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SPECS 2023: AI comes to facilities management

AI is becoming a mainstream facilities management solution.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an increasingly important technology solution for retail facilities management professionals.

In a session at Chain Store Age’s SPECS 2023 conference, March 19 -21, in Grapevine, Texas, panelists examined different areas of facilities management where AI and machine learning (ML) solutions are emerging as critical tools.

Here is a look at three ways AI and ML technology can be used in facilities management, taken from the session, “Facilities: Using Technology to Improve Maintenance Operations”:

Data analysis

Miguel Pajares, principal, consulting services, Hatun Mayu Solutions LLC, kicked off the session by explaining how AI and ML engines can aid retailers in organizing, analyzing and understanding the large quantities of data associated with their facilities management activities.

“You can make decisions better and quicker,” said Pajares. “You have site data, work order data, and transactional sales data. Typically, this data is siloed among different departments and not shared in any type of central depot.”

Joshua Witte, director, energy and sustainability, real estate – property management, Dollar Tree & Family Dollar Stores, expounded on Pajares’ sentiments as to the value of AI in unifying disparate streams of facilities management data.

“AI is going to become table stakes in the next generation of facilities management solutions,” said Witte. “It will create an open portal for communication among different stakeholders.”

Predictive replacement/repair

Another area of facilities management where AI and ML technology can play a role is predictive monitoring of assets to determine when replacement or repair is needed, before any issues actually arise.

“Predictive analytics is the future of facilities management,” said Adam Oryszczak, director, facilities services, Ulta Beauty. “You can be certain that you’ll need to replace a specific number of units of a particular asset in a given year. You can go to the original equipment manufacturer ahead of time and place an order. It’s great for budgeting.”

In addition, Witte said retailers can leverage AI solutions to predictively monitor the condition of major physical assets, such as roofing, fire suppression systems, parking lots, and backup power generators.

“You can determine repair and replacement priorities and proactively identify and catch problems before they get too far along,” he said.


Pajares provided some commentary on possible applications for the burgeoning ChatGPT AI model, which interacts with users in a conversational style that mimics human interaction and uses ML to continually refine and improve its responses.

[Read more: ChatGPT is coming – what it means for your enterprise]

“ChatGPT is a very smart tool,” said Pajares. “There are a lot of facilities management use cases where AI and automation can manage tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming, or require little human oversight.”

As examples, Pajares cited providing facilities management updates to customers (for providers) and scope and picture reviews. Utilizing the technology in more repetitive and less abstract thought-intensive workflows also frees up human capital, according to Pajares.

“You can create tremendous bandwidth for your teams,” he stated. “ChatGPT lets them focus on things AI can’t help them with right now, like vendor management and team development. Things on the human side of the facilities management equation that are irreplaceable.”

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