Facilities Management: The Big Picture

April 11, 2003

Share Like Tweet Add Email

Having to manage your facility on a smaller budget? You are not alone. Find out how to deal with this current trend and other recent developments in the industry.

It's a tough time to be a facility manager. Budgets are tightening, and it's becoming increasingly urgent to do more with less. "Cost reduction pressures and eliminating non-core competencies are the current trend in almost every facilities organization," says Joseph Greil, CPE, corporate director of facilities and services at United Technologies, a Connecticut-based maker of high-tech products. "The view that facilities are a necessary evil drives many headcount and budget reductions. This has never been truer than today, where everyone is looking for another way to raise profits."

The pressure to deliver high-quality maintenance at lower cost has brought about several new approaches to facilities management. "It's forcing facility managers to look for ways to improve efficiency," says Terry L. Wireman, CPMM, an Idaho-based author and educator who also serves as senior industry analyst for United Kingdom-based software maker Avantis-IPS. "This leads to trying to improve planning, scheduling and backlog control."

"But if a facility manager has not started working in this direction before he is asked to improve organizational efficiency, he usually won't have the time to develop the disciplines to improve work effectiveness," continues Wireman. "This leads to forced downsizing, and the organization is left with insufficient resources to carry out maintenance." If this is the case in your organization, you can rely on the expertise of outside contractors, says Wireman.

By outsourcing, facility managers can also tap into another significant facilities management innovation—automating maintenance procedures. This development is already affecting the manufacturing sector and probably to a lesser degree, non-industrial facilities. "Outsource service providers have the resources to employ wireless handheld inspection terminals and Web-based portals that make it easy to track equipment performance, plan maintenance, control inventory, inform repair technicians and report results to management," says Jeffrey Peterson, vice president of information technology for UNICCO Service Co., a Massachusetts-based facilities services provider. "This is clearly the future of plant maintenance."

According to Pat Conroy, president of MicroMain Corp., the Texas-based CMMS software maker, the three major automation trends to look out for are:

  • Increased reliance on handheld devices to minimize paperwork and boost the accuracy of data collection.
  • Integration of facility management and maintenance management functions and departments.
  • More focus on integrating facility/maintenance/building control systems (hardware and software).
  • Both the industrial-plant sector and non-industrial facility segment are employing more sophisticated technology for maintenance—with industrial facilities ahead of their non-industrial counterparts, says Claud Kissmann, PE, CPE, a mechanical engineer in the physical plant/architecture and engineering section of the University of Texas at Austin. "But while maintenance practices are equally beneficial in both, priorities and performance indicators are different," he says. "In the industrial environment, performance indicators can verify results such as production increases or improved product quality in a relatively short period of time. In the service industry, documenting improvements is not as pronounced and requires monitoring complex data over longer periods of time."

    This complexity places more emphasis on the need for more commitment in facility managers, says Paul Sheehy, CPE, a corporate industrial engineer at North Carolina-based Douglas Battery Manufacturing. "Preventive and predictive technologies remain the cornerstone of an equipment-reliability program," he says. "But it takes committed people to make them work effectively. I find most young individuals trying to get into this business do not possess adequate long-term desire to stick with it and see the long-term results of hard work."

    When confronting uncommitted as well as smaller and younger staffs, companies can turn to service providers for personnel training. These outside providers can teach your maintenance staff how to do their job faster and better. For example, Massachusetts-based services provider VFA offers a Facilities/Infrastructure Certificate Program. VFA will educate your staff on how to accurately assess the condition of the facility and plan for its long-term utilization. Workers can gain a Facilities Inspection Certificate and a Facilities Planning Certificate, once they have mastered assessment and planning, respectively.

    Non-profit trade and professional organizations also offer programs for facilities maintenance personnel. For instance, the Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE), OH, conducts training on-site, supplementing the traditional Certified Plant Engineer (CPE) and the four-year-old Certified Plant Maintenance Manager (CPMM) program. Universities are also helping prepare students for the challenges of facilities management. Last year, Ohio's University of Toledo launched a Maintenance Management Certificate program, which covers "zero breakdown" strategies and computerized maintenance management systems, among others. New York City Technical College even offers a bachelor of technology degree for those who complete its facilities management curriculum. Lastly, training assistance and free information can also be obtained on the Internet.

    Indeed, there is no shortage of assistance when it comes to boosting the efficiency of facility management procedures. Greil from United Technologies believes that despite shrinking budgets, facility managers have no excuse for remaining inefficient. "Have we looked internally to shed crafts that do not directly contribute to corporate profitability?" he says. "Have we developed multi-skilled trades that are more productive? Have we simplified and standardized our facilities to reduce costs? If not, we are a cause of the trend and not part of the solution."

    Source: Trends in Facilities Maintenance: Tight Budgets, New Solutions
    Gabriella Jacobs
    Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Aug. 2002

    Share Like Tweet Add Email


    comments powered by Disqus