Benchmarking as a Tool to Improve Facilities Management Services

Benchmarking as a Tool to Improve Facilities Management Services

Pippa Boothman
27. Aug 2020 | 8 min read

Benchmarking as a Tool to Improve Facilities Management Services

The core of benchmarking is simple: You compare one unit to another. By analyzing numbers, you then try to find the recipe for each unit's best possible performance.

Benchmarking can be a great tool to get the facts straight on how your building is performing. As a continuous process to measure products, services, and practices in one building and compare to another, benchmarking can help you understand where and how to improve your facilities management services.


1. How do I benchmark in facilities management?

Although there are different benchmarking methods, the basic principles are the same. It is essential to take a systematic, realistic, and practical approach to the process. The first step should always be to look at your organization’s business objectives. That will give an idea of what you want and need to measure through benchmarking.

To improve your performance, you need to know what to change in your facility. To find areas with room for improvement in a building, you have to decide which metrics to focus on. In facilities management, examples of these metrics are operating costs, space utilization, maintenance activities, and facilities management staffing. Key performance indicators will help concretize the performance measurement. A suitable indicator should be easily measurable and should ideally come automatically out of a system.

In facilities management, benchmarking is usually facilitated by comparing one building to another. There are three main approaches to benchmarking buildings:

  • Compare one of your buildings to a building that belongs to a peer or industry-leading competitor.
  • Compare two buildings in your portfolio and see how one performs compared to the other. This allows you to pick up valuable information that will guide you towards useful adjustments. This type of benchmarking can help set company standards for performance and raise expectations through shared best practices.
  • Compare one building to itself. By tracking its performance over time, you can look at different periods to gain insights into the most effective measures. By analyzing the numbers while looking at the variables for the two periods, it is easier to determine improvement potential.

The next step is to establish targets. This step aims to develop simple, specific, and measurable goals that can form part of a long-term strategy to monitor the building’s progress. As soon as you know what you are looking for and the benchmarking process' goals, you can start collecting the data you need.


An example: Benchmarking predictive maintenance

Often listed as one of the top five key performance indicators (KPI), predictive maintenance is a KPI well suited for benchmarking.

Predictive maintenance in facilities management is based on using actionable data to understand and stay in control of the condition and performance of facility assets. Accessing this information about assets can help facilities managers predict when an asset is close to failing. Most assets do not just stop functioning, sometimes their behavior changes or they suddenly use more energy than normal. Knowing the details of asset’s performance and behavior removes the need for continuously scheduled repairs. It also reduces the risk of breakdowns, outages, and costly downtime.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, predictive maintenance can lead to a reduction in maintenance costs of up to 30%. Benchmarking this KPI will make sure you optimize the cost reduction predictive maintenance can provide.


2. How do I measure evolution?

To maximize the results from benchmarking, you will want to explore areas where your building is strongly over- or under-performing compared to other buildings. This means that you should look closely at the details of the areas that stand out. Take steps to learn from best practice, both in your own buildings and in external ones, and see how you can incorporate this into your own processes and procedures. Benchmarking is an ongoing evaluation process that will offer continuous insights. By comparing the registered performance to the goals you’ve set, you can follow the overall progress, detect anomalies at an early stage and adjust routines accordingly.


3. Challenges in executing benchmarking in FM

As soon as you have set your methodology, the next step of the benchmarking process is the execution. Two of the main challenges facilities managers often encounter in carrying out benchmarking revolve around data collection and the analysis of data, how to get value from the numbers.


Data collection

If you compare your building to a peer’s, it can prove challenging to access their information. Not all organizations are open to sharing their data, and mapping out which peers and competitors are willing to do so is important preparation for the data collection process. Even as you access the information requested, this challenge also touches upon availability, format, how long they store their data, etc.


Getting results from the data and turning them into actionable insights

Facilities managers often face a situation in the benchmarking process where two buildings operate with systems that don’t speak the same language. For data to be fruitful and point to actionable insights, they have to be comparable.

When you have access to collected data, reading and understanding them is key to gaining insights and knowledge on how to proceed. Knowing how to sort and read these often vast amounts of data is an obstacle many facilities managers face.


4. Solutions to benchmarking challenges


  • You can solve both the mentioned challenges by aligning the two buildings’ systems

With the same systems, it is easier to compare performance directly. Usually, this process is resource- and cost-demanding, and getting it approved by management can prove challenging.

  • Read and learn from reports provided by organizations like BOMA and IFMA

These industry-leading organizations provide reports that include data-based insights you can translate into operational guidelines for external benchmarks. IFMA regularly publishes a report called Benchmarks Research. This survey holds data from a sampling of organizations throughout North America, including a variety of industry types and facilities uses.

  • Small, affordable wireless sensors can bridge the gaps that keep you from valuable information

When paired with a cloud connector, sensors will solve collection and lay the groundwork for reading and comparing. Small, affordable wireless sensors can bridge the gaps that keep you from valuable information. The primary purpose of benchmarking is to use the gathered information to identify how to improve the building’s performance. Placing sensors in the buildings you want to compare will give you access to the desired information.

A cloud and common software platform will pick up and gather the data, and transform it into readable numbers to compare results. By comparing and analyzing metrics, whether from different branches of your operations or with peers and competitors, you can learn how your building(s) perform. From there, and through further analysis, you get an idea of what the most efficient measures are, and can utilize these to improve your facilities management services.


Solutions for benchmarking predictive maintenance

When benchmarking predictive maintenance, you might encounter both data collection as well as the challenge of transforming numbers to actionable insights. Whether you have a few buildings or an extensive portfolio to manage, there are likely thousands of assets to monitor and maintain. Having a system in place that can provide the overview and insights you need to detect any abnormalities, is key.
As mentioned above, sensors can solve both these challenges, also when it comes to predictive maintenance. When smart sensors can check a greater number of locations and report back every few minutes, you can trust that you will be alerted of issues before they turn into problems.


A good benchmarking strategy always starts with defining clear goals and deciding which KPIs you want to measure. Recognizing where to aim the efforts is a given first step towards lower costs and an overall improvement of your facilities management services. Once you have established effective benchmarks and monitoring processes, the benefits can be substantial. Not only can you increase awareness of areas where performance is weaker than expected, but through learning of how peers operate, you can find inspiration to adopt new best practices.


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Pippa Boothman

Pippa Boothman

Pippa is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Disruptive Technologies. She has 15+ years of experience in global B2C and B2B marketing & sales, brand management & strategy and business development within technology, apparel and consumer goods. She holds a BA in sociology and criminology from Western University in Canada. Pippa is passionate about people, products and the planet and she is an ardent advocate of fantastic customer service. Her best ideas come when she is reading, running, biking, traveling, talking to strangers and doing yoga headstands.

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