How important is the PropTech movement for ISS Facility Services?

Interview with Douwe Driehuis, Head of Innovation at ISS Facility Services in the Netherlands. Douwe Driehuis has been working at ISS Facility Services for a year and a half. Prior to this, he hosted a co-working space. His original field of expertise is Hospitality.

1. Douwe, what makes you happy?

Playing basketball makes me really happy. Being with friends, not having to think about anything but the sport itself. Now that we can’t do this due to the Corona crisis, I’ve come to appreciate those moments even more.

2. As Head of Innovation, what are your main goals? And which goals have you set for your team?

Innovation is increasingly essential. How can we improve to make our services better, smarter, faster, more seamless and cheaper, both in the short and the long term? What will our company’s role be in the future? These are questions I try to answer each day.

ISS provides a wide range of services to customers and partners with catering and cleaning services and more. One of these services is innovation, which is a specific service that some customers like us to run for them as well. For those specific customers we have Innovation Leads who dive into their specific needs and innovate on those domains. Besides the specific innovations on an account level we have an overarching strategy with 5 main pillars that we are striving to make a difference on:

  1. We make decisions based on insights

  2. We make life easier

  3. We educate people

  4. We add to a better world

  5. We feed body, mind and soul

3. The real estate sector - including facility management - is currently very dynamic. Which shifts and developments have you noticed?

When it comes to technology, we used to hear: "That's cool, we have to have that!" Now, people are giving it more thought: "What is our vision, what do we want to achieve, and which technology will help us get there?" They are looking for a solution to a problem instead of merely applying technology because it is cool.

In addition, we are now gathering data in multiple areas. This data needs to be translated into insights — how will this data help us? If we have the right focus, we can get a lot of use out of the data we have gathered. But many companies are currently making that, hard, shift from data gathering to applying data in a meaningful way.

4. ISS strives to be the best service organisation in the world. Where does ISS Facility Services Netherlands aim to be in 2025 and what do you need to achieve this goal(s)? What does this mean for your role?

I think that being the best service organisation is a good target to aim for! I think a major step will be if/when we start to understand data better, then we will be able to use it to our advantage. When looking at my specific role I think it is important to keep track of the successful innovations in the various ‘pockets’ of the organization, and combine, plus scale, those innovations to more customers. In a big organization like ISS you want to ensure the same top-notch service level everywhere.

5. Can you give an example of an innovation for a client that has been deployed on a larger scale?

I have a few examples, but one that is currently relevant is the Winnow trash bin. Inside the bin, by use of camera recognition, a scale and smart technology, the bin sees exactly which food is thrown out and how much meals we wasted, what the negative Co2 impact of that waste is, and how much this product costs. By providing insight into what is being wasted, the purchasing behaviour can be adjusted. One of our customers has already implemented the Winnow waste bin and we are now in the process of placing it with our other partners.

6. The deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is coming up in less than 10 years. To which SDG does ISS Facility Services contribute?

One of the SDG’s we can strive to achieve in a relatively short term is SDG.12: Responsible consumption and production. We aim to prevent surplus production in multiple ways, for example by hiring a company like Winnow. If it turns out that we have produced a surplus, we use services as “Too good to Go”, which allows end-customers to get a reduction on products that are almost past their expiry date. But our responsibility goes beyond food, it goes into packaging, energy and so on.

Another SDG we contribute to is SDG.6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Water in The Netherlands is extremely cheap, which is why we often forget to reduce our use of it. Still, we want to prevent unnecessary water usage by. This can for an instance be as simple as placing two flush buttons on toilets. We are also working on the use of smartvatten. They are used to monitor water usage and by keeping track of the patterns they can detect water leakage, by which we can prevent more water from being wasted.

ESA ESTEC has developed a technology that allows us to fully recycle humanly secreted water. After all, if you send an astronaut into space, they can only bring so much water with them. We follow these developments closely. Is there something we can use? What are the limitations? Of course, this isn't something that we will get done by tomorrow. But we do think it is important to see what steps we can take in the future to make a building completely self-sustainable when it comes to water.

7. Which (technological) skills, knowledge and mindset are essential for you as Head of Innovation for the future of ISS Facility Services Netherlands?

I would like to learn to read data, which I think is one of the most crucial skills. The operational staff, those who work in the front line, those are our stars. It is essential that we learn to translate innovations in such a way that they will be able to use them. And the other way around, they are subject matter experts, so if we can use their knowledge to understand how to innovate, we will go much faster, together. They’ll have to get excited about the fact that they have so much expertise to share, and that’s something I would like to be able to contribute to.

8. How important is the PropTech movement for ISS?

From what I see, the PropTech movement mainly focuses on the real estate market. I hope this focus will shift to Facility Management, to create a balance. After all, facility companies can also make good use of PropTech. For ISS, this movement is especially important. We are learning to understand what is happening in the field of technology when it comes to buildings, and although we are still looking for our specific role within this movement, I can definitely see the importance of it.

PropTechNL ensures that we stay informed about different types of initiatives and start-ups. Solutions come to us much faster and more frequently now, whereas we would otherwise keep looking for new ones. And we need to ask ourselves: do we always have to be the ones who create something? Or can other, smaller parties, who are specialized in that specific solution do it, for us to test on a larger scale at one of our customers and help them develop their product or service further?

9. Which technological developments appeal most to you and why?

I find food robotics very interesting. In the United States, the company Spyce has set up a technological kitchen in which human involvement is limited. Deploying fewer people, everything happens in a much more hygienic way. Perhaps COVID-19 will make this technology develop even faster. We should not replace all humans with robots, because humans add a completely different skill set, we can use this technology to enable people to do non-monotonous tasks and adding value instead.

10. ISS has entered several VESTED agreements with leading companies. Why did ISS choose VESTED and why do you think other companies should do the same?

On average the buyer wants to pay the least and the supplier wants to earn the most. At VESTED, you simply say “What's in it for we?” We are open and honest about our goals and what we want to achieve. Then, we check to see if our goals match. In a VESTED contract, you don’t look at how many door handles have to be cleaned per day, you look at the objective: “For the end-user, the door handles have to be clean”. An outcome like that is more important than setting up a dozen small rules. It is a contract based on trust in each other. Most important in a VESTED contract is the focus on transformation. By thinking out of the box and stimulating innovation you focus on creating value, for all parties involved; ‘What’s in it for WE?’.

11. Where do you get your (PropTech) inspiration from?

The business (wo)man I admire the most:

It's obvious to name people like Elon Musk, but I can't mirror myself to him. That's why I usually admire the people around me. They inspire me. Since the Corona crisis started, I see some colleagues taking the lead in this new way of working, taking other colleagues by the hand. Obviously, we have to make this unusual time work. It amazes me to see that people step up and take the lead in this.

The most important innovation over the past fifteen years is:

The iPhone was released 13 years ago, which was mind-blowing! It created a wave of development. Our phone became more than a device you use to call someone — it's our wallet, our festival ticket, our navigation system, and we’re in touch with people in all sorts of ways.

Which (management) book would you recommend everyone to read?

Good stories inspire me. A while ago I read the book “Het wereldschokkende en onweerstaanbaar lekkere verhaal van Tony’s Chocolonely”, about how the Netherlands’ biggest chocolate brand started and evolved. In this book, they’re honest and transparent — even about their weaknesses. I find that charming. A lot of companies can learn from Tony's strategy.

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"ISS Facilities Services plays an important role in creating future-proof environments. They contribute to the integration of SDGs. They are aware of the integration of facility services and real estate which offers new opportunities, and they are open to leverage new technology. In addition, they are focused on creating personal relationships/ partnerships, curious and keen, which gives me a lot of energy." -Menno Lammers

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