With emphasis on effective facility management in Indian commercial organizations, computer-aided facility management (CAFM) software is increasingly being used. It supports building owners by supplying information about the facility to reduce operating expenses and generate revenue and also aids facility management companies in all aspects of job tracking, manpower resource planning and controlling the facilities management operations.
Facility management integrates business administration, architecture, engineering and the behavioral sciences. Over the years, the segment has evolved through the development and codification of processes into a clearly defined field of expertise. CAFM products earlier designed to be installed on client-managed servers are now also available as cloud-based operations. Narendra Bhat, President – Surmount Energy Solutions Pvt. Ltd says, “CAFM has become essential because of the increase in complexity of the assets that are being utilized in today’s modern facilities and the responsiveness expected by the occupants of these facilities both in terms of day to day performance as well as disaster related performance. In order to address these in an economical and effective manner, it makes sense to deploy CAFM solutions. Cloud based operations are helpful for organizations with a lean IT infrastructure. It provides on-demand access across the enterprise through either Wi-Fi or 3G type of internet connections. It also allows subscription based access to the solution reducing initial capital investment considerably. However, if internet access cannot be guaranteed with very high service levels, then cloud based solutions can be problematic. This is because facility management is a mission critical requirement, especially in cases of emergencies and disasters, where access to the FM data is essential. This is the only real limitation of cloud based solutions.”
There is no one-size fits all solution. CAFM is driven by a combination of critical needs, budgets and more importantly the skills and abilities of personnel to keep the solutions operational on a day to day basis. The needs may range from that of safety requirements, asset uptimes expected or service level responsiveness to occupant’s requests. These would need to be supported by appropriate functionality that can range from fully automated asset monitoring and control systems to helpdesk type of systems. Software modules are based on the types of activities they will manage. Some of the key modules are:
• Space Management: This centrally stores real-time information about the building to be managed along with the people that occupy them. Many systems integrate HR databases, making occupancy information quickly updated.
• Strategic Planning: The module aligns real estate and facilities plans with business operations by analyzing space requirements and forecasting future needs. It can run reports on space and occupancy projections.
• Asset Management: This enables the ability to track assets like office equipment, furniture, lab equipment, or corporate artwork. Assets can be linked to floor plans for location, ownership, and access to product information.
• Facility Maintenance: It helps a department to have complete visibility into the status, budgets and schedules of any number of jobs across multiple locations. Work orders are forwarded to the appropriate facilities staff or assigned to vendors, and closed out automatically. Because key project milestones can be monitored in the CAFM system, the manager can track all jobs, from initial approval, planning and implementation phase to project closeout.
Apart from these modules, to maximize return on assets, it is essential to have Disaster Management, Preventative Maintenance functionality and multimedia functionality as well. Bhat adds, “The Preventative maintenance and multimedia functionality allows maintenance personnel to access documents, images, drawings, building information models (BIM) and videos that can provide them the needed content support to address any specific maintenance issue for expensive assets. While, managing history of maintenance events with respect to specific assets allows for Predictive Analytics thereby allowing planning of asset replacement or refurbishments on a timely basis without waiting for a reactive event. Furthermore, the ability to monitor early occurrence of disaster events through CAFM and creating rule based support for vacating the necessary areas with escape plans is something that is invaluable. Likewise, green certification performance predictions in terms of energy and water consumption too can be stored in CAFM. Based on the sub-metering that is done within the building, these can be constantly compared to actual operating performance metrics on energy, water etc. This can serve as an indicator for the facility managers to constantly tune the performance of the building to achieve the design goals set forth for the building.”
In addition, some facilities management software offer programmes that help FM companies to manage their workflow, material and workforce in real time. These programmes include:
• Sub-Contractor Management: In case of some jobs being sub contracted, this programme aids the selection, management and control of the sub-contractors. Sub-contractor appointments and due dates (SLA) are easily created and added to the manpower calendar to allow for easy overview of the days or weeks activity
• Job Management: This helps to keep in control of all the facilities management jobs in progress. All documents can be made accessible to customers via the web portal. The status of every job can be set along with user defined status categories and with minute by minute comments viewable by clients by logging onto the web portal.
• Equipment Management: It records equipment details such as make, model, serial number and also maintenance or safety inspection frequency. Safety inspection certificates or maintenance certificates can be automatically generated and uploaded to the web portal to be available to the client.
• Manpower Resource Planning: The resource and planning calendar shows in house employees and sub-contractors who have work scheduled, giving a complete overview of all scheduled jobs for the day or week.
According to industry professionals, the biggest limitation in the implementation of CAFM software in India both among client organizations and FM companies is that of maintaining the usage discipline of the chosen solution. Bhat explains, “It is not the functionality that matters as much as how well it is deployed and used. The staff and occupants both need to be trained and repeatedly engaged to allow the solution to stick. A scalable solution should be chosen that can be deployed in part and pieces, based on the pace at which the functionality gets adopted. Companies that are interested in adding IT capability, start by thinking in big terms, but don’t give enough thought to ensuring that modules already deployed are being acted de’ rigour. Also, many building owners and FM operators still view disaster management to be optional, where as in Western countries it is considered indispensable.”