Operating in the crowded facility management market, Apleona aimed to stand out from the crowd by launching services to improve working people’s everyday lives across its managed real estate.
Apleona launched FacilyLife, a one-stop-shop for the information people need, from choosing what to wear to the office, to which route to take, and even when to go to the canteen to skip the queue.
Transformsordinary office buildings into more pleasant working environments
Boostsstaff productivity by cutting queues and time spent searching for available rooms
Actsas a powerful competitive differentiator for Apleona
Business challenge story
Spotlight on customer experience
Competition is fierce in the saturated facility management market. Established providers compete not just against each other, but also with the in-house model of building management.
To maintain its strong market position, Apleona aimed to differentiate itself from rival providers by launching value-add services for its customers.
Ralf Bumba, CEO of Apleona HSG BS GmbH, explains: “We have built the strong Apleona brand over decades of providing high-quality maintenance and custodian services for our clients’ properties. We wanted to build on that success and secure clients’ long-term loyalty by becoming a strategic partner for our premier customers, which include some of the biggest brands in Germany. We weren’t interested in building convoluted products; we wanted to think of practical ways to make every aspect of a customer’s working day easier.”
To transform its vision into reality, Apleona embarked on a wide-reaching transformation of its service portfolio. For help on the journey, Apleona engaged IBM.
At the start of the engagement, the IBM Garage team and Apleona conducted several IBM Design Thinking workshops to brainstorm ideas for new solutions, focusing on delivering a stellar customer experience. Ralf Bumba recalls: “At first I was apprehensive about working with IBM, because I pictured lots of bureaucracy and a very rigid and slow approach. Actually my experience was totally different, and I saw an IBM that reminded me of a cutting-edge start-up. The IBM team was young, enthusiastic and eager to try out ideas and approach our challenge from different angles. They were genuinely interested to listen to our experience in facility management and combine that with their own expertise in digitization.
“The Design Thinking workshops were a huge success. The open-minded brainstorming approach ignited immense creativity and innovative thinking from my staff, and they felt empowered to have their voices heard and contribute to the conversation. Design Thinking acted as a real catalyst for them to drive change in their subject-matter areas.”
From the ideas formed at the workshops, Apleona worked with IBM to build a platform called FacilyLife, running on IBM Cloud™. Delivered via web browser and as a mobile app, FacilyLife provides people who work in buildings managed by Apleona with information to assist them in their day-to-day lives.
“We launched FacilyLife on IBM Cloud because we were confident that we would have excellent uptime and meet customers’ high security standards,” says Ralf Bumba. “Also, we were keen to demonstrate to customers that we had partnered with a reliable, well-known and reputable brand to deliver our IT services.
“With IBM Cloud, it is easy for us to integrate third-party APIs without hassle or issues. And of course, as FacilyLife gains popularity, we can easily scale up to support tens of thousands of users.”
IBM and Apleona began by focusing on workers’ morning routines. To help improve the working day, Apleona integrated real-time traffic data from Google into FacilyLife, enabling people to choose the best route to the office. The company also incorporated weather data from The Weather Company, an IBM Company, to allow users to make better decisions on what to wear to work. FacilyLife users can set their default weather channel to their usual office, and if they need to visit another company location that day, they can select the relevant site from the list.
Next, Apleona used Hybrid Cloud Manpower Services and IBM Cloud services – including the IBM Cloudant® database – to build a ticketing app that makes it easier for clients to report items needing maintenance and accelerate repairs. Instead of having to log on to the intranet and type a description of the issue, they can open the FacilyLife app and take a picture of the broken item. The engineer can identify the faulty item’s location and see from the picture which parts are broken, then collect tools and head to rectify the issue – all in real time. In future, Apleona may introduce functionality to identify equipment faults via visual-recognition software. By piecing together information from multiple incident reports, Apleona will be able to paint a clearer picture for its clients, showing the up-to-the-minute health of their buildings.
Last but not least, Apleona incorporated information from catering providers into the FacilyLife app, so that employees can see meal plans, allergens and nutritional information before they reach the canteen. This is particularly important in Germany, where most employees eat in the office canteen every day.
In future, Apleona plans to build an occupancy-detection tool to show employees the length of the canteen queue in real time. The company is keen to make it easier for people to leave feedback on the canteen food and environment via star ratings and brief comments, sparking a cycle of continuous improvement.
“FacilyLife isn’t rocket science; we’re just making people’s working lives easier by putting all the information they need in one place,” comments Ralf Bumba. “As a society, we spend a huge proportion of our waking lives at work, so we want to make that time as pleasant and productive as possible.
“We have already implemented FacilyLife at one of our largest corporate clients, and the initial feedback is very promising. We have shown FacilyLife to other clients too, and they are very keen to get on board.”
Building an even brighter future
The introduction of FacilyLife is helping Apleona to transform its portfolio to concentrate on value-add services. Apleona is confident that its new services will assist in forging closer relationships with clients and securing their long-term loyalty.
Not one to rest on its laurels, Apleona is already working on additional functionality for FacilyLife. For instance, the company is aware that in many offices, booked rooms are not in use – either because meetings finish early or are held elsewhere – and many rooms that are not booked are in fact occupied. At the IBM Germany headquarters in Ehningen, Apleona has built an interactive room-booking approach whereby vacant rooms are automatically released for rebooking, and people can book rooms by scanning a QR code. This initiative will help reduce the time employees spend searching for a meeting room.
Over time, FacilyLife will equip Apleona with a treasure trove of data, from which the company plans to enrich its understanding of how workplaces are used. Based on these insights, Apleona will be able to offer valuable advice to clients, such as why some buildings are more expensive to run, how to adapt buildings to boost productivity, and what future workplaces should look like. The initiative represents a real paradigm shift, transitioning from passive facility management towards proactive improvement based on real-time data.
“Property prices have surged in recent years, so it’s more important than ever for companies to use every square inch of real estate more efficiently,” remarks Ralf Bumba. “By putting in tools to ensure spaces like meeting rooms are used effectively, companies may be able to reduce footprint and costs.
“As remote working gains popularity, the number of people in offices can vary dramatically from one day to the next. For example, many organizations have peaks on Mondays and Tuesdays, but on Fridays when many people work from home, they may be able to close a floor to cut heating and cooling costs. If we can accurately forecast low occupancy, we can save money and reduce waste by asking caterers to cook less food and putting fewer staff on the cleaning schedule.”
Ralf Bumba concludes: “With IBM’s support, we have come up with practical solutions to give our customers a better experience while reducing costs. We are excited to roll out the FacilyLife platform to other clients, and to continue enhancing the solution to improve even more aspects of people’s everyday lives.”
Apleona is one of Europe’s largest facility management companies, guiding clients through every phase of the real-estate lifecycle, from planning and development through to management, marketing, optimization and selling. To complement its traditional facility-management services, the company provides numerous value-add services. Headquartered in the German town of Neu-Isenburg, Apleona employs 22,000 people across over 30 countries, and generates annual revenues exceeding EUR 2 billion.