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FM Tools of the Trade

As a Facilities Manager, your daily tools are more likely to be flat and backlit than powered by a lithium battery. Excel, a calculator and…well really that’s a lot of it.

Some FMs coming in from a job in the field feel better about having at least a few hand tools around, even if there’s a directive not to self perform any tasks. And that directive usually exists with good cause – unless you’re a licensed tradesman, there’s no reason why you should be fixing anything. And even if you are a licensed tradie, it’s unlikely that you’re in the FM chair in that capacity. You may not be covered by insurances, or a safe work method statement (SWMS) or other legal requirements.

That being said, there are some fixes that an FM should be able to carry out, regardless of their handy-ness or qualifications. Checking temperatures, resetting equipment and even adjusting a monitor stand should be within the reach of most facilities professionals. Here are some standard tools you’ll want to have in your cupboard.

Temperature gun ($50 - $150)

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Temperature guns, laser thermometers, infrared thermometers – it comes in a holster and so it’s the closest thing an FM will get to looking like the sheriff ‘round these parts. These things are so necessary that it should come in your employee pack. With temperature and comfort requests often making up a majority of daily requests, the temperature gun is as much about peace of mind as it is a proper diagnostic tool.

For one thing, it impresses the requestor. When you show up with this very official-looking bit of kit to check the surface temperature of a desk, you will look the part of a proper facilities professional (and old-timey law-man).

Ultimately, there’s more comprehensive methods for HVAC technicians to determine if an area is getting poor airflow or drafts. But the temperature gun is a useful first step in determining the severity of a comfort complaint.


Measuring Tape/Laser Measure ($5 - $150)

The laser measure is just a little snazzier and more impressive for tenants/residents to see, and is much more useful when getting area calculations for quotes. But it’s always handy to have at least something around that can get you quick measurements. This comes in particularly handy during moves or office reconfigurations, when ad-hoc items suddenly have to find their way through narrow spaces. Also very handy when reviewing replacement equipment for things that go in tight spaces - like zip units, refrigerators, and microwaves.

Screwdriver set ($50 - $100)

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These may be needed every day, and then they may sit for a year in your desk undisturbed. But there’s almost zero chance that you won’t at some point need one around. Even if IT is a clearly delineated different department to your own, it never hurts to be able to assist a technophobic employee with plugging in a monitor cable, which are still likely to be VGA or DVI cables that need to be screwed in.

More than that though, as an FM you’re likely to be viewed as handy even if you aren’t. Or you will be seen as adjacent to tools, if not on the tools. More ‘facilities’ than manager. If a tenant or resident or employee knows you can at least provide a screwdriver in a pinch, it goes a long way to building your credibility.

Cordless drill ($200)

Here we get to the edge of what’s standard and what’s required only if you’re a naturally handy sort of FM. A drill is useful in quickly tightening most door handles and desk attachments (if you know where to access the screws) and adjusting monitor arms. But this work isn’t as mundane as it looks, and a drill isn’t as humble a tool as one would think. Ideally you’ll have one of these and never need to use it much. If you’re being super diligent (which we recommend), have a SWMS or quick safety check for whatever task you’ll be regularly carrying out.

Carbon Dioxide Sniffer ($600 - $1000)

Now things are getting fancy! A sniffer is used to measure indoor air quality, and is brought out by an experienced FM when there are complaints about smells. They can also be used in high volume spaces like indoor car parks, but generally these have more powerful sensors that are in the architecture and fitted to alarms.


Most FMs won’t have these in their arsenal, but they’re a good tool to have if you have a mixed use facility that includes hot food prep. Grease traps are a notorious source of bad odours, and a sniffer will help demonstrate to stakeholders that even if the (temporary) bad smells are unpleasant, they are not dangerous to health.

Lux Meter ($100 - $500)

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This obscure device will test the amount of light being thrown in a particular spot to answer complaints about too many globes being out. As with many of these tools, the lux meter is rarely used by an FM in proper diagnosis – that’s for the tradesperson to sort out. Like the sniffer and temperature gun, this is used more to test conditions against compliance for those instances when the requestor is asking for too much – or at least, more than your budget and directives will allow for.

But this cuts the other way too – if these tools help verify the complaint, the results can be used to bolster a business case to get an approval over the line.

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