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

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

Summary: Encompassed in the act of facilities management (FM) are two categories; hard FM and soft FM services. Hard FM services include structural tasks such as plumbing and HVAC maintenance. Soft FM services improve the workplace – such as cleaning and catering. Building managers can take pleasure in knowing that each service set can be properly managed with a CAFM system.

Facilities Management has three components; hard FM, soft FM, and specialist FM.

The terms hard FM and soft FM are 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 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. This is effectively done with the use of Facilities Management Software (CAFM).

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. As an example, having a reception to welcome and manage visitors is a soft FM service. Whereas repairing CCTV, tag readers that scan a visitors’ entry badge, and exit cards are hard FM services.

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.

Hard FM services include:

  • 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 Your Hard and Soft FM Services

There are three popular methods to managing your hard and soft FM services:

  1. Having multiple contractors for both hard and soft FM
  2. Employing one contractor who provides both hard and soft FM services
  3. Having an in-house facility manager and an external team of contractors

Most teams use Facilities Management Software to manage their FM services. It is used to record, plan, schedule, action, monitor, and report on any facility’s management tasks. CAFM can help speed up the managment of hard and soft FM services by:

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 & Work Orders for Technicians

Job logging for the end-user, which converts into work orders for technicians, increases the speed of specific facilities management. Most tools offer the functionality to store equipment photos, warranty specs, and service details in one place.

3. Maintaining 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.

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