Let's take a little pop quiz to kick things off. Consider the following scenarios:
- In the second floor bathroom, someone just flushed the toilet. Literal sludge is now gushing over the sides of the bowl and spilling across the floor. Hurry—what do you do?
- An employee recently noticed that part of their workstation is in pretty bad shape, like it might break down at any moment. How do they notify you about getting it fixed?
- One of the company vehicles needs a tune-up at 50K miles (which you suspect is coming up soon). How do you know when it should be serviced?
- And lastly, was there anything you noticed about the above questions—something handy that would steer you toward a swift resolution?
Yep. Each of your answers should actually be the same: Check the process. Let's examine why having a process is key to successful facilities management.
Today’s facilities managers wear many hats. Whether the challenge is keeping up with basic or routine maintenance, or putting out the fires of everything going horribly wrong, this a role that lives at the frontlines of planning and action. The best way to keep track of everything happening within a facility is to have an organized, clear process of what to do in any given situation. And fortunately, there’s help.
We’re here to lend a hand on designing a facilities management program that’ll work for you so you always know what to do next. Putting together a process will take some time at first, but it’ll be worth the effort in exchange for the peace of mind and simplicity it will bring.
Get a platform that’ll help you run your facilities like a well-oiled machine
When we talk about a platform, we’re not talking about a soapbox that you stand on top of to address an audience. We’re talking about facilities maintenance software that brings together every bit of your facilities data to one place. With the right technology, you can easily see what’s happening at your facilities and know what items you should be focusing on.
One of the biggest trends in the past decade has been the digitization of workplace assets. This is done through logging fixed assets and tracking their maintenance histories with software and sometimes sensor instruments. This creates a digital history of everything in your inventory, allowing you to begin capturing data on them. When that data is analyzed, they produce insights that help you make better decisions. And because of the potential in long-term cost-savings, it's a trend that's becoming less of a convenience and more of a necessity.
It’s important to compare software features to make sure you're getting the tool that makes the most sense for your organization. It's better to have one place to manage everything rather than a bunch of different software—or spreadsheets—that must be manually updated. Your software should not only connect all of the pieces of your facility portfolio, but also present the data with reporting tools that are easy to understand. When you find the perfect software, you're ready for the next step.
Define facilities management workflows so you always know what’s next
In setting yourself up for success, you have to anticipate all kinds of situations, and then create an approach to manage each. This approach is called a workflow. And while you might not be directly involved with every step of the workflow, you will have knowledge of what comes next and can make sure the proper points of contact are established to get things fixed in a timely manner.
To help you create some basic workflows, we can consider the scenarios presented in the above pop quiz to give you a starting point.
Scenario 1: Putting out fires
In our first case, we're essentially dealing with an emergency. Something has gone terribly wrong, and it threatens to cause further damage if not dealt with immediately. When this occurs, the question is: What happens next?
One answer is to go tell someone, right? Though true, your facilities management process needs to be more specific than that. How do employees report a problem, and who do they report it to? Is there a phone number posted in the bathroom (like many gas station restrooms)? Should they notify the front desk? Maybe there’s a QR code they can scan to submit a formal request to the maintenance team.
Once someone has been notified of a facility problem, what happens next? Having a process or workflow is about knowing how the situation gets handled from the very first incident alert until the maintenance team has marked the problem down as fixed.
Scenario 2: The work request
This scenario is very similar to the emergency breakdown. However, the big difference here is in the urgency of the request. While a worn part may not have immediate consequences to your operations, it could cause issues or a complete breakdown if not addressed in time.
Processes need to cover different types of requests and define how to prioritize them. What constitutes immediate attention and what goes into a backlog might vary from organization to organization, and you should know exactly which is which for your facilities.
Scenario 3: Preventive maintenance
A lot of the work you do is performed without anyone having to report anything. You know when different tune-ups are due and can take care of them—as well as hundreds of other routine maintenance items. These types of tasks are categorized as preventive maintenance and can be some of the hardest items to track if you don't have a system in place. And don't you want the full representation of everything you do on a day-to-day basis?
Twenty years ago, using spreadsheets and post-its were the norm—these things could easily help you track what needed to be done. But today's facilities managers are expected to handle all kinds of tasks—from the simple to the complex, and from one-off emergencies to recurring maintenance. Robust software is now necessary to track all of these different elements. And ideally, it should be capable of integrating preventive maintenance workflows with the other tasks that fall into your facilities wheelhouse.
Let's say drivers of a company vehicle are required to log the odometer reading on a mobile app when they return from a job. Those logs are monitored by asset management software that's watching for certain milestones to come up. And when they do, work orders are automatically generated telling your maintenance team that it’s time to perform a tune-up or oil change.
The same applies to incorporate inspections. You likely perform routine walkthroughs of your facilities. Rather than looking only for what’s wrong, you could have a checklist handy that you fill out on your phone or tablet during the inspection. If something fails during the walkthrough, it can automatically generate a follow-up work order. You'll already have a list of items to be completed by the time you get back to your office.
Monitoring and recording work histories
Part of your facilities workflow is holding your team accountable when tasks haven't been performed on time. All work, whether reactive or preventive, should be recorded. This is easiest when it can be recorded on-site rather than at a separate location.
Other work items you should be able to track:
- What asset is being serviced?
- How long did the work take?
- What inventory parts were used?
- Who performed the repair?
- What was the cost of the work done?
When creating a strong facilities process, data is your friend. The more you understand your daily operations, the easier it will be to improve them in the future. This brings us to performance metrics, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Develop KPIs that'll keep a pulse on overall facilities health
One of the most important aspects of any facilities program is to know what defines successful performance. You need a benchmark. Once you've established a set of KPIs, you can determine where you are and set goals for improvement.
You'll want to gather a lot of data. When everything is synced, you can figure out everything from how long it takes to change a lightbulb to what your annual budget is for repairing HVAC systems. However, raw data can take a long time to sift through. That’s where KPIs come in.
A KPI is a specific measurement that helps you identify how well you are doing in a particular area. They are usually very specific to an organization’s goals and business. A manufacturing facilities manager, for example, might have as a KPI Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). They'll seek to increase this KPI and can measure their success incrementally, allowing them to set goals.
In your case, it's important that you set KPIs that are relevant to your organization. It helps if the KPIs are understood by your leadership so they can glean insights into your performance. Questions you may want to consider when coming up with each performance metric:
- How do I calculate this KPI?
- Why is this KPI useful?
- Where do I measure up right now, and what is our baseline?
- What can I do to see this regularly?
Understanding your facilities management process will help you set better goals
We’ll admit, this last step isn’t strictly part of a facilities management process. Setting goals is not absolutely necessary to creating your processes. However, most facilities managers can’t help themselves. When they’ve developed the necessary workflows and gathered data, the next question is: how can I do better?
Once you’ve got a good FM system in place, setting goals takes on a new meaning. Rather than just saying, “We’ve got to be better about that next month,” you can get really specific about what you want to improve. We recommend that when you’re ready to start setting goals for improvement that you set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely). You’ll notice that most of the leg work has already been done, leaving you to really only set a number that makes sense.
Creating a good facilities management program takes time, but the rewards are worth it. When you gain the ability to understand your workflows and facilities data, achieving your FM goals is right around the corner.