“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
According to estimates from InfoTrends, around the globe, people take more than 1 trillion photos each year, thanks to the increased number of smartphone cameras and the expansion of cloudbased file storage. Documenting an event or experience with images provides additional insight to those unable to be there firsthand. And, the thirst for more visuals doesn’t seem to be slowing.
This trend also applies to the world of FM. Creating a list of areas that need improvement in a facility is easy enough. But for FMs, upper-management and service partners to truly understand how to correct an issue and make plans to prevent problems in the future, visuals are needed to accompany written plans or instructions. The more images, the easier it becomes for FMs to critically analyze the health of their facility.
Traditional methods for analyzing facility layouts, such as on-ground architects or surveyors, are inefficient and costly. FMs would spend multiple days walking through a building while taking countless analog measurements by hand and snapping numerous static photographs in an attempt to accurately paint a picture of the facility’s design and construction. Readings and numbers could vary wildly, as human error and dated instruments provided inaccurate and often contradicting information.
While every FM would love to be in 10 places at once to be able to fully evaluate their facilities, it’s just not possible. However, solutions have been — and are continuing to be — developed to provide FMs and facility professionals a clearer picture of the health of their building.
Advanced imaging technologies are used in numerous industries, and the applications available to FMs are beginning to gain traction. As FM integrates more with budding technologies, receiving the most precise data to increase efficiency needs to be on the mind of any facility professional.
Probably the most well-known advanced imaging solution is 3D modeling. Using a variety of techniques, operators can scan an entire building and create an accurate representation, both inside and out. Static photographs have now become supplemental instead of the primary methods for evaluating buildings.
To those who aren’t well-versed in the technology, 3D imaging can be a confusing term. When people refer to the technology, there are three major types of 3D scanning:
Lidar: Use of both light and radar. This technique uses lasers to establish points between the object it’s measuring and the laser itself. Using light reflected off strategically placed sensors, the time it takes for the laser to bounce back and the angle at which it returns creates a point cloud model, which is traditionally what you think of when a 3D model represented.
Digital Photogrammetry: Building a 3D model through triangulation. This process uses several photographs taken from different sight lines and mathematically intersecting the images to produce a 3D model. A higher resolution camera is necessary to produce accurate results.
Structured-Light: Projecting a band of light onto an object and measuring the distortion as it bounces off. Multiple light projections are fired at the object at the same time, producing multiple distortion stripes in a parallel alignment, allowing for collection of 3D coordinates.
Applications for Business and FM
Which areas of FM are impacted most by these advanced imaging technologies? Brad Shyver, President and CEO, Royal Mechanical Services, said advanced imaging for site surveying can be used by FMs in a variety of instances:
Construction and Renovation: 3D imaging is extremely helpful when analyzing building layouts for those who don’t have blueprints on-hand. “If a client acquired ten stores but doesn’t have the building blueprints, we scan the buildings and create an accurate representation of facility layouts to begin planning construction and renovation,” Shyver said.
Facility Maintenance: Using 3D models and 2D static photographs, FMs can create a more accurate scope for a maintenance project. Being able to see and recognize the precise location of plumbing, electrical wiring or ventilation ducts helps FMs develop plans to keep maintenance projects on track.
Retail Merchandising: Companies can use advanced imaging to improve retail floor layout planning. Some multi-site retailers work with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who may have restrictions on product placement location. “Advanced imaging helps navigate the complicated world of brand- or contractual-compliance,” Shyver said.
Remote Management: One enticing benefit to using advanced imaging technologies is the chance to have full access to any aspect of your facility — from anywhere. According to a respected facilities industry leader, his job is much easier with the addition of advanced imagery. His facilities team has a “no travel to tour individual stores” policy, which makes evaluating buildings across the country a difficult task.
Therefore, the company partnered with Immersion Data Solutions (IDS), an advanced imaging company, using a solution called “Immersive 360-degree First Person Perspectives.
“We create an immersive environment that allows the management team to virtually tour the stores from a web-based platform via 360-degree, first-person perspectives,” said Mike Loukusa, President and CEO of IDS. “We also provide ultra-high definition imaging solutions to view the finer details, including floor conditions, lighting, duct work and merchandising displays.” The imaging solution provides collaborators the ability to virtually tour a property — panning, zooming or tilting — to view current conditions.
“We’ve helped retail clients save an average of $35,000 per store with our imaging solutions for interior remodeling, and $1.5M [per store] on architecture and design efforts.” — Mike Loukusa, President and CEO, IDS
Using this new advanced imaging technology, FMs may see immediate impacts on their bottom line. Having a more complete picture of a facility may result in extensive savings, leading to happier management and balanced budgets.
“We’ve helped retail clients save an average of $35,000 per store with our imaging solutions for interior remodeling, and $1.5M [per store] on architecture and design efforts,” Loukusa said. He mentioned some partners have reduced change order expenses from an average of $400,000 per year down to $30,000.
These savings not only help current operations, but long-term planning as well. “Advanced imaging helps us develop budgets and proposals for future projects,” said one retail facilities leader. “And being able to share the views with partners before they arrive on-location helps them understand the specifics of a project, potentially avoiding an additional trip for source materials.”
FMs and management alike must realize the technology isn’t cheap, but the return on investment
(ROI) is the real driver. “Once a building is properly scanned, there’s no further action needed, no return trips necessary,” Shyver said. “You have the full scan of the building at your disposal. Being able to share the imagery with multiple internal or external partners will only increase productivity moving forward.”
ROI from these systems isn’t always measured in dollars and cents. Valuable data and analytics are also provided. Loukusa explained that IDS’ software platform is able to track and easily display integral facility information, such as:
-Historical visual timeline solutions from inception to final close out.
-Quality control and assurance tracking from the inception of project to the final close out.
-Visual documentation and location intelligence around assets, tags and warranty tracking.
Customized virtual reports can be made based on projects and programs. “Through 3D + 2D modeling solutions, customers can extract area measurements, take-offs, elevations, profiles, contour, and slope and share those externally or internally,” he added.
On the Horizon
While these technologies have a futuristic feel to some in the FM industry, imaging experts are taking things even further.
Loukusa said IDS is actively developing technology to enhance clients’ needs such as 3DVR (3D virtual reality) and spatial perspectives, solutions involving artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, advancements in augmented reality (AR) and improving their own immersive reporting and analytics delivery software.
Innovation, creativity and sustainability remain areas of emphasis for FMs, but to succeed, they must adapt to technological changes at the break neck pace they’re released.