We need a miracle to tackle this labour shortage!

‘Currently, one of the greatest challenges of facility management is labour shortage, something even technological development can’t solve in the short run’, according to speakers at the Portfolio FM & Office 2018 conference. Domestic labour is heading West seeking higher wages, the low domestic wages make it difficult to attract even Easterns workers. The development of robotics might mean a solution on the long run, but this is still yet to come. However, the question is worth addressing already at the customer level, since the pushed-down operational costs are in the way of solving problems, alluring workforce or financing technological developments.

Can robotics or digitization solve the problem of labour shortage?

During the first part of the panel discussion of the conference, participants unanimously agreed that labour shortage poses a serious challenge in facility management. Only Gyula Győri, Facility Management Director of CPI Facility Management Kft., reported no direct problem in this regard for the time being, however, regarding the high average age at his workplace, even he had to think how they were going to address the issue. Ferenc Kis-Szölgyémi, CEO of B+N Referencia Zrt. added: ‘the average age in our company is 59 years, during a new recruitment we wouldn’t be able to hire cleaners under 40 as this job seeker simply does not exist.

Máriusz Várnai, CEO of Diófa Ingatlankezelő Kft. said the sector should not be surprised by the lack of labour at all as the real estate market has been assisting this transformation all along. No wonder the ridiculously low operational costs came to this. This opinion was shared by István Rézsó, Head of Business Development at Cushman & Wakefield, who thinks the past 6 years has failed to produce the people who could fill in the necessary positions, a situation only made more severe by the crisis. Today, real estate is a hot topic again, however, the labour shortage is also a consequence of the generation gap.


The question of how to remedy labour shortage also came up during the panel discussion. STRABAG Property and Facility Services Director of Special Projects Lőrinc Zátonyi said workplaces need to be made more alluring to labour force, which is partly connected to wages, but also the remuneration packages. Ferenc Kis-Szölgyémi said a lot of people have gone West for work in the hope of higher wages, that’s why even with the inclusion of foreign workforce the labour reserves are poor for the service of the enormous number of newly built real estates. Because of the low minimum wages in Hungary it is difficult to fill up the positions even from the East. For example, you cannot expect to hire workforce from the Ukraine under 1000 euros a month. The company is moving a significant number of people to satisfy needs on a daily basis, 450 of their workers live in workers’ hostels, and there are 7 double deckers in service to transport their commuters. Concerning wages, Márton Deák, ÁKÉK Project Leader of Lechner Tudásközpont mentioned it is easier to catch prospective workers at the lower level in the public sector, as the wage scale is comparably good, but on the executive level there are serious difficulties. During the talk it was also mentioned that even robotics and technological development cannot remedy labour shortage on the short run, as it requires time to actually replace human labour, however, labour shortage is already a serious problem.

The responsibility of customers was also mentioned, according to the experts, customers should not strive to make the cheapest deals, as they make paying decent wages or financing innovation impossible. It is almost impossible to win public procurement tenders while paying higher than minimal wages to cleaners, but at the same time, there are very few people who are willing to clean the restroom of a train carriage for minimum wage.

At the end of the panel talk, the experts also talked about the quality of facility management, the general opinion being that no improvement can be expected in the next one or two years, the aim should be the maintenance of present quality levels. However, operating costs might increase in the future, which is justifiable due to several aspects, like increasing overhead costs or wages.

Spotting future possibilities, but how to integrate them into facility management?

Csaba Szij, Deputy CEO of B+N Referencia Zrt. talked about future opportunities in facility management. In his lecture he mentioned that by 2020 there will be a total of 100 billion devices with Internet access capable of uploading data to a cloud-based database. This method is quite efficient, for example with the analysis of data it is predictable where and what kind of maintenance work will be necessary. With the help of AI, the lifespan and maintenance costs of devices can also be predicted in the cloud.

For a facility manager it is crucial to acquire accurate data, dynamic and static alike. A cloud-based system can provide dynamic data, whereas static data are provided during the planning and implementation of buildings.


In his lecture, Csaba Szij also touched upon the problem of labour shortage saying that machines are not meant to take people’s jobs but to provide help. In his opinion, robotics and IT are ahead of an evolutionary jump we have seen only in sci fi movies and books. He tried to illustrate the development process through a personal example: their HR experts voiced their concerns about the labour shortage years ago. But 4 years ago there were only primitive cleaning robots available, which is why they started to develop their in-house robot 2 years ago. As a result of its success, development  continued as a consequence of which testing of the next robot type is about to start soon and hopefully large-scale production can start at the end of the year. These robots actually work autonomously, if there are several of them working parallelly, they are able to communicate with each other.

Is teleheating the future?

Dr. György Mitnyan, CEO of Főtáv talked about the role of teleheating in creating a more liveable Budapest. Beside teleheating, the company will deal with cooling and solar energy services in the future on a more serious level. Demand for teleheating is increasing, the energy needs of new consumers will possibly exceed 30 MW in 2017 and 2018 too. Lately several estates, office buildings and other major investments have chosen teleheating. Főtáv is implementing significant improvements in Budapest, laying a new main pipeline from Gellért Hill to Városház Street. It is planned to arrive at Városház Street by October supporting the concept of the “Chimney-free Downtown”. And by 2020-22, constructions of HUHA II can be finished, increasing the share of renewable energy.


What is the National Building Cadastre?

The National Building Cadastre, aka ÁKÉK, was established by Lechner Tudásközpont in order to create a complex repository for the architectural documents and BIM models, create a unified methodology to survey the national buildings and create directives for facility and space management. In his lecture, Márton Deák, ÁKÉK Project Leader, said even the definition of national buildings  is in need of further clarification in Hungary. The goal of the national land registry system is to establish cost effective national space management and building survey. ÁKÉK will create a new 3D building model database with a space management module, which can also be seen as a facility management software. As part of the project, building surveys will be carried out and methodology descriptions will be drawn up.