By John Bodrozic
Published in the July 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Facility managers have difficult jobs; they have to maintain numerous facilities—many of which were built 10 to 20 years ago—with little to no information about the original design and construction of the facility. When these facilities were originally constructed, virtually none of the information (such as as-built drawings, equipment specifications, and warranty information) was maintained for the facility management team of today. This lack of information creates a financial burden for facility managers and their organizations not only due to increased facility maintenance costs but also because of the money spent on attempts to re-create missing information.
Is it possible for facility managers to correct this problem for projects under construction now but will need to be maintained 20 years down the road? One solution is to get more involved early in the design and construction process. Another answer is to implement software systems that can be used to plan, build, maintain, and operating new buildings.
Large organizations with extensive portfolios of facilities tend to have one department responsible for real estate and construction; yet they may have completely different organizational structure for maintenance and operations. As a result, each department selects specific software based on its own organizational need. Construction and renovation projects are managed with one set of applications, while asset and maintenance management for those completed spaces are handled with entirely different software. As a result, the same information sits in disconnected silos.
The added financial burden created by the lack of shared software and data has been studied by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST, www.nist.gov). In this study, NIST focused on the role of the owner/operator, the architect/engineer, the general contractor, and the specialty contractors within the facility life cycle, while breaking the life cycle into three main phases: plan, build, and operate.
The NIST study estimates that, in the U.S. alone, $15.8 billion per year is wasted. Yet, owners/operators shoulder the lion’s share of wasted costs in the maintenance phase, because information from the design and construction processes is not typically captured and passed to the organization’s facility maintenance professionals.
As representatives of the organization, facility managers must adopt a cohesive system to track and manage information (like as-built drawings, equipment information, and material specifications) during the construction of a new facility. Equally important, planners and construction managers must access and reference stored maintenance and asset information from existing facilities in order to make better life cycle decisions for new projects. Ultimately, all business units should interact on a common software platform.
Facility management units have been looking for ways to be more strategic within an organization. They must change the “necessary evil” perception of their departments to reflect the fact that they manage one of the organization’s largest monetary items on corporate financial reports. A key way to accomplish this goal is to join forces with the real estate and construction organization in order to act as one strategic entity that manages the entire life cycle of the organization’s physical brick-and-mortar projects and facilities.
As strategic goals are set to transform, grow, and maintain various lines of business, the real estate, construction, and facilities groups must come together to align their goals with the organization’s mission. This can be accomplished by eliminating multiple individual software solutions and thinking about facilities as a total life cycle process.
Efforts are being made to bring together the diverse needs of facility and construction managers—thereby, eliminating many of the financial inefficiencies caused by data lost in the transition of recently completed projects to the existing facilities management portfolio. Fortunately, there is a new class of enterprise solutions that addresses the life cycle process of capital projects and facilities management.
A key requirement for these kinds of life cycle solutions is a technical foundation that fully uses the power of the Internet. Organizations have geographically dispersed facilities and projects. This means local personnel, such as facility managers, need access both to facility and project information for their local facilities. Yet at the same time, the organization needs to store all facility and project information in one location so key performance metrics can be analyzed across the entire portfolio of facilities and projects.
Internet software technologies like XML and Web services also play an important role in integration and collaboration. Facility and project information must integrate with an organization’s financial systems, and many third party contractors, like outsourced facility management providers, need to be included in the collaboration process with secure access to subsets of information over the Internet. These life cycle oriented enterprise solutions also allow organizations to automate and enforce company best practices through workflow and distribution engines.
In a recent report, industry analyst Gartner stated, “…through 2009, 60% of global customers with real estate portfolios greater than two million square feet will demand integrated workplace management systems over best of breed point solutions.” In addition, a recent Aberdeen Group research study reported, “Infrastructure life cycle management allows owners…of properties to achieve optimal value for the capital invested, increase top-line revenue, and encourage re-use of key knowledge and best practices.”
Overall, the gap between managing existing facilities and building new ones is narrowing as organizations begin to gain efficiencies from life cycle approaches to the brick-and-mortar portfolio of facilities.
Bodrozic is president and co-founder of Folsom, CA-based Meridian Systems.