4 min read

FlowPath CEO Alex Cummings on ConnexFM’s Daily Grind

May 22, 2024

FlowPath Co-Founder and CEO, Alex Cummings, joined ConnexFM's Bill Yanek to discuss ChatGPT, the rise of AI in FM, and how to best leverage the technology. Listen to the episode below and be sure to check out ConnexFM. Additionally, ConnexFM is hosting two big events this year, April 3-5 is their National Conference and October 7-9 is their mid-year conference with a technology focus. FlowPath will see you there!

Show Transcript:

Bill Yanek: Hi, Bill Yanek here, ConnexFM CEO, welcome to The Daily Grind a very unique topic today on The Daily Grind. We're going to talk OpenAI, ChatGPT, the end of FM as we know it, and we have a subject matter expert with a fascinating topic. He’s Alex Cummings. He is the Founder and CEO of FlowPath Facility Management Software. Alex, welcome to The Daily Grind.

Alex Cummings: Thanks, Bill. It’s great to be here. I appreciate you having me on. Bill Yanek: Well, before we talk about the end of the world, and how AI is going to take over everything, let’s learn a little bit about more about you and your company FlowPath.

Alex Cummings: Yeah, absolutely. So my particular background, I was in the military and the Marines for six years, heavy logistics. I was a tank officer and an amphibious assault vehicle officer. Lots of preventive maintenance, and lots of logistics, so very used to detailing everything that we need to do to keep the unit running. And so after I transitioned out, we started FlowPath back in 2019. We designed as a newer system to be available to a modern facilities management organization. FlowPath, a typical CMMS plus a lot more designed into it. And we take pride in innovating our way to solve upcoming solutions for the industry. And so keeping our ear to the ground on things like ChatGPT and AI and how we can integrate these things to make FM's lives easier. It is kind of what we're excited about. Our customer base is focused in multi-site operations across hospitality, education, and retail, so excited to be here today.

Bill Yanek: Good stuff. Okay. Well, you mentioned that it's all the rage. If you watch the business channels, all you hear about AI, and then this ChatGPT stuff took off, and now it's everywhere. So let's start with the basics of what is OpenAI and then what is ChatGPT, how does that work?

Alex Cummings: Yeah, so OpenAI created ChatGPT. It's basically a large, you know, software AI system that takes in the entire internet and spits out answers to your questions and kind of proactively is able to do things. Like from its website alone, it tells you, it is a conversational tool that interacts with you in a dialogue format, it makes it possible to answer follow on questions, admit mistakes and kind of challenging premises. What's crazy about it, it's already close to 100 illion users, which is faster than any other product out there, even TikTok Facebook and Instagram of the world there. So it's a really good tool. We use it internally at FlowPath. Some of our engineers use it to troubleshoot code, which is a kind of a normal thing, I guess, for the use case of ChatGPT. But we also ask it how to interact with our  software like Salesforce if we're trying to implement a new workflow and we're not quite sure how to best go about it, we just ask it and it spits out a very clear and concise way to do something. 

We've even written blogs with it. We have one on our website, www.getflowpath.com that was 100% written by ChatGPT at OpenAI. There are a lot of programs out there that are using AI to kind of make their lives easier. So it's a really, really interesting tool there. Bill Yanek: Yeah, well, there's a lot of, I guess, well, on the one end, there's a lot of positivity and people are like, you are seeing the opportunity and whatever. But on the other hand, there's a lot of fear. I'm sure it's not too different than what computers and the Internet or whatever, every time there is a technology jump, it is going to hijack an industry and it's going to go away. So let's see around a little bit more on FM of what could be the role of AI or ChatGPT to our FM's. And yeah, how positive and negative, how could it impact their lives?

Alex Cummings: Yeah, when something like this comes about, there's always the end of the world is here, it's going to take my job, right. But inherently, a tool like this is incomplete. It needs to be paired with an operator in order to accomplish something and set up the actions needed. And so while it can answer more questions faster, more questions and faster than a human can, you need to still have that human piece it all together currently. And the beauty of facilities managers are probably going to go out and turn that wrench or hire a vendor to come out and do the services work for you. And so there are a lot of hands on in this industry that robots and AI are going to be able to facilitate full solutions for it.

So I don't think it's anything to be afraid of. I think there are more positives than the negatives coming from it. And so some examples of how we've seen our customers or use cases for even our customers or anybody in this space that's managing some form of infrastructure operations at multi locations, how you can use it, it's definitely out in the field. It's a free tool. ChatGPT specifically just rolled out a premium priority kind of $20 a month thing, but it's still free. So whether you're sitting at a desk around the field, get on your phone and ask it a question how to perform services, what is the user manual for this particular asset that I'm staring at right now that I bought and used it, I don't have any information on it, what’s the typical PM cycle for these particular things, how do I need to fix it, it really gives you detailed instructions for how to perform work and Services.

And we know that because we analyzed a lot of our customers’ work requests coming in around assets and inventory management. We just kind of looked at them, threw them into the ChatGPT dialog box, and it spit out very detailed, step by step, how to go perform preventive maintenance or quick triage actions for how to do something. So if there's, you know, a remote general manager of a retail organization that has something broken, you know, it could give them an immediate, really detailed response, or how to maybe do it go try some triage actions on it before a technician can show up. It also can get very detailed into schematics and budget work and how to set up the preventative maintenance plan for it. Or even just suggestions for how to attack problems that you may have you need to organization, the more detailed and descriptive you can get with the prompt of what you're asking it, and then the follow up questions for it, just inherently better it is providing responses for you. So it's, it's really, really interesting.

Bill Yanek: It is fascinating, although get on a little bit of a technology soapbox. But I think it's, I view it much like any technological advance. If you put your head in the sand and say, I'm not going to do this, or I'm not a technology FM or whatever it is, then it is going to be a problem for you. If you learn the technology, as you mentioned, it can be a remarkable tool to take away even some of the drudgery of having to look up you talk about tech manuals and specifications and like, really Neat.

Okay, so that's where we're at now. And for our audience out there, I would encourage you go out just Google ChatGPT, there’s an app out there. I tried, I think called Genie. There are several out there. You can see it's free to try it out to see. So what is the future now? We're here as this is just getting off the ground, it’s all the rage, what’s the future of OpenAI or ChatGPT?

Alex Cummings: Yeah, so I mean, the first part of it is just kind of the adoption phase, it seems so early, but yet there's already 100 million people leveraging this across all these industries, right. And so I think facilities management and you know, multi-set operators are inherently kind of a tech averse bunch sometimes and so just getting in there and getting comfortable with asking questions and seeing how you can use it, it's step one. But at that point I think you'll understand the limitations of where you need to just piece together all of these things. And so the future of it is helping the shortage of workforce, kind of overcome challenges within their organizations by leveraging AI and leveraging other software that can help piece it together for you. And they can help you run your organization and scale it in ways that you haven't been able to before.

And so, you know, I kind of alluded to some of these things that we're looking at FlowPath which is like, how can we help better serve customers with just auto responses for service requests or automated work order answers should you want them, but there's so many other things within help centers and chat functionalities. But scheduling, managing your labor and time and resources for when you're dispatching or how you're managing your cost and spend, you can do energy optimization, how do I best set up my building automation systems with my IoT devices or any other monitoring systems that I have for my budget goals and everything else and sync it all together, right, and so I've kind of alluded to preventive maintenance programs and setting those up. 

Well, you can ask them what's a good preventive maintenance program, it doesn't necessarily have your list of 1000s of assets but you know, this system should you provide it with all that list within your maintenance management system, it can then detail out line by line, an entire program for all 1000 assets all at once. And how long would that have taken you normally, right, years. So something as simple as that is great. And then obviously real time capital planning because it is connected in real time to live data where it will be I think up to a point right now it's maybe 2021, but soon to be exposed to the rest of the internet. You got real time data for replacement values and decision making concepts around operational planning and repair versus replace, real time inventory knowledge, like just tools that you need at your disposal to be able to make sure your organization's being as capital efficient as possible, so just a lot of---a lot of benefits to come in the future. I think making sure that you have software that can ingest all this information and take it in is the key. Having kind of a single place to manage all of it for you so you're not going to various channelized tools for you, you have it all in one place it’s kind of a key operational goal I think for a lot of people. I don't think there's any one magic bullet at this point but definitely trying to piece it together so you can operate in one place is the end state for a lot of people.

Bill Yanek: Great stuff. Well, a fascinating topic and a lot to digest. Alex, appreciate your insight look forward to meet you in person soon. A couple of things before we head out, well, one is ConnexFM does have a tech counsel and they're doing to be talking about this topic and others as we move through and check that out at www.connexfm.com. And two big events, obviously, in April, April 3 through 5 is our National Conference, so check that out. And an announcement, you’re going to be seeing the marketing on this very soon, but October 7 through 9 in Schomburg outside of Chicago, we're going to be having our mid-year conference with a technology focus and I'm sure AI will be part of that. Lot of announcements. Alex, thank you, for joining us for The Daily Grind. For audience out there check us out at www.connexfm.com . Have a good one.

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