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SPECS 2024: Innovation comes to retail facilities management

AI concept
Next-gen technologies can play a major role in facilities management.

Advanced solutions like artificial intelligence and virtual reality can ease the jobs of retail facilities managers.

At Chain Store Age’s recent 60th annual SPECS Show held in Grapevine, Texas, it was my privilege to introduce the session “Technology Innovations for Facilities Managers.” 

In a lively interactive discussion, Joshua Witte, director – energy and sustainability, real estate – property management, Dollar Tree & Family Dollar Stores and Adam Oryszczak, director, facilities services, Ulta Beauty, explored how advanced technology solutions are being used to help maintain retail locations.

Let’s delve into how retailers are deploying artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in their facilities management operations.


During the discussion on how artificial intelligence (AI) fits into retail facilities management, Oryszczak said retailers can use AI to streamline space planning efforts.

"You can create a heat map to track foot traffic and also see how associates work, and then tailor the space to meet associate needs. It enables you to maximize your space without a total refresh," said Oryszczak.

Witte discussed how AI can also serve as a valuable tool to enhance energy management efforts.

"AI provides you a single pane of glass into your energy and utility data," he said. "You receive intelligent and actionable information. With AI-based predictive algorithms, you can avoid problems ahead of time."

He added that AI can also assist retailers in rightsizing facilities management headcount, including by maximizing employee efficiency and automating manual tasks without necessarily cutting any jobs.


AR/VR solutions let retailers overlay contextual virtual data into the surrounding “real world” environment. Oryszczak highlighted the capabilities of Ulta Beauty’s Glam Beauty Lab, which allows customers to virtually test products and shades within the company’s iPhone and Android app with AR functionality, as an example of how AR and VR technology can fit into retailers’ facilities management efforts.

"You take a picture of yourself and then take the picture online to see how different cosmetic products would look on you with AR imagery," said Oryszczak. "You can do the same thing in with your facilities. You could take a store layout and use AR to see how changes in things like fixtures and lighting would look."

As a result, Oryszczak said could greatly reduce the cost of creating store planograms and of store remodeling projects.

In addition, Witte said retailers can utilize VR to share different options for facility environments with various stakeholders. “They can see what the possibilities could be,” he said. 


Witte highlighted the role Internet of Things (IoT) solutions can play in streamlining critical facilities management functions.

"There is a smart device ecosystem that can link to systems such as water, lighting and HVAC," said Witte. "It enables a layer of control that was not available before. You can open a portal to your facilities via interconnectivity of platforms. If you don’t open the portal, you risk being left behind."

Witte also mentioned that retailers can manage assets, such as the technology on their rooftops, using RFID- and QR code-based monitoring. 

"You can perform rooftop systems triage by scanning QR codes," he said.

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