By Bryan Christiansen
Owing to the often complicated and continuous nature of maintenance work, communication within the facilities maintenance department as a whole can be a source of concern for the manager.
It’s not odd to find facility management leaders managing a team of 20 or more technicians and being accountable for the successful completion of multiple jobs each day. If not properly managed, the amount of time spent on tasks like tracking job status and providing feedback will leave little time to attend to other issues, and with time, important tasks can become sidelined. Luckily, there are many options that can help in managing communication, one of which is the use of technological tools. Some of the most common of these tools are discussed below. To foster more transparent and faster communication, facility leaders can consider the following.
Cloud Storage and Retrieval Platforms
There are several cloud storage platforms that facility leaders can use. Their unique advantage is the ability to keep all information in one place. Whether it’s job status updates, equipment servicing history or new work orders, all a technician or other person seeking information has to do is to log in via internet access. Some of the most popular platforms to explore include:
Sharepoint (Microsoft). Sharepoint is just one example of intranet sites that allows groups of employees keep abreast of new developments and current happenings within one or more selected departments. Facility leaders can use it communicate quickly, set up micro websites for specific projects, and even take employee surveys to get suggestions.
IM Applications. Instant messaging apps are another valuable communication tool and can get people’s attention even faster than an email. They allow users to communicate via text, voice, images, and video. For example, using these platforms, managers can check which technicians are at work, who is available, ask questions, and get answers instantly.
Popular IM apps facility leaders could consider include Microsoft Office Communicator, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger among others.
Google Docs. Google Docs is a powerful real-time collaboration and document sharing/editing tool. You’ll rarely find a business that doesn’t use it. It allows multiple users edit documents at the same time and see what the other person is editing instantly. It’s a part of Google Drive’s office suite that includes Google Sheets and Google Slides. Users can create text documents, slide presentations, spreadsheets, drawings, and surveys. (Fast Company recently published a list of “incredibly useful” Google Docs capabilities.)
Dropbox. The Dropbox app runs in the background while you work and automatically keeps your files in sync and backed up securely online. Users can store and share documents, pictures, videos, and presentations.
Mobile, hand-held or wearable devices like smartphones, tablets, etc. are quickly evolving and now perform several functions from making common phone calls to running applications for maintenance work. By connecting to the internet or the company network, they are used to distribute information in seconds and are quickly replacing pen and paper due to the sheer convenience they offer.
No matter if you are using a mobile CMMS or any of the other mentioned apps, if your employees don’t have access to mobile devices, you might as well go back to pen and paper.
Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS)
Facility management enterprises and other physical asset management entities tend to opt for CMMS just for its work order and maintenance management properties. However, it is also a powerful and streamlined communication portal that can’t be ignored. By using CMMS, facility leaders can improve the following areas of their communication process.
Service Request Management. One of the surefire ways a facilities maintenance leader can waste an entire day is by continually answering questions, text messages, and emails from residents and other clients seeking service request updates and additional clarifications. But, by automating communication, clients can get access to enter their requests themselves and monitor work progress and timelines as technicians update it. Status updates and work order completion are automatically emailed to the requester.
Team members can also document service request history, filter and search for specific jobs, as well as view all open requests and work orders. These features also significantly reduce the possibility of duplicate requests.
Project Management. Every maintenance task, whether large or small, is a project in its own right. Managers in charge of projects have to stay on top of monitoring the resources (funds, workforce, and equipment) needed to complete each task. As expected, if not properly managed from inception, communication can become a mess. This is especially true when the project spans several locations, shifts and multiple skill-sets.
The standardized and centralized communication platform in the form of a modern CMMS could be your best option for preventing chaos and missed deadlines. Every team member can view work orders and job status, ask and give clarifications, add pictures and comment on work orders, and so on.
Maintenance Schedule Monitoring. Another advantage of CMMS in this context is that it allows authorized users to check upcoming preventive maintenance and has the ability to send notifications in advance. This way, facility leaders can promptly assign maintenance work (if not previously allocated), check inventory reorder points for spare parts, and start the pre-qualification process for vendors whenever necessary.
This means that technicians can easily plan their priorities, avoid jobs clashing, and make sure all they need is available before the due date.
These are just some of the benefits of a modern mobile CMMS solution. If you want to explore this in more detail, check this list of reasons to use computerized maintenance management system.
By using as many of the above tools as they can, facilities maintenance leaders are likely to see quantifiable improvements in the way communication flows within their department. They will keep their email inbox more manageable, increase productivity, and create an environment for happier clients and staff.
Christiansen is founder and CEO at Limble CMMS, a Lehi, UT-based provider of mobile first CMMS software. With its offering, the company strives to improve facilities maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.