Articles

Industry Insights: Tim Ireland

tim ireland, senior facilities management consultant, smiles at the camera, holding a model train

How long have you been with FMI?

Around 7 years now, I came on board with BEIMS to help with the work they were doing with a Sydney client.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It’s changed a bit over the years!

I work on a lot of different client projects, often at the beginning of the process. Say I’m setting up a new client for example. I’ll talk to them about the information they have, what they need to capture and manage, determine how the data will be stored within the system. Most importantly, I'll figure out what it is they want to get out of the system.

I tend to focus on the end game, trying to make sure we don’t get lost, just concentrating on the critical areas. A lot of it is process work, looking at how the client does things, and how the system can complement that.

It’s important to ensure everything is documented really well, so you can go back and reference any part of the process to determine when and why something might have changed.

 

Recently, I’ve been doing more consulting work with clients on integration with other internal systems. Really, it’s looking at processes, and from this developing accurate scope of works documents. Once that’s all signed off, then we move onto the implementation, which I may have less to do with, depending on the client and the specific project.

I’ve also worked with clients to improve their reporting capabilities, helping them to organise information and develop a variety of focused KPI reports.

Very recently, I’ve been writing articles for our FMI knowledge base. This has been interesting work, thinking about parts of the system that might be of interest to clients, and putting together information to help them get the most out of our system. It’s interesting to think about the software and how it can be used, digging into the data captured and how it can be utilised from a process or reporting perspective.

I’m passionate about taking information and making it readily available, so it can be used on a daily basis. 

What has your journey in facilities management looked like?

I started in FM as an apprentice, back in the late 70’s, early 80’s, finishing my time as a First Class Fitter with additional advanced welding certificates. I worked as a Fitter for a couple of years, but then in the early 80’s there was not a lot of work around, so I went into contract cleaning.

Through that job, I ended up at a hospital in a supervisory role and responsibilities snowballed from there.

 

Initially managing a large cleaning team, I was asked to take on the management of a commercial on-site laundry, eventually resulting in the hospital employing me directly. Over subsequent years I was promoted to a senior management role, with added responsibilities for security, onsite carparking (a very challenging role) and engineering services.

Over time, I’d transitioned from working on the tools to an FM Management Role.

 

From there I moved to Catholic Healthcare where I took on the role of Director Corporate Services, which included the management of a lot of departments. These included Engineering and Biomedical Services, Hotel Services (Food, Cleaning and Laundry), Supply, Fleet, Security and Information Technology at an Acute Care Hospital, with Emergency and Community Services. I was also the Emergency Controller and chair of the Risk Committee which reported to the Board.

The role then morphed into Executive Director Corporate Services for the group, which covered 2 Acute, 1 Sub Acute and 40 Nursing Homes and community services across NSW. During my time there I was also studying, and ended up completing my degree, so had a lot on!

What have been some of the most interesting stages of your career?

After leaving Catholic Healthcare, I decided to start my own consulting business, which continued for around 9 years. The consulting was mostly around FM, Emergency Management, and hotel services.

Consulting work was mostly focused on process development in the FM space. It also took me to some interesting places, including two trips to the Solomon Islands and one extended trip to Micronesia, where I worked in the oil industry.

Here I concentrated on process mapping – primarily in engineering and security, and even touched on diving procedures and unloading of fuel from tankers. Unloading the ship and seeing the security, communication protocols, when things happen, all the safety and containment stuff, really piqued my curiosity.

Across all the industries you’ve worked in, are there any that stand out from the others?

The short answer is no, every single FM team I’ve ever worked with deals with the same kind of thing every day. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.  

FM is basically the same, there are basic things everyone does, and then there are industry specific things teams have to account for, that you might need to learn about. For example, almost all have to consider things like electricity, water and air conditioning. But then you might have industry-specific equipment, processes or whatever.

 

The consistent challenges everywhere, are fixing things that break, not enough people, not enough resources, not enough equipment to do the job they want to do.

I enjoyed working predominantly in the health care sector, with its challenges and having to focus on the best outcomes for patients/residents, staff and visitors.  

Throughout your career, there’s been an emphasis on developing expertise in process development, can you tell me about that?

I learnt about processes purely out of necessity. Often you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, for example providing stakeholders with updated information on a regular basis, continually fixing or responding to the same issues, and dealing with things like budget cuts, having to do more work with less resources.

I’ve have always been passionate about information. You need the right information at the right time. I found I was working long days, everyday, and I knew that process and information improvement was the way to not end up sitting in my office late in the evening.

How has FM changed over your career?

In my time in the industry, the amount of information that is required of Facilities Managers has changed significantly.

People began to think about how they can use software to get information out quickly; partly because auditors expected information a lot quicker than they might have in the paper days.

There is far more paperwork to do than there ever was in the past, and that is only increasing. And by paperwork, of course I mean compliance requirements.

In more recent times, there’s more of a focus on asset management than there has been in the past.

What changes do you expect to see in the next few years?

I think we’re in early stages of the uptake of asset management and what that really means.

 

I suspect software will have to play a big part in that. The focus will be on what information needs to be captured, a single source of truth, and how software can facilitate the efficient and accurate capture and dissemination of asset related information.

How can you manage information within the system more efficiently, how can we get better information out. I hope that everyone becomes more information focussed and uses analytical tools to make decisions on what they do on a day-to-day basis, as a guide to decision making.

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?

The most rewarding parts my career have been seeing someone within your team growing, learning, and moving on to advance to a level far superior to what they ever thought they might achieve.

For example, one of my staff shuffled up to me on the loading dock, 30 years ago, and said “boss I have to tell you something”. That’s when you start to think “oh dear here we go”. And he said “boss, I don’t have a visa to work here”.

 

This obviously posed a huge challenge for that particular individual, but I thought “righto, how can we solve this”.  We got things sorted and all these years later, he’s done amazing things with his career and continued to advance, and that is wonderful to see.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you got into FM?

No, not really, everything was a great learning experience. Nothing I’ve learnt over the years was ever wasted. I did my apprenticeship, four years of hard slog, and then I only stayed in that trade for 2-3 years. But nothing I’ve done has failed to teach me something, or otherwise added to my knowledge.

Everything you bring to the table is driven by some previous experience and learning, good or bad.

What is it you love about working in facilities management?

From an operational perspective, you never ever know what’s going to confront you at the beginning of any single day. It could be anywhere from mundane issues, to serious failure of a piece of equipment leading to loss of services to the community, through to the potential evacuation of an area within a building.

It’s the variety and challenges that I loved, working with a team to solve the issue.

That’s the enjoyment, problem solving and dealing with anything and everything on an everyday basis.

So we can get to know you a bit better, can you give us a movie montage of “Who is Tim”, right from the start?

Well, when I was a kid we moved around a bit, always in the country, mostly because of dad’s career as an engineer. I kicked about playing a bit of tennis for a short time and even learnt to (kind of) play the piano. Then in high school I did all of the sport that didn’t require too much co-ordination, I definitely enjoyed weightlifting over cricket for example. But maybe it was less about co-ordination and more self-preservation, and avoiding that hard ball.

 

I did spend some of my time playing “pontoon” down the back of the school yard with my mates, avoiding teacher patrols!

I met my wife, Juelyn, when I was in form 5 (year 11), and I remember getting the odd detention because we were caught holding hands on the way home .

 

I was conservative perhaps, some of my friends were out doing burnouts in their cars, while I was worried about the money wasted on the tyres!

 

We went to quite a few concerts in my late teens, early 20’s, probably some of the best would be Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Queen, Status Quo, we went to so many great shows back in the 80’s.

 

Juelyn and I got married when we were 22, travelled OS for 3 months and had our wonderful children. Most of my 20’s-40’s was just work, and raising the kids. Back then work tended to impact on family life a bit because I was on call 24/7, and of course in our early married life interest rates were 17% so life really did revolve around work.

Can you tell us a little about your hobby?

The photo probably gave it away, but my hobby is model railways and the many aspects involved in the hobby. Anything that requires building is something I’ve always been really interested in. When I was a kid, we had a model train set that came over from England, my grandfathers.

 

When I got started building the model railways 10 years ago, I just wanted a small train set, but now it’s pretty much the whole garage. I enjoy the building component of the hobby, putting together the tracks and design of the layout then building the scenery (including scratch building scenes and buildings) and electronic control of trains and turnouts.  Running trains is the reward and trying not to crash or derail is fun.  

I’m not creative at all though, but these days you can jump on YouTube and get inspiration, and try to replicate other peoples ideas for designs, I’m more interested in the doing.

 

Neither of my children have an interest in it, but I’m hoping I can convince my granddaughter, maybe get her interested early!