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A Brief Introduction to Facilities Management

What is FM?
Every organisation relies on a mix of functions and services to provide the support essential to its core business operations. Ensuring that this support is available in the right form, at the right quality and for the right cost is the task of facilities management.

In essence, FM is about taking control, freeing organisations to do what they do best while the facilities managers take care of the rest.

In practice, FM has proved notoriously difficult to define.

A couple of years ago, the various competing 'official' definitions were supplemented, and largely replaced, with a new European Standard (EN 15221.1). This explains FM this way:

Facilities management is the integration of processes within an organisation to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities.

Not long after, a revision of the UK Standard Industrial Classification code produced SIC 81.10, 'combined facilities support activities'. That represents a further step in formalising an understanding of the market and in gathering some relevant data. Neither of these is the final word on the matter, however.

At the beginning of the 21st Century, with its climate of continuous change in business and technology, and the consequent emphasis on effective utilisation of all corporate resources, facilities management (regardless of the precise definition!) has emerged as an important business discipline. With this has come greater professionalism - and a wider range of choice in how specific functions and services are secured.

Sourcing facilities services
One of the FM's primary responsibilities is providing and managing a range of services to his or her 'customers', that is, the employees within the organisation. These services span the range from security and M&E, through cleaning and catering, to plants and landscaping. Increasingly, such services are outsourced; in other words, purchased from and delivered by external suppliers – a practice that has grown and developed in parallel with the rise of FM.

From a starting point of single-purpose contracts (typically, maintenance, cleaning or security), each handled by a specialist supplier, the outsourcing concept has broadened over the years to encompass 'bundles' of services put in the hands of a multi-discipline contractor. More recently, some of the larger contractors have sought to bring diverse service lines together in 'integrated' packages, promising greater efficiencies and reduced management costs.

Alternative service supply solutions are offered by a number of FM providers who focus specifically on the management of services that are delivered by sub-contractors – but this once-common approach has become less so as many of these specialists have either diversified their skill base or been bought by ambitious contractors. 'Total facilities management' is another alternative, in which the provider takes on responsibility for the delivery and management of all required service lines. TFM solutions can be sourced from FM specialists or from diversified contractors, who will generally meet as much of the need as possible from their own resources. More comprehensive still is the solution offered by a handful of outsourcing providers who combine expertise in both FM and property.

It is impossible to generalise about the 'best' solution for the supply and management of business support services. That can only be defined in terms of a specific client organisation.

How big is the market?
Just as it is difficult to define precisely what FM means, putting a firm value on the size of the market is a challenge.

In recent years, estimates have varied from over £10bn, through £16bn and £117bn to £173bn. Much of this variation has to do with the definitions being used.

The only definite conclusion to be drawn from available research is that the facilities sector in the UK is a large and dynamic marketplace.

The i-FM Top 50, our rankings of the leading facilities companies in the UK, accounts for a total turnover of about £13bn and a total employment roll of well over 325,000.

Sources of information
To find out more about who FMs are, what they do and how they rate their current priorities, read the latest Audit of the UK FM Sector.

To find out more about the structure of the FM marketplace and how it is changing, read our latest Trends & Opportunities Report.

To find out more about the leading players in the market, go to the i-FM Top 50.

To find out more about training and career development in FM, visit our Training pages.

To find out more about a specific organisation or a particular topic, use the search engine accessible from our front page.
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