The Facility Technologist: Become A "Super FM" With CMMS

Facility managers can unleash previously undiscovered powers by making the most of their maintenance management software.
Facility managers can unleash previously undiscovered powers by making the most of their maintenance management software.

The Facility Technologist: Become A “Super FM” With CMMS

The Facility Technologist: Become A "Super FM" With CMMS

By Tom Condon, RPA, FMA
Published in the July 2006 issue of
Today’s Facility Manager

Being a facility manager (FM) requires you to be a superhero of sorts, saving the facility and its occupants from all manner of evils. It’s a tough job, and FMs need all the help they can get. So you may be surprised to learn there is a tool available that can let you fly high in the fight to defend your facility. That secret weapon (believe it or not) is your computerized maintenance management software (CMMS). Yes, that’s right! The same old CMMS that chugs along, generating PMs, tracking emergency work orders, and spitting out reports can help you streamline operations, make strategic decisions, and even advance your career.

Use your “super CMMS vision” to see into the unseen depths of your data! A CMMS is an absolute goldmine of information just waiting to help—but only if you analyze the data inside it. Through analysis, you can find trends or unusual occurrences that can help to pinpoint problems.

One FM I know manages a large research complex comprised of dozens of buildings. She routinely runs reports comparing maintenance and repair costs with those of previous years. Recently, she noticed that door repair costs were significantly higher than the year before, so she started to analyze her CMMS data to find the cause. She determined that the majority of repairs involved replacement of the same part. After cross-checking the repair data with procurement data, it became apparent that the problems started after she began using a new supplier. While the cost per part was lower, the parts didn’t last as long, requiring more labor to replace. The new part was saving a little on price, but costing the facility almost 300 times the amount saved to keep repairing that cheaper part.

These are the kinds of things that can be discovered if you take the time to analyze your data. In the example above, no single person could see the problem, because the repairs were spread out over many different maintenance technicians and buildings. But all that information came to a single point, the FM, and she saved her organization nearly $30,000 with only a few hours work.

The best CMMS on the market today has excellent reporting capabilities. However, if you have a less powerful CMMS with limited reporting capabilities, you may be able to use an external reporting tool. Crystal Reports is one of the best. It can look at the data inside your CMMS (and other programs as well) and allow you to create almost limitless reports. It can even combine and cross-check data between different systems. If you have the time to invest in learning Crystal Reports, it will open up a whole new world of data analysis.

Is there kryptonite in your inventory? Inventory can be a real headache to carry and track. It can also be a liability that can cost you money and damage your reputation.

Effective inventory management can have a big impact on the efficiency of your operation; just think of how many hours you wasted the last time the maintenance crew ran out of a critical item, and you had to scramble to find it.

Most quality CMMS have excellent inventory management functionalities that will reorder automatically and help you forecast what you will need. This is also a great help in budgeting, allowing you to know almost to the penny how much inventory will cost in the next year.

CMMS also provides a way to find out who is wasting inventory and who is not. One FM I know discovered that an employee was stealing from the company just by examining the patterns of inventory usage; he found that battery usage dropped 40% every time a certain employee was not working. A hidden camera confirmed what the data hinted, and the culprit was cornered.

You cannot afford to use the old method of securing inventory in a room and keeping the key. You need to track exactly who is using what, when, and where.

See the future! Step right up, folks, and see the amazing forecasting FM! You can forecast a wide variety of future events if you use your CMMS properly. First, maintenance history will tell when your equipment is going to break down. If you study the CMMS history, you will see trends emerging, and if you look at equipment history in the context of the facility’s overall history, you will find patterns that can help you predict future events.

Consider this example: one FM noticed an unusual pattern of escalator problems in her CMMS data. There were major breakdowns every year around the same time, give or take a month. After poring over the maintenance logs, PM histories, and other information, she couldn’t find the cause. But when she set those down next to the event calendar for those years, something became clear. Every year, the facility hosts a horticultural show, and the FM found that plant soil was getting into the tracks in the escalators, causing the rollers to jam. By providing extra custodial staff and more walk off mats, the FM prevented the problem from occurring the next year.

Other possible predictions relate to long-term capital planning. By simply recording the installation date of equipment and knowing the expected lifespan, you can predict fairly accurately when the equipment will need to be replaced. Also, by analyzing the repair costs for the equipment, you will be able to see the rising costs that signal the end of life for that equipment. This can be a huge advantage when budgeting; how many times have you been surprised in the middle of a budget year by a major equipment failure that you didn’t expect? And the backup data from the CMMS can be used to convince accountants that your request for capital expenditure is necessary.

Grow eyes in the back of your head! Your CMMS can tell you who is working hard, and who is hardly working. By comparing similar work orders, you can see where maintenance technicians vary in the amount of time they require to perform similar tasks.

One FM told me he had found that one maintenance crew had performed 28% fewer work orders than the other crews in the facility. They all had approximately the same responsibilities, but the night shift was just a little less productive. A few trips down to the facility in the wee hours confirmed that the night shift crew was more interested in napping than fixing. Since then, the FM has begun posting reports in the lunchroom that show the number of work orders completed by each crew. Not only did the night shift crew start doing more work, overall maintenance productivity went up because a friendly competition started up between the crews!

Just make sure that you’re really comparing apples to apples. There are numerous factors that affect the time it takes to do maintenance work. Also, older equipment is often more labor intensive, and the difficulty of maintenance can vary greatly from one manufacturer to another.

So the secret to becoming a Super FM was there all along! Your CMMS can be a great addition to your superhero tool belt, proving to be extremely valuable in your fight against the challenges that threaten your facility every day.

Condon, a Facility Technologist and former facility manager, is a contributing author for BOMI Institute’s revised Technologies in Facility Managementtextbook. He works for System Development Integration, a Chicago,IL-based firm committed to improving the performance, quality, andreliability of client business through technology.


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