Speech by MOS Zaqy Mohamad at the 6th International Facility Management Conference

Oct 1, 2019

A very good morning to all of you. I am happy to be here at the International Facilities Management Conference. The Conference is now into its sixth year. This is testament to its value as a platform for all stakeholders in the Facilities Management or FM sector, to come together for learning, discussion and networking.  

In Singapore, we have a high quality built environment in which we live, work and play. FM is an integral part of this, by ensuring that our built environment is well maintained.

However, we face challenges ahead. By 2025, more than half of our buildings will be 30 years or older, and will require more maintenance. Along with the ever-growing stock of buildings, there will be increased demand for FM services in the years to come. Apart from building infrastructure, we need to upkeep our greenery and landscaping, lifts and escalators, as well as façade infrastructure.

Our sector faces workforce constraints, as FM services in Singapore are currently still manpower-intensive and reliant on an ageing workforce. Meanwhile, Singaporeans today are generally better trained, and would prefer to apply their skills and be challenged in their careers differently. Therefore, we have to transform our FM careers to cater for a different generation of workers. Embracing innovation and technology will allow our sector to grow and our workers to become more productive and undertake higher value-added work, and provide better wages and career progression.

This transformation journey is a collaborative one that we are undertaking together as a sector. We launched the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in February last year. It sets out the blueprint to transform the FM and property transaction sectors. For FM, we have established the tripartite FM Implementation Committee or FMIC in short, to bring together the industry, unions, academia and the Government in driving transformation efforts.

One of the key strategies of the FMIC is to increase Smart FM adoption. Broadly speaking, Smart FM refers to the integration of technology into processes and systems to manage building facilities. When we do this well, it will increase productivity and efficiency, and improve the well-being of occupants within the buildings. 

The theme of today’s conference is “Strategic & Practical Implementation towards Smart FM”. We already know the “why”, so the question now is “how”. To help answer this, the FMIC has developed the Guide to Smart FM, which I am happy to launch today. The Guide contains frameworks to assist companies in planning for and adopting Smart FM in a strategic way that makes business sense. 

The Guide has practical use cases that illustrate the successes and lessons learnt from adopting Smart FM. One of the featured examples is Yale-NUS’s MyInfra mobile app for managing FM and technical incident reports throughout the campus. Where users previously reported issues through multiple channels such as phone calls and emails, the snap-and-send MyInfra mobile app now allows all feedback to be directed to an officer through a single point operator. 

Users are also able to track the progress of their feedback. This has reduced the average turnaround time for closing cases from 17 days previously to under one day now. Certainly, you can see the increased efficiency, and not unexpectedly, it has been well received by students. For its success in streamlining FM processes and using Smart FM, Yale-NUS was the first organisation in Singapore to attain the new ISO certification on Facility Management Systems that was launched last year.
Regardless of what stage of the Smart FM journey you are at, I encourage you to use this Guide in your planning and procurement. 

As we look to the future, there are many external drivers and technological developments on the horizon, ranging from digitalisation to the increasing use of robotics in service delivery. Hence, research and innovation in Smart FM will be key to staying future-ready.

As a complement to the Guide to Smart FM, the Singapore International Facility Management Association (SIFMA) has collaborated with agencies such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to develop the Consortium Operations and Technology Roadmap.

The Roadmap charts out upcoming trends and lays out fifty emerging technologies that the industry can adopt in the next 10 years. It also summarises the key learning points from workshops conducted with FM companies, researchers, and Government agencies over the past year. Through collaborative discussions and exercises, participants identified and prioritised drivers, market forces, and capabilities that they think are required to be successful in the industry today. Not only is this helpful for the sector as a whole, it would also assist individual firms in future planning for procurement and implementation of FM services. 

I applaud SIFMA for being a champion of industry transformation, and proactively developing this Roadmap to stay future-ready.
SIFMA has also expanded their resources to better serve the needs of the industry. For example, SIFMA now has corporate memberships for FM companies, in addition to existing individual memberships. Corporate members are able to access resources as well as networking and collaboration opportunities with buyers, solutions providers, and other stakeholders in the FM eco-system. SIFMA is also a platform for sharing best practices and overcoming common challenges. I encourage you to join as a member. 

The Government will continue to support research and innovation, through the BuildSG Transformation Fund, or BTF. The BTF supports activities ranging from research to pilot deployment and the fast-tracking of innovative solutions towards commercialisation. Allow me to share two examples of companies that have benefited from the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster programme under BTF, in their adoption of Smart FM.
First, Kaer Air worked with researchers from the Advanced Digital Sciences Centre to develop an AI-based energy management system for an air-conditioning chiller plant. The system optimises energy consumption through tracking real-time data, and uses machine learning to accurately model human usage patterns. The technology has resulted in a 10-12% reduction in energy consumption. It has also been adopted across 18 buildings, including overseas projects in India and Malaysia.

The second example is Certis, which is currently using Building Information Modelling (BIM), AI and IoT technologies to develop a digital twin of BCA Academy’s Academic Tower. The digital twin is a dynamic virtual representation of the building that uses real-time data to depict building operations. The system will apply tools such as big data analysis in order to drive energy savings and operational efficiency. By automating manual processes, the digital twin helps to reduce the cost and complexity of implementing FM solutions.

Technologies such as AI and machine learning may once have sounded futuristic, but thanks to efforts in research and innovation, companies are now able to use them to reap cost savings and improve service delivery.

Before I end off, I would like to put the challenge to SIFMA to transform the FM sector and make it attractive for Singaporeans, especially younger professionals, to come on board. I have shared with them the example of the Security industry, which has transformed itself over the last two to three years, with the use of technologies such as drone and video analytics. If you look at the Security industry today, the companies are much more advanced, and the image of the professionals has changed. The salary has also gone up because more skilled resources are needed. The FM industry has that potential. Companies and developers that deal with FM can think about how we can reap the productivity and the benefits of transformation, and at the same time, look at developing a local labour force that can address these issues for the long-term.

In conclusion, we are at the cusp of transformation in FM. While we have made some progress, we need to double down our efforts to seize the opportunities before us. In this regard, I hope to see greater collaboration between the Government and the industry. I look forward to continue in partnership with all of you toward a productive, sustainable, and innovative FM sector. I wish everyone here a fruitful conference.