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How to Bring Facility Information into the 21st Century

Facility management is a laggard industry, relying heavily on paper documentation or trial and error to get the job done when information is not accessible. With no industry standard for creating, organizing and sharing information, facility teams are forced to piece together information from plan rooms, electronic documents or other team members to effectively manage their buildings. The result is idle employees wasting their time and owners’ money locating, verifying or waiting for information that is lost or was never created in the first place. Although often neglected during operations, effective facility information management is a top contributor to increased efficiency and can lower FM costs. Follow these four rules of facility information management to increase productivity and decrease costs going forward.

1) Standardize your information management – How will anyone know if they have found the correct information if there is no standardized naming process? It is crucial for your team to understand what each document is and whether or not it is the most current. Prevent confusion and avoid making costly mistakes by establishing a process for naming, organizing and revising information.  Recent developments in the facility industry have standardized naming conventions. While these conventions are aimed at the design and construction part of the industry, they do aid facility managers with information management.  All facilities owners and managers should require facilities design and construction project documentation use industry standard conventions. Regarding existing documentation, facilities owners and managers should use this framework as well.  Look for more information from AIA, CSI and NIBS.  

2) Keep all of your facility information in one location Typically, facility information is spread out among many different sources including plan rooms, maintenance offices, local server storage, cloud storage and even among FM employees. No wonder it takes facilities staff so long to find the information they need! To solve this issue, consolidate all FM information in one cloud-based location and have team members document all the changes made to your facility in this location.  Cloud-based storage solutions make it very affordable to locate all your facility documentation while conserving both physical space in your facilities as well as storage space on your local servers.  Although the transition from paper plans to electronic documentation might seem daunting, it is surprisingly quite simple. Most of the printing companies that facility managers use to produce plan sets are also able to scan existing paper documentation at a low cost and name them based on a convention you establish. Once documents are digitized, all that remains is to upload them to a cloud-based document management system. It’s that simple. Additionally, facility managers looking to implement a cloud-based solution for facility information can consult with industry experts who specialize in scanning, naming, uploading and organizing your documentation for you.

3) Make your facility information accessible – Over the past decade, facility management has become more technologically advanced with the increased use of laptops, tablets and smartphones. New employees entering the FM workforce today are more educated and technologically savvy than those of the past. From you—the facility owner or manager—they expect a more flexible and technologically sophisticated work environment.  Give them what they want and locate all of your facilities documentation safely on the cloud.  This allows facility information to be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection and automatically backs up all of your files, keeping them secure and protected from any kind of physical damage.  Your maintenance team is now free to move about facilities with all relevant data a click away on a tablet or smartphone. Hire and retain the best and brightest in the industry by giving them what they want: high-tech tools that make them more mobile and efficient.

4) Plan for the future – Buildings and campuses are a dynamic asset, with remodels and additions taking place throughout the life of facility. Using inaccurate or old information is a common cause for errors and productivity loss among facility teams. As your facility changes, make sure you have a strategy to reflect those changes in the documentation and create a standard, easy-to-understand process for implementing these changes. Make sure your team implements a process to capture “as-built” information by marking up electronic files and storing the latest version in one easily accessible spot.  Since your design teams uses that same documentation for remodeling projects, they too need access to existing building conditions. Thus, tracking and updating of as-built information will mean reduced costs for you each time your facilities team, or your contractors perform work on your facility.  

Government statistics indicate that the inefficient management of facility documentation costs our industry over $14 billion dollars a year.  Our current processes must change.  Accurate and easily accessible data is valuable.  Following these four steps will optimize your facility management team’s efficiency and save you time and money.  Change is never easy but the status quo is unacceptable.  

John Mulcahey is a licensed mechanical engineer and currently works for AkitaBox, reach him at info@akitabox.com.

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