Technology grows at an exponential pace, and it can be difficult to keep up. But how do you choose where to invest your technology dollars? In this economy, you have to be careful with every step.
"Many facility managers are dealing with reduced budgets and have multiple pressing priorities, " says Thomas Vogt, the head of North American relations at Hardcat, Inc., a provider of asset management software and services." [They] have a fiduciary responsibility to manage their facilities in a cost effective manner. "
When you have fewer employees and a smaller budget, the latest technology trends can help you streamline costs over the long term and run your facility more efficiently with fewer resources.
Greg Lush, CIO of The Linc Group, an integrated facilities maintenance company that provides outsourced technical services, says that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) software is the "brand new emerging trend on assets"and can increase productivity by 10 percent. In the form of tags, RFID sensors track and manage objects electronically by recording information and sending it to a computer. They can be used to notify a facility manager of the shipment and delivery status of certain equipment parts, which allows workers to find the equipment more easily. This reduces search time and ensures the right material is installed during construction or maintenance repair. Lush says the efficiency of RFID technology lowers costs and also provides clarity of technical assets because it tracks why and when they were worked on.
A more advanced RFID tag called a mote has complex sensors that record such conditions as temperature, humidity and flow rate, and broadcast the data to a remote source. Chris Keller, current member and past president of the International Facility Management Association's (IFMA) Information Technology Council and managing director for Facilities Solutions Group, a provider of FM services, process improvement and FM automation, says that motes are great communication devices because they deliver specific information quickly. For example, putting a mote inside concrete will alert you to when the concrete has cured, so you know exactly when you can build on it. Keller says motes are especially useful for perishable items, since they can tell you how an item is being taken care of during delivery so you'll know whether to accept it.
During construction, a BIM can draw up blueprints in a virtual 3D model and help a facility manager, engineer and architect with logical sequencing issues, or it can build a model of a building in use. Keller says a BIM can also link to an electronic maintenance schedule so that a facility manager can see when something needs to be replaced. This reduces energy costs in situations such as when a motor becomes less efficient and starts consuming more energy to operate at the same pace. A BIM's data would tell the facility manager when the motor is reaching the end of its useful life so that it can be replaced before it breaks and causes any damage.
Keller also points out that a BIM can save on energy because it monitors how a facility is being utilized. It would allow the facility manager to see when the peak time of energy usage is (usually in the afternoons). And because costs usually double when you reach a certain point of usage, Keller said it would be beneficial for the facility manager to stagger when people take breaks or lunch to prevent energy from spiking and increasing costs.
Linc Group's use of a portal-based server has helped productivity and lowered communication costs by having a common place to house information, according to Lush. Providing a great deal of visibility for the business and the customers, Linc Group uses the server to keep track of proposals, post images and manage quotes, among other things. "It's all about creating the environment that allows the facility manager to connect with the company or customer collaboratively, " says Lush.
Vogt says that asset management software can help facility managers proactively manage equipment with precision. With Hardcat's software package, facility managers can secure and access information such as floor plans or asset details (make, model, serial number, etc.) remotely from multiple locations either through Internet or a shared server. Vogt says the automated system reduces time-consuming and some times error-prone work of filling out work orders, purchase orders and spreadsheets. The online asset inventory is also useful in disaster situations, such as a fire or flood, where a facility can be severely damaged. The facility manager can easily evaluate which equipment was damaged and replace it.
Lush recommends taking the time to evaluate if your company is utilizing all its available tools, and to ask yourself why your company performs procedures a certain way. He says the quick answer "It's the way we've always done it" can hurt your company.
The latest technology has a lot to offer when you decide to innovate. "When you automate something, it will allow you to be more efficient in a scenario where you're being demanded the same amount of service with less staff and less money, " says Keller.