The Sharing Economy Comes to Facility Management

13903385550_39f7316982_zBy Kim Tjoa

Our society is changing. ‘Us’ is becoming the new ‘me.’ Access to items is becoming more important than actually possessing them. We are in the midst of a transition to a circular, sharing economy in which we make more efficient use of everything we already have. We are now looking to share, lend/borrow and exchange anything and everything.

The development to a sharing economy presents a huge chance for procurement and facility professionals. Why should we stay focused on buying while everybody else is sharing? Why not explore the possibility of sharing underutilized company assets (equipment, services, real estate and personnel) to save money or generate additional income?

Asset Sharing: Business-to-business collaboration

The sharing economy has gained immense popularity in 2014 but is projected to be an even bigger trend in 2015. This year will be epitomized by more efficiently utilizing what we already have through sharing (renting or trading) with others. At organizations and businesses all around the world, expensive equipment is standing idle, rooms are empty and important knowledge is not being used the way it could be. It would be a shame not to do anything with these assets. After all, anything that stands idle does not bring in any revenue, costs money and is definitely not sustainable.

Through the use of online sharing platforms such as FLOOW2, every business or organization is able to make supply and demand transparent. On a sharing marketplace, assets like trucks, cars, printing equipment, furniture, dining facilities, meeting rooms — and also knowledge, skill and time of personnel — become commercially visible for fellow businesses and organizations.

The business model of the future

The advantages of sharing idle assets are twofold. Businesses are able to save costs when they rent from each other instead of investing in the purchase of equipment or the hiring of personnel. Additionally, they are able to generate additional income by (temporarily) renting out assets.

Asset sharing wouldn’t be part of the business model of the future if, besides financial, it wouldn’t bring sustainable and social advantages. When businesses collaborate and utilize the assets that other organizations have already invested in, fewer new products will have to be produced, which will result in a more healthy use of resources and energy.

The new task and opportunity for procurement and facility management?

It sounds simple, and it is. However, business-to business sharing requires professional attention. That’s a task that a facility professional would be well suited for, don’t you think?

For the past 15 years, procurement and facility mangers have successfully focused the ways in which facilities management (FM) businesses are able to run in a more (cost) effective way.

As of 2015, we notice that the opportunities for FM to continue the optimization process are few and far between. In many cases it will not be possible to save costs without letting the quality of the services and organizations deteriorate.

Current developments such as the sharing economy will change this trend, as it allows procurement and facility professionals to actually generate additional income while also helping the business become more sustainable and social. Asset sharing gives these professionals a tool to solidify their value within an organization. They will not have to ‘settle’ for the fact that there are empty office, storage and meeting spaces, that there are cafeterias that are only in use one hour per day, or company cars that don’t make the miles they could, employees not working to fullest potential and that knowledge stays hidden.

Putting it into practice

The switch to asset sharing will not be easy of course. The management team has to be on board, and an organization has to be ready and know how to embrace this new addition to their business.

It will be the task of facility managers to think along with the executives, advise them, and make an inventory of supply and demand. They should ask themselves, “What do we have temporarily available and what do we need?” They should actively implement the model in the daily business of their organizations and make sure that every employee knows that if an item is not available or if they are in need of something, that it’s better look to their neighbors before anything else. But, most importantly, they will need to be proactive about the management of matching supply and demand, closing deals, arranging transport and taking care of billing. Then, asset sharing will become anyone’s new business.

Image credit: Flickr/Flazingo Photos

Kim Tjoa is co-founder of FLOOW2 World’s Reset Button, the first B2B sharing marketplace for companies and organizations.

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