Facility & Maintenance Management

The Power of Mobile Applications for the Commercial Real Estate

February 11, 2021

Only five years ago representatives of the broadly defined Real Estate industry, during conferences and meetings, were wondering about mobile systems for buildings. During many interesting lectures voices were raised saying that mobility is the future but we’re not ready for it yet. It took only five years and now key real estate software suppliers for managing and technical support of the buildings, develop their solutions in the “mobile-first” trend, focusing on the customers that use mobile phones and tablets in their everyday work. The worldwide increase in mobile applications users of various kinds – from banking, loyalty programs, shopping to entertainment, only increases further development of the commercial facilities sector.

In the article, we have gathered the most important features of CAFM/CMMS systems and new real estate solutions, which may revolutionize the next areas of commercial real estate management in the coming years.

Benefits of Mobile CAFM/CMMS Systems

At first, let’s consider which areas can be supported by today’s mobile applications as integrated with real estate management software that maintains technical facilities.

Introducing mobile applications for building operations have caused expansion in the possibility of quick communications and handling of complex processes. Data is gathered in one system. Mobile applications are a natural completion of desktop systems of the same manufacturer. The biggest advantage of mobility is its availability at every moment of our work.

Using mobile applications, technical departments and property managers can have constant access to current information about the facility. Data concerning e.g., help desk tickets, is automatically updated in the mobile CAFM application and we can easily find out the status of a thing that concerns us. While choosing the system it’s worth noting the possibility of mobile computer-aided facility management systems that is available also in an offline mode.

Mobile facility and maintenance management software streamlines access to information regarding:

  • Malfunction tickets, additional works, and projects
  • Maintenance inspections and checklists
  • Real estate documentation
  • Facility equipment and systems documentation
  • Tenants, contact list, and documentation
  • Building news

The Biggest Advantage of Mobile Solutions In Comparison With Desktop Ones

The operational capabilities of mobile applications give us more advantages than getting to know only actual data from the desktop system. One of the key features of mobile CAFM systems are:

  • Mobile reactive maintenance and creating work orders with photos and indicating the location of the malfunction. It allows for even faster and more precise alerting of any problem to specific individuals and departments.
  • Maintenance inspections and technical rounds to perform inspection tasks with preventive maintenance checklists and inputting necessary equipment parameters.
  • Digital documents - the possibility to prepare electronic versions of protocols with digital signatures of persons performing or signing off works for each completed operation.
  • Property inspections - such as technical and security audits, or cleaning;

According to one of the researches carried out by CAFM/CMMS systems providers, using the mobile application during technical maintenance of the building increases the productivity of performed tasks by 40% and decreases realization time per ticket by about 30%. It partially stems from the fact that digital communication usage, together with image documentation, decreases by 25% the time needed for a technician to arrive at the malfunction location and verify the ticket.

According to Forrester, Gartner and Verdantix

In terms of facility and maintenance management, combining mobility with the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors solutions allows an even greater possibility to speed tasks and report performance. In projects, where technician’s presence confirmation is necessary (e.g. during technical rounds) you can install passive NFC tags, which may be integrated with CAFM/CMMS systems. After automated reading (scanning) of NFC tags, we get some useful data such as the confirmation date and time of technician’s or other building’s service presence. Alternatively, another IoT sensors are Beacons that use Bluetooth technology. They give an additional possibility of localization, monitoring, and securing in real mode, without the need to “bounce back” as in the case of NFC tags. By Using Beacons, we can for example secure and track personnel activity or locate objects in warehouses, production halls, or large parking lots. Functionalities connecting mobile applications and loT solutions are a broad subject, but it’s worth mentioning, that all building’s services can use empower IoT technology – from technicians, security employees, to cleaning services, and all that as part of an already implemented on-site system.

Mobile Application For Tenants

I. Office, Retail, and Mix-Used Locations

So far, we’ve been mostly analyzing mobile tools for building services and property managers. Sharing mobile solutions with tenants is a true step forward for commercial locations. Quite often there have been situations, where even the best CAFM type system with a dedicated Tenant/Customer portal in the desktop version, couldn’t be used by a wider range of employees. In shopping centers, where particular retailers in their shops usually work on a shift basis, and specification of part of tenants doesn’t allow access to computers at the back of small shops, they have been excluded from easy contact with locations services or shopping centers director.

By using the mobile application, tenants can communicate with property and facility managers as well as the building’s services in an easy way. Commercial facilities require specific functionality from software vendors, such as:

  • Discount coupons for shop employees – particular store employees can do shopping with discount at their “neighbours” shop
  • Monthly report of profits to shopping centre director’s office, which in most cases is the basis for monthly rent calculation in the next period; as stated in the individual contracts. In this way, a monthly visit from each shop’s manager to director’s office with a paper version of the declaration is no longer needed.
  • Attaching documentation confirming undergoing of internal shop inspections by the tenants – some large chains on their own (using their own services) perform works/inspections, after which a report is handed over to managers
  • Work permits

II. Logistics Locations

Replacing many processes with mobile solutions also applies to logistics facilities. All previously explained features of Reactive Maintenance, Planned and Preventive Maintenance (PPM), or Asset Management is necessary for hall maintenance. However, the specifics of the logistics industry require additional functionalities that have not been presented so far.

One of such solutions is vehicle access control systems, which automate the process of entry/exit of vehicles from logistic parks. A good example is the Singu Smart Security Desk system, which increases the security level in a logistics park and ensures full traffic transparency.

This type of solution can also be used by tenants who can authorize the exit of a particular vehicle from the park via their smartphone. In case the vehicle exit is not granted, the barriers will not be lifted so that the vehicle will not be able to exit.

The use of mobility reduces the time required for exit acceptance. Additionally, these solutions are used by persons responsible for monitoring offloading and loading of goods, who most often are near docks rather than in an office with a computer.

The Future of Mobility

The industry of mobile devices used in everyday life constantly provides new solutions and models of devices. Developers of mobile applications are constantly following new trends and every day life of particular commercial locations writes their own scenarios for new mobile solutions implementation. Mobile solutions help in work, shorten task performance time, improve the quality of our services, and thanks to our skills, stemming from using similar solutions in other areas of our lives, are no longer a technical obstacle for workers. Today, it's standard for employees to have work phones (smartphones), which encourages the use of mobile apps. For convenience and efficiency of work, some employees decide to install mobile applications on their private devices. This clearly shows the value of such solutions for each user.

Further development of mobile technologies, heading into augmented reality (AR) direction, meaning presenting additional information on the screen of an observed area using a mobile device camera, will further strengthen the mobile-first trend. Even today AR solutions are presented for security, technicians, or cleaning companies. The significant impact of this developing technology will also include browser areas of BIM models. It’s easy to imagine a situation, in which a technician coming to fix a malfunction to a particular location’s room, will automatically have hints as to where installations on walls are located and what technical problem could have occurred. Mobile solutions future that lies ahead will surely surprise us more than once. And all of that, with the constant support of everyday work in broadly defined commercial locations in mind.

Written by:
Łukasz Szweblik
PropTech Expert

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