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25 July 2019

Facility Management Evolution Series: 1970s & 1980s

Analysis of the article “The Evolution of FM” by Nancy Johnson Sanquist, former VP of Global Strategic Marketing at Planon

So, how did facility management evolve to become an official field? As discussed in my previous blog , with the introduction of additional computer capabilities over the years, we have seen many professions grow and expand technologically, and specialised abilities have been created as a result. Throughout “The Evolution of FM” Nancy Sanquist pinpoints the key historical events and developments of the 1970s and 1980s that solidified the FM profession. 

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In the 1970s, the overall look and feel of computers was becoming more advanced. Even though they were still bulky, prices were gradually decreasing, and computers were becoming more accessible across different industries. The predictions that had been surrounding the uses of computers were starting to come true and they were becoming increasingly part of our everyday professional lives.

Computerised process growth within the newly structured field of FM in the 1970s

When analysing how exactly the FM field became legitimised, it’s important to recognise significant contributions made by two key individuals. First was William Mitchell, who wrote a paper, “Notes on approaches to computer-aided space planning” in 1970. He later became a founder of one of the six Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM) companies that were formed during the decade. Secondly, Herman Miller, who hosted a conference called “Facility Influence on Productivity” in 1978. This event paved the way for the formalising of the FM industry as we know it today. The ideas that were shared here formed the groundwork within our field and allowed the initial concepts to develop and evolve.

Sanquist mentions that “from the very beginning, several key designers of FM software arose from architecture and space planning, engineering, maintenance and real estate to computerise FM business processes.” We knew our future was bright, and that with computers we could expand upon our own knowledge and take advantage of computerised capabilities within the field that is FM.

The introduction of Computer-Aided Facility Management solutions during the 1980s

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) was founded in 1980, formally recognising this industry, and continues to provide global support to FM and its professionals. This came at the perfect time, just before six companies introduced Computer-Aided Facilities Management solutions between 1981 and 1988. These included Planon which at the time was an engineering consultancy, before diversifying into the automating of maintenance functionality. The formation of IFMA created a community that has fostered an enormous amount of growth and expansion over the years. The developments of the 1980s supported the efforts and advances made in the 1970s, to help establish the Facility Management industry as an official field. 

Abdel el Ouasghiri
Account Manager