The development of technology has presented building maintenance professionals with new choices for addressing facilities management. But before purchasing new technologies or EAM/CMMS software, there are several factors facility managers really need to consider in order map out how they are going to address their issues. One of these issues, the question of hidden costs, came up at a recent event, aptly named the Building and Facility Maintenance Show, in Florida. The show had several interesting technologies exhibits/demonstrations. The one common theme the vendors pushed was the need for preventive maintenance for facility assets. It was sort of surprising because the vendors pushing new technologies such as vibration analysis or infrared thermal scanning understood that predictive maintenance (Pdm) was part of the greater umbrella of preventive maintenance.

Multiple Solutions

Jersey Skyline

Too often I read or hear that time-based preventive maintenance is a dying methodology, usually from people trying to promote a specific maintenance management software or from people not able to see a bigger picture that preventive maintenance is not just time-based. However, every facility is unique in its own regard. The size, cost and complexity of assets vary greatly. As a result is it rare that only one maintenance solution is applicable in any or all facilities. For example, high value equipment such as boilers or chillers certainly have a need for advanced technology to detect issues before they result in catastrophic failures. On the other hand, this same equipment also requires regular scheduled inspections and preventive maintenance work to maintain optimal operating/energy efficiencies or to identify issues not being detected by sensing equipment. The early visual detection of corrosion, roof debris or excessive condensation are other examples of the need for timely inspections.

“By instituting a work order/maintenance solution, Best-In-Class enterprises have effectively been able to track, monitor and act on various work orders that plaque the modern facilities management team. Aberdeen Research has found that enterprises utilizing this system have achieved a 25% lower cost to process a single work order.”

Source: The Aberdeen Group – December 2009

Most facilities usually have lower value assets somewhere such as small motors, office equipment, smaller HVAC units, plumbing/piping as well as other assets whose value is somewhere between throw away when broken or fix as needed. For this type of equipment, new technology detection systems may not be economically feasible. However, if using an EAM/CMMS the useful lifecycle of these assets can be extended by a little regularly scheduled TLC. After all, the object of any maintenance solution is to better manage the asset lifecycle.

The Cost of Change

The challenge for any vendor selling to maintenance management is to show enough value so that the decision maker can justify an out of pocket expense to either begin a new program or replace an existing maintenance management policy. Therefore is critical to be able to demonstrate that the technology being purchased will save them enough money to cover the immediate out of pocket costs as well as the inherent cost of change. The cost of change includes but us not limited to:

  • Loss of productivity until new methods are fully adopted. New technologies or a new CMMS software system look great on paper. The reality is system implementation takes time stretching out the time it takes to see the desired ROI. Standard operating procedures must be developed, benchmarks must be established. Management time is often unaccounted for in the calculation of expenses.
  • Employee turnover, loss of knowledge base, dragons. People are naturally resistant to change. Some maintenance team members will walk away, some will be vocal opponents (dragons). It is critical to slay the dragons early to achieve the needed adoption rates because all employee turnover contains a cost to replace, recruit or retrain. In addition, staff turnover may result in an unwanted loss of maintenance know-how.
  • Integration with other preventive maintenance programs. Will the new technology play nice with existing maintenance programs? It would be great if that new infrared scanner could integrate its findings directly into a web-based CMMS. If not, will facilities maintenance personnel be required to perform rounds with multiple handheld devices or will results be delayed until the information is brought back to the office to be manually uploaded?

Applying New Technologies

It is important to note that some of the new technology can have widespread applications. The seminar put on by FLIR Systems, Inc. demonstrated how infrared cameras can be used for everything from detecting gas/steam leaks at a plant to detecting heat signatures of mold growing in an apartment complex. Their video below was made for building and home inspection but should catch the attention of property managers as well as manufacturing plants.

When applying new technologies to building maintenance management it is important to remember the end game of increasing efficiencies, lowering MRO expenses, maximizing uptime and extending the useful asset lifecycle. There are tools available to help you do this. An Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system is the tool of choice for many operations. An EAM/CMMS promotes the management of assets from conception through retirement by tracking work requests, scheduling work orders and reporting preventive maintenance tasks in great detail. Implementation can also accommodate new technologies. For example, scheduling infrared inspections or contract management of vibration equipment.

How does your organization integrate technology for maintenance management?

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