Is This Software Right for My Facility?

Choosing the best facility maintenance system can be a daunting task. At the bare minimum, your system should allow you to perform all of the equipment maintenance tasks and functions you can think of - but that’s just the starting point.

A high-quality facility maintenance system should be easy to learn and use, with clean, clear graphics and an intuitive approach that makes extensive training sessions and manuals unnecessary. It should offer unsurpassed flexibility for asset modeling. While streamlined at the user end, it should offer the technological sophistication to handle the requirements of any facility.

The facility maintenance system of your choice should work right out of the box while still allowing you easily to reconfigure the system. You should be able to shape the software to meet the specific needs of any facility without sacrificing future upgradeability. It should also integrate with your industry-specific systems as well as with corporate accounting and management systems.

Key questions that facility managers should ask during the selection process include the following.

- How easy is this system to use?

- What are the asset modeling capabilities that this system provides?

- How easy is it to reconfigure the system?

- What about my industry-specific systems?

- Is this software scaleable?

How easy is it to use this system? When you open the facility maintenance system, it should be ready to go. If a few changes are necessary, you should be able to make them yourself. The interface of your facility maintenance system should be clean - easy on the eyes, not overly detailed, but with all of the information and fields you need right in front of you. It should also be intuitive, which simply means it’s organized the way people think so that information appears and procedures are ordered in a natural, logical way.

A high-quality facility maintenance system should be simple to learn. In fact, you probably should be able to leave the manual right in the box (though then you might miss out on some of the software’s unique, finer points). Folks who have never used a computer will find that this type of facility maintenance system is simple to pick up, but also fun. Time and again, companies have found that giving workers access to a good facility maintenance system means they’re soon giving feedback and making suggestions for improvements. That lets you take advantage of another important resource, your skilled technicians.

What are the asset modeling capabilities that this system provides? Increasingly, facilities of all types are being asked to manage complex asset chains. Of course, the assets may be equipment, or they may range from roads, dorm rooms and furniture to tenants’ space or a fine arts collection. Yet all facilities, regardless of the type of assets involved, share one thing in common: the need for a facility maintenance system that offers complex asset modeling and total facilities management.

A superior facility maintenance system allows you to view assets by functional need, filtering out unrelated assets. For instance, a space manager can view just fixtures, equipment or tenants in his or her space; an electrical foreperson can view space, equipment, transformers or anything else connected to the electrical system.

In addition, your system of choice should include capabilities that track assets anywhere in the system, even when they move or are reassigned. Hot links to electronic documents should make all data related to a specific asset - floor plans, repair histories, manuals, contracts available instantaneously. In addition, redlining capabilities ensure those documents can include latest "as found," "as left" and other personal observations.

How easy is it to reconfigure the system? No two facilities are exactly alike. Many have unique or unusual requirements. You should choose a facility maintenance system that is designed to be reconfigured - by you. You’re the one who knows what you need and how you want your system to work. The reconfiguration process must be easy for you to handle on your own. There should be no need to bring in outsiders, no need to wait for IT resources to become available.

It doesn’t matter whether you are managing a dormitory, a library or a grounds crew. Your facility maintenance system should have the flexibility to accommodate your specific needs, from instrument calibration to space allocation. One of the most important qualities is that your system should be "future-ready." Upgrades should pose no problems. Your tailored screens, terms, procedures and database definitions should all be preserved without additional reconfiguration.

What about my industry-specific systems? You probably have one or more industry-specific systems on which you rely. Your facility maintenance system should offer modules that can easily be adapted to serve your property management system, lab information management system or space management system requirements.

It should support all of the industry standards required to interface with today’s office systems. For example, you should be able to trust your Excel budget report to query your facility maintenance system for the latest maintenance figures or rest assured that your space availability reflects the current status of different areas under renovation.

Is this software scaleable? It is important to find a company that is committed to facilities. Your facility maintenance provider can demonstrate this commitment through scaleability. Leading facility maintenance systems should use the same code base for all variations of the system, regardless of their size. Enhancements developed for the world’s largest and most sophisticated maintenance organizations should be available to all users.

Rapid growth, mergers and acquisitions can turn small departments into huge ones - or transform divisions of organizations into freestanding units - overnight. Scaleability allows you to add or subtract without sacrificing functionality, without changing systems.

The best software vendors for this undertaking understand that facility management is a sophisticated business and provide tools, services and technology to meet the varying and ever-changing needs of your physical plant.

Tara Blom is product marketing specialist for PSDI’s Enterprise Asset Maintenance Division, headquartered in Bedford, Mass.

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