practitioners, might seem counterintuitive. One such example is "The facilities manager should know that constant interventions will block the progress of the facilities team. As the team leader, the facilities manager does not insist that things come out a certain way." This paper provides a refreshing view of the facilities management world.
No collection of facilities management papers is complete without a contribution by Franklin Becker. The paper on "Integrated portfolio strategies for dynamic organizations' describes how organisational uncertainty can be addressed using a variety of options. As always, Becker is able to think "outside the box" and relate business issues such as supply chain management, customisation and standardisation with workplace issues.
Many of these papers will continue to be relevant to readers long after they have been published. This contrasts with much of the ephemera in print today. Issues come and go and often return. It is often instructive to return to some of the original publications for lost or misunderstood ideas.
Edward FinchEditor of Facilities