Hard and Soft FM Services: What’s the Difference?

Facilities management (FM) has three components; Hard FM, Soft FM and specialist FM.

The term Hard FM and Soft FM is often used to categorise the facilities management tasks. Especially when it comes to managing a large facility or multiple facilities.

The easiest way to understand the difference between Hard FM and Soft FM is to think about facilities management from a people (usage of facilities) and facilities (structure and physical aspects) perspective.

If the FM service relates to managing the usage of the facilities then it is Soft FM.

If the FM service relates to managing the physical aspects of facilities then that’s Hard FM.

Hard FM and Soft FM are both equally important. Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Businesses have a responsibility to ensure the daily health, safety, and welfare of a building’s occupants.

In particular, facility managers must ensure provisions are made for;

  • Cleanliness
  • Toilet and washing areas
  • Communal and eating areas
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Temperature

In some cases, Hard and Soft FM services overlap, and subjectivity comes into play.

For example; having a reception to welcome and manage visitors is Soft FM. But repairing CCTV, tag readers that scan visitors’ entry, and exit cards are Hard FM.

Topics covered on this article include;

What Are Hard FM Services?

Hard FM services relate to the physical structure of the building. They affect the safety and welfare of employees and visitors, and as such, are required by law. In other words, you must have hard FM services; they’re non-negotiable.

  • Gas, plumbing, and heating
  • HVAC systems
  • Lighting, electrical, and mechanical
  • Fire safety systems
  • Building maintenance work

What Are Soft FM Services?

Soft FM services make a building more pleasant, comfortable, and safe for its occupants. Soft FM services include:

  • Grounds maintenance
  • Landscaping
  • Decorating
  • Catering services (including vending machines and water coolers)
  • Cleaning services
  • Pest control
  • Waste management
  • Car parking
  • Workspace management

How to Manage Both Hard and Soft FM Services

There are three popular methods to complete Hard and Soft FM services:

1) Having multiple contractors for Hard and Soft FM.
2) One contractor who provides both Hard and Soft FM services.
3) Having an in-house team of facility managers and an external team of contractors.

Most teams use CAFM (Computer-Aided Facility Management) Software. Also known as Facilities Management Software. It is a tool used to record, plan, schedule, action, monitor, and report on any facility’s management tasks.

Below are a few examples where Facilities Management Software can speed up Hard and Soft FM tasks.

1. Planning for Building Maintenance

Planned, preventative, predictive, and reactive maintenance tasks can be actioned and monitored. Inspections, audits, and checks can be driven to speed-up FM.

2. Job Logging for end-users and work orders for technicians.

Job logging for the end user which converts into work orders for technicians increases the speed of FM. Most tools offer the functionality to store equipment photos, warranty specs, and service details.

3. Providing a Framework to Maintain an Accurate Asset/Facilities Register.

An asset register is central to the delivery of hard and soft FM services. The process involves understanding the location, status, and history of all assets. This drives the visibility and budgeting process. As a result, there is clarity on total costs of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI). Enabling businesses to decide whether an asset should be repaired, replaced, or disposed of.

Some CAFM tools provide tracking capabilities. It involves tagging equipment and tools for tracking and monitoring purposes.

4. Maximising Space Management

Workspace design, seating management, and space management have gathered momentum after the Covid-19 pandemic. All of which help with well-being management and the utilisation of workspaces.

5. Tracking Energy Consumption

Using sensors (IoT), FM software can identify and inform energy consumption by zones and assets. This helps with energy cost savings but also contributes to a more environmentally friendly building.

Conclusion

Hard FM and Soft FM are different parts of Facilities Management.

End-users of facilities often do not notice the difference between Hard and Soft FM.

Hard FM and Soft FM have overlapping areas.

A CAFM tool can help to speed up overall facilities management including Hard and Soft FM.

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