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What is Facility Operations, and Why is It Important?

Worker using equipment in a facility

Running an industrial operation isn’t easy. There are people to manage, goods to produce or ship or sell, machines to maintain and repair, supplies to order, and a million other tasks large and small that need doing each and every day. Without a plan of attack, it doesn’t take long to become completely overwhelmed.

That’s where facilities operations come in. At its most basic, the term encapsulates the process of running and managing a facility, whether that be a warehouse, factory, or any other industrial or commercial operation. Implementing a successful operations management system requires developing an actionable strategy that streamlines and simplifies your day-to-day so that you can keep pace with the relentless pace of modern manufacturing or industry. If you’re in any sort of facility operations management role, consider this post required reading.

Facility Operations Definition

Facility operations is an umbrella term that covers all your typical management responsibilities for any sort of industrial, commercial, or manufacturing venture. Staffing, equipment, goods and materials, supply chains, even building repairs and janitorial – all of it falls under the purview of facility operations. Whether you run a grocery store or manage a factory, you’re directing and executing facility operations every day.

What Are the Main Principles of Facilities Management?

Welder working in a facility

Though every industry is different, there are a few common responsibilities that any facility manager will likely need to put outsized focus on. Think of the following as the overarching principles undergirding a successful facilities management plan:

Hiring, Supporting, and Managing Staff

This is likely the most important element of any facilities operation plan, as proper staffing is the cornerstone to any business hoping to foster a working environment that is inviting, safe, productive, and rewarding. To make this noble ideal a reality, operations managers need to devise a staffing plan that looks at hiring from every angle. The obvious questions – what’s an ideal headcount for optimal productivity? How many people do we need per shift? – also need to be balanced with perhaps the less obvious: How do we maintain morale among our team? What can we do to create the culture we’re looking for among our staff?

Anyone running operations is naturally looked to as a leader by the general staff. They have an outsized influence in setting the cultural and moral tone, and it is their responsibility to keep staff healthy, safe, happy, and engaged. With the right mix of policy and leadership, a good facilities manager won’t just have a productive staff – they’ll have an efficient, cohesive, happy team that can help make every other challenge of operations that much less exasperating to deal with.

Managing the Purchase, Maintenance, and Operation of Equipment 

Whether it’s an old forklift or a state-of-the-art autonomous warehousing solution, facility assets are critical to effective operations. But these systems aren’t foolproof, and to work at their best they need proper upkeep and servicing. We’ve talked about industrial maintenance before, but we can’t overstate how creating an effective plan to monitor and service your equipment is key to successful long-term operations management.

Why? Think of it this way: overlooked maintenance can lead to a sudden breakdown of key equipment. When this happens, you’ll be left facing costly downtime as you scramble to make emergency repairs. With so much money and production capacity on the line, operation managers rely on preventive, predictive, or reactive maintenance strategies that are often driven by both historical and real-time data. 

Equipment maintenance and operation can also be supported by facility management asset tags and manufacturing asset tracking barcode labels, which help machine operators and other staff understand key specs and maintenance procedures. Heavy equipment tags are another facility asset management tracking solution, used for equipment identification, control panel faceplates, and other asset tagging needs for equipment that operates in harsh manufacturing or outdoor environments. Using tools like these, managers can monitor and service equipment and reduce risk of stoppage, ultimately improving manufacturing efficiencies. Learn how to identify the right barcodes for your facilities management software in this post.

Monitoring the Flow of Goods and Supplies

Both retailers and manufacturers alike know the pain of clunky supply chains, especially in this current environment. When the goods you need fail to show, the resulting delays are quick to compound and ripple outwards. And though facilities operations specialists can’t wave a magic wand to make that late delivery suddenly appear in the loading bay, they can work to develop contingency plans to ensure materials and supplies hiccups don’t turn into a total bottleneck.

By making decisions like reallocating staffing or equipment when certain production lines or departments are delayed, facilities managers can help maintain productivity even despite unforeseen slowdowns. It’s also up to them to make similar calls when demand fluctuates, equipment breaks or any other factor intervenes with production. 

Maximizing Efficiencies and Cutting Costs

If you’ve successfully navigated the management of people, equipment, and supplies, you’ve probably already done this. But it bears mentioning on its own: facility operations is as much about optimizing assets as it is about maximizing efficiencies. Running a financially lean operation is integral to ensuring a successful industrial business.

Luckily, cutting costs is a natural side effect of successfully managing other elements of your operation. For instance, when you know an ideal headcount and have a staff of happy, loyal employees, you reduce turnover and save on the costs of hiring and onboarding. Similarly, maximizing production efficiencies allows you to improve profitability by lowering cost per unit. 

The bottom line? Focus on improving your operations and running costs will likely fall even as production and efficiency rise.

How Do I Create A Facility Operations Management Plan?

It’s all about understanding your business – not just the high-level details, but the nitty-gritty specifics of your facility and local business climate, including your staff, your clientele, your equipment, your suppliers, and so on. Using these details, you can begin to prioritize where your focus should be, how to improve efficiencies, and – perhaps most important – how to lean into the support of your team to ensure projects are appropriately delegated and that no part of your facility gets overlooked. 

It’s also important to remember that facility operation plans are never set in stone. The elements of your operation that require your most critical attention will ebb and flow; what is preoccupying you this week may not be much concern a month from now. When considering your facility management plans, always build in flexibility and never let a plan become too permanent.

Why Are Facilities Operations Important?

It goes without saying that an effective management plan is necessary to run a successful operation. After all, as any facility manager knows, there are constantly a million balls to juggle at any given moment. Lose momentum and those balls will quickly come crashing down. It’s why an effective operation management plan is so crucial to the long-term success of both the manager and the business itself. 

Ultimately, if you can understand what not only needs to be done but also how to prioritize your to-do list and delegate tasks, you’ll be able to handle even the thorniest operations management difficulties. By ensuring your industrial or commercial business runs safely and efficiently every day, you’ll be well on your way to mastering facility operations.

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