Technologies for Effective Facility Management

Eric Teicholz

Graphic Systems

As private sector organizations increasingly downsize, outsource, and insource, technology has played an ever greater part in the process. One of the issues that facility managers face is the integration of facilities management technology with other organizational systems, such as human resource and financial data. Additionally, to employ technology effectively, the processes that relate to the technology must also be changed.

It has been estimated that more than half of the computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) systems that are deployed end up as "shelfware"—that is, the software ends up unused on someone's shelf. These packages can cost more than $10,000, and acquiring and updating the data for them generally costs several times as much. The technology has a steep learning curve, and it requires continuous investments of time and resources to keep up with both organizational and technological change.

Today, I would like to address three related topics:

  • Facilities management technology drivers in the private and public sectors;
  • The state of the technology today (including the growing importance of the Internet and organizations' own "intranets") for facility management;
  • Some case studies.

I will focus on four technologies that appear more mature and potentially important: space and asset management, strategic space



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--> Technologies for Effective Facility Management Eric Teicholz Graphic Systems As private sector organizations increasingly downsize, outsource, and insource, technology has played an ever greater part in the process. One of the issues that facility managers face is the integration of facilities management technology with other organizational systems, such as human resource and financial data. Additionally, to employ technology effectively, the processes that relate to the technology must also be changed. It has been estimated that more than half of the computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) systems that are deployed end up as "shelfware"—that is, the software ends up unused on someone's shelf. These packages can cost more than $10,000, and acquiring and updating the data for them generally costs several times as much. The technology has a steep learning curve, and it requires continuous investments of time and resources to keep up with both organizational and technological change. Today, I would like to address three related topics: Facilities management technology drivers in the private and public sectors; The state of the technology today (including the growing importance of the Internet and organizations' own "intranets") for facility management; Some case studies. I will focus on four technologies that appear more mature and potentially important: space and asset management, strategic space

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--> planning, facilities/conditions assessment, and infrastructure and support technologies. For each, I will try to describe the corresponding manual process, as well as how technology affects this process procedurally. Organizational and Technological Drivers of Change Advancing technology, together with organizational change, is opening opportunities for information technology in facility management. In automating facility management, organizations often look for technology partners. The organizations often lack technical expertise in house, leading to outsourcing or facility management groups becoming cost centers in their own right and charging services back to business units. In outsourcing facility functions' facility management staffs need greater project management and contract management skills. All these newer organizational models result in more intensive use of information technology. It is nearly impossible to charge for services without having some form of technology to collect and manage a variety of information about the facility. Other trends are also driving organizations to use more information technology. Quality assurance (using quantitative metrics of performance) is one such force. Increasing regulation also demands technology, because of the growing amount of reporting required. Finally, the declining costs of computer processors and memory are making CAFM technology more attractive. As Gordon Moore of Intel observed 30 years ago, the number of circuits that can be put on a chip doubles roughly every 18 months. So every 18 months, the same amount of processing power can be bought for half the price, or twice the power can be bought for the same price. With adequate investments in quality control, training, and data creation and maintenance, the use of technology permits very significant savings. It is not uncommon for mature CAFM users to realize high operational savings—up to 5 percent of the facility budget. These savings occur when data are created early in the process and reused as often as possible. For example, if an organization creates a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing for space planning and management purposes, the reuse of this graphic data base for other applications (asset tracking, risk management, telecommunications, etc.) becomes highly cost-effective.

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--> Information on the World Wide Web The World Wide Web is a increasingly important source of information for business units, and facility managers are no exception. There are literally hundreds of Web sites by companies offering information on facility management automation products and services. Additional online forums allows facility managers to ''chat'' with each other about all aspects of automation. My company, Graphic Systems, has a list of some of these sites for those interested (http://www.graphsys.com). The Internet is important not only as a source of information but as a vehicle for sharing information within an organization. Various internal Web sites (intranets) are being developed for e-mail, file transfer, chat capabilities, shared file (whiteboard) applications, and a host of other uses related to sharing information and communicating with internal and external clients. Computer-Aided Facility Management Technology The term "computer-aided facility management" (CAFM) is used, loosely, to cover practically every kind of information system for real estate or facility management. The fundamental purpose of CAFM systems is to join graphic CAD systems with database technology, to create application modules for facility managers. Primary applications concern space and asset management, chargebacks of space and assets to business units, lease tracking, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), room scheduling and so forth. The CAFM vendors provide the integration tools and the data management tools such that there is no data duplication among applications. Additional tools permit facility data to be linked to other organizational databases, such as human resource data (for occupancy data) and corporate IS databases for financial and accounting applications. Of the applications mentioned above, CMMS software is perhaps the most mature and most significant to facility managers. Software to process requests for maintenance, generate work orders, schedule staff, perform emergency, scheduled and deferred maintenance, order inventory, perform preventive maintenance, link work orders to accounting and budget

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--> information, bar code equipment, and so forth has been around for 20 years and is the "meat and potatoes" of many facility management organizations. However, there are other applications that link facility management data to other corporate databases (such as financial and human resource data, as mentioned earlier) that offer new opportunities for uses with implications far beyond the facilities management department alone. Space and Asset Management. Space and asset management software concerns the automated tracking of space and assets, such as people, furniture, and fixtures. The sizes and scales of the databases depend on which items are tracked (e.g., furniture versus business unit outlines) and determine the costs of creating and maintaining the database. Doing this task manually requires going out in the field to determine and record the locations of items, the floor space per person, and the like, for a particular purpose at a particular time. The automated process takes advantage of the fact that much of the data about a facility is used by more than one function. It may already exist in a database for a different application; in any case, it should be shared by different applications to the extent possible. Again, automated CAFM systems link the graphical representation of the facility to the nongraphic databases used by various applications. As Figure 1 suggests, a "real property database" is developed and maintained for use by different groups, for different purposes. Once the trouble and expense have been invested in creating those data, it becomes cost-effective to use those data for other applications, such as lease management, utility cost tracking, and so forth. Occupancy and CAD data can be used to track moves of people and associated assets. One vendor, for example, offers a packing crate icon on its graphic representation of an office space. To record a move, one simply clicks on the assets that are to be moved with the person, and assigns them to a new business unit. Because the database contains information on the location of the business units, the packing crate icon appears at the new location, ready to be "unpacked" with a click of the mouse. Automatically, all of the necessary information is updated with the new locational/organizational information. The benefits of the automated approach are fairly obvious. Creating a corporate record of each move allows the analysis of trends of various kinds, including "churn" rates and costs associated with moves.

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--> Figure 1. Common Types of Information in a Real Property Database

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--> Space Planning as a Strategic Tool. Space planning involves forecasting space requirements in terms of layout and support requirements. In industries that introduce new product lines frequently, space planning is difficult but crucial. Many high-technology manufacturing industries have strategic planning horizons as short as 18 months. For example, a high-technology hardware manufacturer we worked for had to be able to fabricate a totally new product line every 18 months, and to revise that line a dozen times within that period. Until recently, the company owned almost no space, leasing instead, since the company operates worldwide, with research and development groups in Ireland, China, Russia, and elsewhere. This company ended up outsourcing all design, space planning, and operations to a consortium of companies operating worldwide. The outsourcing space planning company had to use space planning forecasting tools and maintain occupancy and space databases on a worldwide basis. Individuals from the outsourcing company staffed the project with people located inside the manufacturing company. Automated software today can use a variety of methods for forecasting anticipated space requirements (e.g., by headcount or by area), automatically place functions using adjacency analysis, and link to other systems such as human resource and master planning technologies and databases. Stacking and blocking plans, produced from such software, link CAD to the process as well. Such "What if?" design scenarios have proved a powerful tool for space planning. The U.S. Department of the Interior, in its recent modernization, used computerized stacking and blocking diagrams to forecast the changing space needs in consolidating different units. The computer generated best fit solutions under various assumptions (Figure 2). The department fed the results to a CAD system to generate the floor plans. The result was minimal disruption by moves. The decisions were fully and automatically documented. The benefits, beyond more accurate and flexible forecasting, include the marketing benefits of transparency and objectivity. Employees more willingly accept solutions that are based on quantitative analysis, in which they can compare alternatives.

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--> Typical Floor Blocking Diagram Locates Bureaus and Offices generally within the building Final Space Plan                 Locates personnel and furniture specifically within the building Figure 2. Modernization of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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--> Facilities/Conditions Assessment. Facilities/conditions assessment is a relatively new area of software/database technology. It has to do with documenting either the real property valuations of buildings or the conditions of deficiencies associated with a facility. The assessments are done for real estate investors, insurance companies, and facility managers. Among other things, organizations are trying to assess the extent of the deferred maintenance backlog resulting from the real estate recession of the 1990s, which is measured in billions of dollars. These assessments require expertise on the part of the person doing the assessment. A structural assessment, for example, requires a structural engineer, not just someone who knows how to use the technology. Done manually, the task is very labor-intensive. The relevant experts go through a building looking for deficiencies and estimating the costs of repairs. They issue a report on the building's condition, including statements of any liabilities or risks or of the valuation, depending on the assessment's purpose. Automation of this process requires professionals to visit the buildings with laptop computers to record deficiencies and priorities associated with the deficiencies. Databases of repair costs and CAD drawings for recording locational information enable a variety of reports to be generated that aid both facility and corporate managers in making intelligent decisions regarding risk assessment and investment in the building. Figure 3 shows such an assessment for a 400,000-square-foot teaching hospital in Boston, in two or three different buildings. The assessment included life and safety issues, large deferred maintenance issues, large compliance issues, and issues of interest to the accreditation group and other regulatory agencies (e.g. for the Americans with Disabilities Act). Deficiencies were measured in such categories as hazardous materials, maintenance, life and safety issues, energy, and building integrity. It is possible to analyze the data in many different ways. In this case, on the basis of the deficiency information, a renewal forecast was generated. A model was used to take account of the special characteristics of a teaching and research hospital. For example, building foundations account for 6.35 percent of the original cost, have a life span of 100 years, and a renewal cost at the end of that time of 5 percent; while roofing is 4.33 percent of the original cost, has a 20-year life span, and a renewal cost of 100 percent.

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--> Figure 3. Example of a Facilities Assessment Report

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--> From this information the optimal investment in maintenance can be calculated for different assumed levels of funding over time. One can calculate, for example, the net cost of required replacement or repair resulting from the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such geographically and financially precise information can be the basis of a bond issue or other funding mechanism (including improved recovery of indirect facility costs for institutions receiving federal grants). It can be used to document submissions to regulatory agencies and accreditation bodies. The growing power of this technology makes it important not only to the facilities manager, but at the highest level of strategic planning within the organization. Infrastructure Support and Project Communications. Infrastructure support and project communications are processes associated with enabling technology. They might involve routing of documents, approval of documents, and other kinds of information flow. Manual techniques involve telephone calls, faxes, meetings, and memos. The automated techniques, which include "groupware," affect both design and project management. Groupware products such as Lotus Notes handle forms processing, automatic routing, revision and document control, data integration of different systems, database access, and a variety of issues associated with quality control. Groupware often has the ability to employ technologies such as the Internet for electronic mail and network management, multimedia (for images), technical document management, data warehousing, client-server environments, and videoconferencing. Groupware was more or less invented by the Lotus Development Corporation, which was recently bought by IBM. The product Lotus Notes represents the state of the art of such products. Notes can handle electronic mail, word processing, graphics, sound, scanned images, video, and spreadsheets. Thus, all participants in a project can have access to documents and databases, no matter where they are. Lotus constructed a building of more than 100,000 square feet. It gave the Lotus Notes system to the developer-contractor, the architect, and the interior design firm. They used it in a limited way, for all of the forms processing and automatic routing of information. The primary result of using groupware on the design project related to project management. During the course of the project, project management meetings almost disappeared, because all parties could review the documents on-line. The

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--> project changed dramatically, because feedback was nearly instantaneous, and the various contractors were able to comment on each others' suggestions. For videoconferencing, the Intel Corporation has developed a system called ProShare, which involves the sharing of information (using a chatboard or shared whiteboard concept), as well as video and audio information. Using high-speed communication via an ISDN connection, the user can dynamically allocate this increased bandwidth to the data, video, or audio function. This promising technology should dramatically reduce the cost of real-time videoconferencing over the next few years. Conclusion The applications and case studies I have discussed may help clients and users better understand the process of automated facility management. Before attempting to implement any of these systems, it is necessary to study what the current, manual process is and to understand the best practices among one's peers. On that basis, realistic expectations can be established for the technology of automation. For a successful transition to automation, management must be involved at all levels. Careful strategic planning must assess the intended benefits and the expected organizational impacts of automation. The process itself must be examined and reengineered if necessary; simply automating the manual process will not yield the desired results.