By Fiona Wagner
Whether you're responsible for a large portfolio or few buildings, it's crucial for a property manager to keep facilities looking their best and ensure mechanical systems are in good working order.
If you don't, you risk losing tenants or worse, a nasty lawsuit.
Although simple paper-based record systems that use spreadsheets to track maintenance schedules and equipment history may have worked in the past, they're cumbersome, inefficient and subject to human error. That's where an automated Computer Maintenance Management System (CMMS) can help.
"In the last five years, there's been a real movement toward automated preventative maintenance programs," says Fred Colford, director, BOMA, Ottawa. "The big reason is, the equipment we're maintaining is really expensive and the cost to repair or replace it is just phenomenal… Proper preventative maintenance can help extend the useful economic life of that asset."
"The implementation of a CMMS provides a lot of good tools and information that a manager can use to make decisions and make changes in how they operate their facility," says Michel Theriault, principal of Strategic Advisor, a facility, property and asset management consulting firm located in Ontario. Whether simple or sophisticated, a CMMS can help you "reduce your cost, be more efficient and reduce the risk to both the occupants of the building and the physical asset, which is inherent in operating and maintaining a building."
The most common use of a CMMS is to submit, schedule and manage work orders while collecting data and generating financial reports about buildings and equipment. This helps property manager plan their budgets and track historical expenditures.
A CMMS can also help document your legislatively required activities, so in the event of an audit or legal action, you now have proof that you did what the law required you to do.
"The power of the CMMS is its simplicity of use and the ease of getting the reports out that will allow you to make better management decisions," says Roger Davies, founder of maintenance management specialist firm Da-trol Group Inc.
Although technology constraints and budget are important factors when evaluating a CMMS, it's critical to consider your business requirements first before looking at any specific software program. What information do you need to run your business?
"We use the phrase 'business pain,'" says Davies. "The need to print work orders isn't business pain. Business pain is the last thing management worries about at night and the first thing they worry about in the morning. Some examples of business pain are market share, maximizing tenant occupancy, safety or environmental issues and lawsuits. Once you understand that, now you need to find a CMMS that has the functionality that can help remove or alleviate that business pain."
"There are many programs out there; they all have their pros and cons," says Colford. "The fact that you actually embark on one is a good thing. Regardless of how in-depth it is, at least it has raised your awareness, and then you can move on from there."