5 Essential Tools For Facility Managers
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Facility Management: The Essential Tools For Facility Managers

I’m not one for circuses or even street performers, maybe I’m just too serious. But I do recall one time sitting slack jawed watching acrobats, trapeze, and high wire acts at Cirque du Soleil. When you see something on such a grand scale, with elaborate sets, skilled acrobats, and careful attention to detail, you really must admit it’s awe inspiring. Amongst all those acrobats, buried deep in the fray was a juggler. Not really a remarkable task when compared to the high flyers, acrobats, and other Red Bull-esque intensity. I guess I really didn’t have an appreciation for the juggler. That is until recently when I came across the picture below while prepping this article, and had a good chuckle as I drew the similarities between juggling and my years in facility management.

Rob Styles: Fire Juggling (This photo is shared under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license)

Have a quick read, and see if you agree. It’s my hope that at least what you’re juggling isn’t on fire.

"As with any maintenance position, a facility manager should understand there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You build the light and carry it with you."

Facility Management, also known as Facility Maintenance, leans heavily into Asset Management territory. Its primary functions are to schedule and record completed maintenance, and prioritize maintenance activity and equipment history.

To keep this article short, we’ll only refer to two types of maintenance activities:

Scheduled Maintenance Unscheduled Maintenance
These are expected maintenance activities, generated from the interpretation of manufacturer’s instructions for equipment, and additional activities derived from technician or operator experience. There are many types of unscheduled maintenance, stemming from equipment breakdowns, operator requests, damage, vandalism, complaints etc.

1. Asset Management System

An Enterprise Asset Management System (EAM) is perhaps the most important tool for a facility management. What is an EAM? Wikipedia defines it as:

the optimal lifecycle management of the physical assets of an organization. It covers subjects including the design, construction, commissioning, operations, maintenance and decommissioning or replacement of plant, equipment, and facilities.”

A good EAM (sometimes called a CMMS – Computerized Maintenance Management System) will manage every aspect of your maintenance administration, scheduling, inventory, and customizable reports… like rework percentages. You can use it to really drill down into where your problems trends lie and then resolve them.

2. Work Order Prioritization Policy

Everyone knows “The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease”. Best laid plans are often waylaid by people that know “the bigger the fuss the faster the service”. A great strategy to overcome the squeaky wheel is a policy that clearly lays out facility management priorities. Successful policies, at a minimum, should contain:

  • The organizations’ stance on how emergency work is determined and addressed.
  • Create a hierarchy, with a statement that makes your prioritization process clear IE:

Work orders will be addressed in order from lowest to highest priority, and will not necessarily be addressed in chronological order. NO WORK will be undertaken without a work order submission – unless it is an emergency. Repairs will be addressed in the priority sequence below:

Figure 1. Sample Prioritization hierarchy

Keep in mind: A policy like this will encourage those “Squeaky Wheels” to make claims that their tasks meet emergency criteria; use good judgement, and be prepared to defend your position.

3. A “Request For Service” System

Another significant stumbling block for facility managers is the nature of how unscheduled maintenance (Service Requests) are submitted or scheduled. An excellent method to offset these interactions is to set up a “Request for Service” system. When set up and managed well a service request system can eliminate all the verbal requests you get in the hallways, break rooms and yes… even the bathroom.

You can use manual requests, like the one pictured in figure 2 below, or opt for a digital form – that’s accessed through a link on your company’s web page or intranet.

Figure 2. Sample Service Request: Try to catch all the information you can in your service request, while making it easy to fill out.

Whether done manually or online, this form will give you some much-needed perspective to assess when and who should complete the work. Another good idea is to do a little recon, and see if the request is accurate.

4. Equipment Criticality Matrix

This method identifies how critical a piece of equipment or maintenance task is to your business and will ultimately show you where it should land in your prioritization process. Criticality measurements should be standardized by assessing how seriously a single piece of equipment would disrupt operations in the event of a failure.

A good method to figure it out is using a criticality matrix. Have a look at the 5×4 matrix below (figure 3), and use it to categorize the equipment or task of your choice, (note that we use the probability and severity of the failure to determine a rank, where the 2 “axis” intersect on the table, is your critical equipment rank). The object is to accurately measure where that task or equipment should fit in the table below (figure 4).

Criticality Matrix (Severity of Disruption Due to Equipment Failure)

Figure 3. Where the 2 “axis” intersect on the table, is your critical equipment rank.

Often infrastructure equipment takes on greater importance than production equipment due to significant disruptions and the long lead times for repairs or replacement parts (boilers, structures, and electrical switchgear failure VS. a Production Line). Thankfully, the maintenance frequency on infrastructure is relatively low. The table below is an example of a few equipment, and task categories, which can both be applied task and equipment hierarchies.

Sample Task & Equipment Categories

Figure 4. After determining if the equipment or task is critical, categories like the above can assist in applying service criteria to them.

This is a great tool to establish what equipment or tasks can… or can’t afford to go without service. A failure ranked 1 would be akin to a printer failure. A failure ranked a 20 would result in an explosion and loss of life.

5. Historical Record Keeping

Remember the old saying “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? Eliminating nuisance repairs, or replacing troublesome equipment requires you to identify what a machine is costing you in labor, parts, downtime, and effect on production targets.

Due to the nature of facility management, you’ll often be measured in relation to equipment performance, budgetary performance, and operational impact. So, you’ll want to record as a minimum the activities undertaken on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis, and their nature (the more proactive the better). Each report should detail at minimum the maintenance activity, equipment updates, and labor consumed as per the table below.

Figure 5. Metrics to keep in your historical data.

Remember to categorize the reason for the task or service. Pulling a report that can identify how many efficiency improvements you were able to complete vs breakdown repairs can paint a pretty effective picture, and help set the stage to for some new equipment or other capital expenditures.

A proactive approach to facility management requires upfront investment for long term gain. Each of the tools mentioned above are designed to remove, reassign or automate a couple of the responsibilities you’ve been “juggling”. When effectively employed they can help add precious time back into your workdays, and add to your work/life balance.

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