FM Frequency: 20 Years–Looking Ahead

Jeff Crane
Jeff Crane, FM Frequency Columnist

By Jeff Crane, PE, LEED® AP
Published in the September 2008 issue of
Today’s Facility Manager

Congratulations to Group C Media™ on the 20th anniversary of Today’s Facility Manager (TFM)! As readers reflect on two decades of accelerating changes in our industry and the world around us, it might be fun to peek into the future and predict changes for facility managers (fms).

Customer Service In 2028. With technology making the world smaller, organizations will continue merging and globalizing to harvest more customers and identify less expensive employees. The international economic engine will help millions work their way out of poverty while increasing profits for savvy, multi-national organizations that are able to navigate cultural, legal, currency, and physical space obstacles effectively.

Fms will grow accustomed to managing help desks from increasingly automated, multipurpose call centers. On the rare occasion that a facilities occupant in the U.S. reaches a live person, facility coordinators around the planet (using names such as “Ted” and “Susan”) will process cleaning complaints and hot calls from buildings they’ll never visit and people they’ve never met.

Financial Responsibilities In 2028. Beyond typical fiscal responsibilities, as the number of native English speaking skilled laborers and building technicians continues to shrink, fms will actively pursue candidates for carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, welding, and HVAC requirements from specialized international labor/training agencies. Skilled labor visas will become a new form of currency for fms as this labor shortage becomes a crisis.

Fms will be fluent in multiple languages and will manage multiple versions of facility budgets based on dynamic tax and currency exchange rates. Outsourcing of services will accelerate as executives rely increasingly on subject matter experts to handle “non core” business functions including facilities, information technology, accounting, and human resources.

Technical Expertise In 2028. Fms will find significant savings when working with remote or “virtual” architects and engineers for new facilities and renovations. However, savings will be more than offset by new and increasingly stringent local, national, and international building and operations codes. International corporate lobbyists will improve their recognition as environmental and safety advocates while securing future business for their handlers.

Local, national, and international taxes on energy and water consumption, combined with increasing demand and limited supplies, will require most organizations to hire a Chief Utilities Officer (CUO), to whom the facilities team will report. In North America-due to mandated shuttering of coal fired power plants, an obsolete electrical grid, a lack of political consensus for nuclear energy, and the inability of solar and wind farms to supply consistent power-the cost of energy and water for most organizations will skyrocket to more than triple the cost of payroll and benefits. Utility rationing will create new challenges for fms forced to ramp up and shut down operations with less than an hour’s warning.

Political and Regulatory Concerns In 2028. “WorldGov” will be the new international alliance established after corruption and multiple scandals cause the dissolution of the United Nations. WorldGov’s powerful and militarized police force-WEPA (World Environmental Protection Agency)-will be dedicated to eliminating all pollution sources (air, ground, water, and space) with a primary mission of reversing the threat of global cooling on earth and in the Milky Way galaxy. WEPA environmental scientists will decree that a 10 year trend of colder temperatures on earth and in space is directly linked to human metabolism and pollution. They’ll predict that a new ice age will destroy farm land, cause widespread starvation, and alter the earth’s orbit by 2038 if human populations aren’t deliberately and quickly trimmed in specific countries and energy use isn’t further curtailed.

WEPA will assert authority for licensing the operation of all facilities in member nations and will require daily operations logs, monthly inspections, and real time monitoring/reporting of water and power consumption and emissions. Individual fms and CUOs will be required to pledge allegiance to The WEPA Protocol, maintain facility and staff licensing, and agree to personal liability for violations.

Fms and CUOs will lead the mass exodus for organizations relocating to more pro-business locations such as Australia, China, Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the recently independent Texas Republic. Nations refusing to renounce their sovereignty by joining WorldGov and adopting The WEPA Protocol will be deemed Rogue Provinces and face harsh economic and diplomatic sanctions. WorldGov will consider embargoes and military action after exhausting diplomatic efforts to bring the Rogue Provinces into the alliance. This conflict will trigger World War III.

Before snickering at any of these predictions, you might want to think about what you were doing in 1988. While Ronald Reagan was wrapping up his second term, were you wearing a Members Only jacket or a golf shirt with the collar turned up? Did you have leg warmers over your acid washed jeans? Were you sporting “big hair” or a “mullet”?

Would anyone have predicted in 1988 that within 20 years, the Berlin Wall and the World Trade Center would fall; that carbon dioxide would be considered a pollutant; that gasoline would be over $4 per gallon, or that China and India would become major players on the world’s economic stage? Would anyone have envisioned carrying around a telephone, notepad, calendar, camera, mailbox, global positioning system, and the contents of their entire vinyl album collection in a device smaller than an apple? Pretty dramatic stuff can happen in two decades.

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.