Facility Managers Benefit From the Web

The World Wide Web has made life easier on numerous fronts. Every profession has benefited from the Internet, and that is certainly true concerning college and university facility managers. Web-enabled tools for design, maintenance and operational requirements allow personnel to capture more facility data and to translate that information into a myriad of reports to improve efficiency and resource allocation.


The Advantages

The experts interviewed for this article agree that Web-enabled facility management tools have important benefits. Years ago, the main alternative was to purchase software and to load it on the desktops of all users, something that is still done today. Extensive information technology resources are required under this scenario for the initial installation, as well as for ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Systems alone can be very expensive, which may be cost-prohibitive for smaller collages and universities.

Web-enabled tools offer customers important options, according to Karen Roller, director of Public Relations for MicroMain Corporation.“Clients have different preferences for using their facility management programs. Companies servicing this market provide options to meet demand, and Web-enabled tools certainly continue to gain in popularity.” Web-enabled tools are accessed via the Internet. Some users install and manage the software on-site, which is often a preference because of security concerns. The alternative is to use a hosted service, or Application Service Providers (ASP), where the software is installed and managed remotely by the provider. In this scenario, users store their data at a physically separate data center as well, and pay a monthly fee to access the system via the Internet.

A myriad of Web-enabled facility management tools are available. The following only begins to touch the surface when it comes to options.


Computerized Maintenance Management Systems

A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is a complete system that allows personnel to enter, track and report on extensive maintenance data. MicroMain’s CMMS program, MicroMain XM, has been on the market for a number of years. The company is scheduled to introduce XMi in the first quarter next year, a program that will be a Web-based version of its CMMS program.

Web-based modules are often used with a CMMS. With Web-based Key Performance Indicator tools, for example, KPIs are used to measure maintenance operations against expectations.

“Our Web-based xmKPI tracks KPIs and presents them visually in a dashboard format with graphs and tables,” says Roller.“This enables users to see at a glance where they stand regarding open work orders or the percentage of labor costs for a certain data range. xmKPI captures and displays current data related to work orders, equipment failures, inventory and common maintenance costs. It’s an easy-to-understand visual tool.”


Capital Planning and Asset Management Systems

Capital Planning and Asset Management Systems (CPMS) are another important resource. VFA, Inc., offers VFA.facility. The Web-based program allows users to make informed decisions regarding facility infrastructure condition, multiyear capital budgeting, capital project planning and functional adequacy based on information that has been collected through a building condition analysis.

“VFA.facility is a portfolio data management tool,” says Melanie Ziegler, the company’s vice president of Software Development. “Extensive data is captured regarding building location, square footage, whether it is leased or owned and the condition of its many systems.”

Ziegler says that facility personnel use the data to evaluate different scenarios regarding life cycles and costs. Known funding is applied to portfolio data to identify potential future capital planning needs.

“CMPS systems help clients do more with less in the face of shrinking budgets,” says Mike Crosson, director of Business Development for Education for VFA. “Web-enabled tools are easy to use and help to efficiently share information. This is becoming more and more critical when it comes to capital planning.”


Up on the Roof

Web-enabled programs are available for comprehensive planning and management and for individual building components. Digital Facilities Corporation’s (DFC) RoofPro 4.1 roofing asset management system helps roofing contractors, consultants, manufacturers and property managers to best manage their client’s roofing needs.

“There is a lot of roofing documentation to maintain and manage,” states Steven James, DFC’s president. “Having information readily available regarding a roof’s condition, warranty and inspection schedule helps ensure that assets are managed as efficiently as possible. We’ve heard people say they paid for roof repairs because they couldn’t determine or didn’t know that a roof was still under warranty.”

RoofPro 4.1 has an Explorer and Outlook-based Graphics User Interface (GUI), an extensive roof section summary page and a roof condition index.


Work Orders Made Easy

SchoolDude.com offers numerous programs for maintenance, utility and inventory management, strategic planning, communications and other facility management services. The company, which prefers to use the term Web-native, delivers its programs over the Internet to a client’s browser, which eliminates the need for extensive infrastructure on the client’s part.

“One of our most popular programs is Maintenance Direct,” says Lee Prevost, the company’s president and co-founder. “This establishes a foundation for handling work orders. Hundreds of requests can be received at one time, distributed to the appropriate person or department, and a response given on the request’s status in a timely manner. Students, faculty and staff input their request via the Internet rather than having to fill out paperwork. It greatly improves the maintenance department’s customer service and public relations because work orders are gotten to the right resource and acted upon quickly and efficiently. The individual requesting assistance knows in a short amount of time that their information was received and when it will be acted upon.”

The resources available for Web-enabled or Web-native design, maintenance and operations will only to continue to grow as companies turn to the Internet even more to help efficiently manage the vast facility resources required by colleges and universities.

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