FM Frequency: The Facilities Machine–Master Or Myth?

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By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the June 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Like many facilities professionals, you probably embarked on a career journey as a rookie manager with bright eyes and loads of enthusiasm. Now, as a contemporary facilities management (FM) veteran, you rank among the most talented and versatile professionals in the history of the Earth. Within a confusing labyrinth of shifting variables, demographics, psychology, performance metrics, and a flux of hours, gadgets, dollars, BTUs, and square feet, you survive and thrive while others waver and fail.

But are you among the best of the best facilities managers (fm)? Do you solve daily riddles that leave others spinning in circles? What, precisely, is the pinnacle of success in FM?

Just as a lump of coal morphs into a brilliant diamond, time and pressure similarly polish the rough edges of the best fms. Experience, discipline, motivation, training, and consistently lofty expectations shape this elite group of “A” players to a higher level, one that must no longer be considered human. They, in fact, become…facilities machines! Meticulously prepared and perfectly tuned, the facilities machine routinely accomplishes the impossible and is acknowledged as a priceless asset to any organization.

Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of the facilities machine is the ability not only to accept, but to embrace the one rock steady constant in a sea of change—fascinating human beings inhabit the workplace! This is the one brilliant beacon in a dense fog, and the one absolute truth engraved on the walls of even the earliest professionally managed caves and pyramids.

You see, facilities machines (unlike their mortal FM comrades) have become self-actualized while perfecting their craft. They no longer struggle to respond empathetically to customers’ hapless pleas for assistance.

Facilities machines no longer contemplate how a certain percentage of their customers tie their shoes and feed themselves each morning, let alone earn advanced degrees at prestigious universities. Facilities machines aren’t puzzled by their customers’ abilities to navigate traffic on roads laden with complex signage, multicolor striping and traffic lights, dangerous intersections, and even other humans piloting 5,000 pound vehicles through space at over 80′ per second—in the dark!

Facilities machines don’t make sarcastic comments about Velcro® wingtips or clip-on ties, and they don’t calculate common sense in units such as “…it would fit in a flea’s fanny pack….” Facilities machines have abandoned squeeze/stress balls, yoga videos, and deep breathing exercises that mere mortal fms use from time to time to avoid offering customer service that might be construed as insensitive, politically incorrect, or unprofessional. Facilities machines can’t even relate to Dilbert cartoons!

Facilities machines have bound and gagged the little voices in their heads that once attempted to escape and chat directly with human customers, accounting, legal, and even the boss. Facilities machines aren’t rattled when the fire alarm sounds for the second time in three days or when the power is out for several hours on the last day of a crucial sales month. When a 10% facilities budget cut is projected to coincide with 18% head count increases, the facilities machine smiles and nods understandingly.

A facilities machine is exceptionally organized. Tools, spare parts, and hardware are all neatly organized in a pristine maintenance shop. Shelving is “white glove clean” and spaced evenly on shiny, epoxy coated flooring with black and white checkers.

Invoices, receiving documents, archive drawings, warranties, and maintenance manuals are carefully catalogued, labeled, and backed up electronically. Computer records are efficiently updated, archived each night, and stored off site. Accurate and up-to-date emergency response plans and critical contact information are safely stored in the trunk of the car (hard copy) and in the PDA (soft copy) of every facilities machine and each member of his or her team. Facilities machines have memorized the exact locations of every indoor and outdoor water and gas isolation valve, every electrical panel, each exhaust fan, all fire extinguishers, each AED, every first aid kit, and all fire department connections at each of their buildings.

Facilities machines have even mastered order and perfection in their personal lives. They maintain an ideal weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index with zero effort or inconvenience. They exercise every day and have no need for “maintenance medications” such as Rolaids or aspirin.

Facilities machines have a full head of hair that maintains its original color. They don’t get exhausted or “burned out” and never indulge in an adult beverage or tobacco product at the end of a long day or after terminating a supplier or employee.

Facilities machines have excellent relationships with each and every member of their biological family (i.e. humans) and only watch documentaries or the Weather Channel on television. Facilities machines read at least one business book per week, perform volunteer work at least twice per month, and balance their checkbooks to the penny every day. The average retirement age and life expectancy of the facilities machine is inconclusive and is being studied by several leading research institutions.

Might you be a facilities machine? Have you ever worked for one or talked with one? Some will deny the existence of this amazing creature and will consider this a silly trade journal myth—sort of like those who doubt the moon is actually made of cheese. Others will strive to become a facilities machine and prove the skeptics terribly wrong.

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. Want to share some of your power management suggestions? Crane is always interested in reader feedback!

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