Special Issue: Harnessing The Power Of Data

Data-driven facilities are embracing AI and other technologies to set up for future success.

Solving The Facility Industry’s Oldest & Toughest Problem: Collecting & Managing Data Throughout A Building’s Entire Lifecycle

Critical building information should live with buildings—and today’s technology is making that possible.

By Derek Blackmore and Josh Lowe

 

There’s so much critical data that’s generated during a building’s life. If you look here, you’ll see an illustration of the facility lifecycle. From construction handover, to operations, to asset management, to long-term capital planning, to preparing for a new building, there’s a veritable ocean of data points flowing through your facility’s life stages.

Collecting and managing that data is at the heart of good facilities management. “Simply put, building lifecycle data management is what successful FM looks like,” says Nic Guedenet, Vice President of Operations at HBM Facilities & Operations Management. “It’s managing what you know you have and where it stands in its lifecycle.”

“Without it, we’re just trying to keep the boat from sinking,” he continues. “How do you make an effective PM schedule without an asset inventory? Can you properly budget and assess risk without identifying mission impact or operations criticality? Can you plan for a new building without understanding your current infrastructure? These are the foundational pieces for effectively managing facilities.”

But many building operators are unable to get that lifecycle data, keep it, and use it. Why? Because the deck is stacked against you.

  • Data loss within and between stages – data doesn’t flow easily from construction, to operations, to new building design.
  • Multiple tools and siloed data – some data lives in file cabinets, more lives in various spreadsheets, some even stays on personal computers.
  • Facilities data managed too broadly – data is tracked at the building, floor, or system level, not at the asset level.
  • No single source of truth – different departments using different systems may not agree on the building’s exact square footage or which cost centers are responsible for what rooms.
  • No central repository for all operations data – work orders use a specific software, warranties stay in a drawer, budgets are drawn up on a spreadsheet, and inspection results are who knows where.
  • Static FCAs at irregular intervals – asset conditions are only closely observed every few years instead of continuously.

How in the world is a facilities manager supposed to overcome all of that?

The answer is technology. But not just any old tech—software that’s purposefully designed for facility and lifecycle data management. Software like AkitaBox.

What does lifecycle data management technology look like?

A Central Asset Database

A centralized asset database is where all the data needed for operations can live and be constantly updated. It contains your asset inventory, work orders, preventive maintenance tasks, inspection and assessment results, O&M manuals, warranty information, and more.

Every stakeholder—from the owner, to the CFO, to the facilities manager, to the maintenance technician, to your AEC partners—can access it, find the information they need, and add to it.

“So much historical data is lost when it lives on someone’s desktop and that someone leaves, because it won’t make much sense to anyone else,” says Matthew Kautzky, Director of Real Estate & Property Operations at Goodwill of South Central Wisconsin. “But when data lives in a database management software that anyone can access, it becomes much more powerful.”

Guedenet agrees. “With AkitaBox, we can finally put all of our facilities data (close-out binders, manuals, warranties, etc.) in one central database. I always hated going from the file cabinet, to the shared drive, to the work order system to get information. It’s great having a system that can store everything in an organized and meaningful manner.”

A Single-Tool Facilities Management Platform

When all of your FM activities stay within a single system, you stop losing valuable data that falls through the cracks when moving back and forth between multiple platforms during various stages of the building’s lifecycle.

AkitaBox does assessments, audits, inspections, work orders, preventive maintenance, asset management, and capital planning in one tool leveraging a single asset database. The AkitaBox Capture mobile app helps you collect data more easily and accurately.

And via AkitaBox Connect, you can bring construction project documents over to the maintenance team in a format that’s ready to use on day one of operations. From construction, to operations, to your next building project, your data is covered when you use a purpose-built lifecycle data management system.

A Digital Twin

Don’t let the term “digital twin” trick you into picturing complex 3-D holograms. At its core, a digital twin is a single source of truth that shows everyone which assets you have, where they’re located, and an accurate square footage measurement.

And that’s exactly what AkitaBox does. With its location-based asset mapping feature, you can build a simple digital twin that shows your assets’ locations on an accurate floor plan.

“We have a diverse geographic network with diverse standards across each location as a result of multiple leadership changes over time,” Kautzky explains. “It’s a hodgepodge that’s as clear as mud. With AkitaBox, we can put all of our asset information in one place, show our assets on a floor plan, and keep track of everything.”

AkitaBox, Data-driven Facilities
(Images: Adobe Stock)

 

Asset-Level Data

Collecting and organizing data at the asset level gives you incredible transparency into what’s going on in every corner of your facility.

Too broad of an approach to data management means plenty of valuable information isn’t captured. For example, your tech fixed the hot-cold issue on the third floor, but there’s no way to know what assets were actually touched during the repair. You don’t know if it was the air handler unit or a vent that was the root cause of the issue.

In AkitaBox, you can associate manufacturer info, warranties, work orders, condition notes, and anything else you want to track to an individual asset or asset group.

Another benefit of asset-level data management is a clearer understanding of asset relationships. AkitaBox lets you define the upstream and downstream relationships between assets. If a pipe bursts, techs don’t have to spend vital time trying to determine where the shutoff valve is.

Ongoing Data Collection

One of the biggest misconceptions in facilities management is that data collection is a one-time, transactional event. It’s not. Data collection needs to be ongoing throughout the building lifecycle if you want the data quantity and quality necessary for good decision making.

AkitaBox’s AI-powered data collection tool makes gathering data fast and easy, yet highly accurate. For example, it can “read” the information on manufacturer labels and automatically enter the information into the correct data fields. And that’s only the beginning.

Read This Is What The Future Of Data Collection Looks Like to learn more about it and see how it works.

Easy For Everyone To Understand

If your facilities data is overly complex or hard to figure out, people will struggle to make sense of it.

“The main challenge in organizing data is ensuring it is ‘first-grade simple,’” says Guedenet. “Regardless of a stakeholder’s position’s relevance to the data, all stakeholders should be able to walk away with the same understanding. That’s not to say that stakeholders lack the cognitive ability to understand complex data, but rather that the data should be presented in a way that is easy to comprehend.”

It’s one of the reasons why Guedenet’s team uses AkitaBox. “It’s simple to use and understand. Our techs down to our board members all understand the data we present from the system.”

Controlled Access

Your facilities data is one of your most valuable resources. The last thing you want is someone accidentally deleting some of it or seeing data they maybe shouldn’t. A good lifecycle data management system allows you to control access to your data so that only the right people have access to the data they actually need at the right time.

Ready To Get Started?

The naysayers said creating one system for managing all the data in a building’s lifecycle couldn’t be done. We said, “bring it on.”

We built the tool. Now all you have to do is start using it.

Blackmore is the President of AkitaBox. His passion is building scalable solutions to the industry’s longest standing challenges in ways that benefit all stakeholders in the facility lifecycle by creating and leveraging data to ensure the facility is aligned to the mission of its organization.

Lowe is the Co-Founder & Chief Solutions Engineer at AkitaBox. He is passionate about helping AEC firms, building owners, and facility management professionals make data-driven decisions for operational efficiency and success.

Next: View the Facility Lifecycle Illustration


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