Facility Management: The Difference Between Hard and Soft FM


James Murray Content and Outreach Executive at Affinity

Monday, January 20, 2020

Facility management is a broad profession with a wide range of responsibilities. Facility managers look after a business’ core assets, monitoring everything from buildings and technical infrastructure to staff and user-specific equipment.

Article 3 Minutes
Facility Management: The Difference Between Hard and Soft FM

Making sure people, processes and the built environment work together is important. By ensuring this, facility managers (FMs) can support an organization’s day-to-day operations, improve efficiency and contribute towards the business’ bottom line by maintaining what are often their most valuable assets.

The scope of facility management is very wide and typically covers two main areas: hard and soft FM. We’re going to explore the differences between these two areas and cover how to effectively integrate them.

What is hard FM?

The facility management services covered by hard FM relate to the maintenance of a property. These are typically things that are required by law and integral to the building itself. Areas of hard FM include fire safety arrangements, ventilation and lighting, as well as compliance with health and safety regulations.

A key strategic focus for the provision of hard FM is managing planned maintenance. Keeping reactive maintenance to a minimum keeps costs down and maximizes the operating efficiency and lifespan of assets. Taking a proactive stance, rather than a reactive one, also reduces the chances of disruption caused by failures or last-minute repairs during business hours.

Maintenance isn’t the only aspect of hard FM. Facility managers also need to carry out annual statutory checks. Without them, a building can quickly become unsafe for hosting customers and employees, putting both in danger and the business at risk of legal action.

What is soft FM?

Soft FM relates to services that aren’t compulsory but make the workplace a more pleasant and secure place to work. These include janitorial services, catering and waste management.

Soft services are often underappreciated because of their inessential nature. But they can improve operational efficiency by reducing employee-related issues like turnover and absenteeism. According to research conducted at Cornell University, cluttered offices can cause staff to resort to coping strategies like overeating. Another study from Princeton University, suggests cluttered workspaces can limit an employee's ability to process information and lower productivity.

Integrating hard and soft FM

A key consideration for FMs is to emphasize the importance of every aspect of a business. Unlike building management, which solely concerns the preservation of physical and structural services, and HR, which is primarily focused on the needs of employees and customers, facility management is a more comprehensive approach that looks to integrate both hard and soft FM for the strategic management of both infrastructure and people.

There are a number of ways that FMs can simplify their workload. One strategy is to use a CAFM (Computer Aided Facilities Management) system. These help FMs monitor and manage all of their client’s assets and create a Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) program. The latest CAFM software can also assist FMs in workflow management, system security and financial control.

In-house facility management definitely has its benefits, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for every organization. Another option is to outsource your FM. Outsourcing can help your company gain an important strategic advantage as experts in the field are more likely to know how to complete certain tasks more efficiently. Those with greater knowledge of facility management are also more likely to know which services are worth investing in, saving your company thousands in unnecessary costs.

James Murray

James Murray is the content and outreach executive at Affinity, a Norwich-based marketing agency with over 30 years’ experience in the industry. James’ work involves writing for international brands across a wide range of sectors. For more advice, you can follow us @affinity_agency.


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