Facility Owners and Managers are Using Inaccurate Building Information.

This article was originally published on the blog at Commercial Property Executive.

Despite the fact that information is readily available through Building Information Modeling (BIM), Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) and Building Automation Systems (BAS), facility teams do not fully utilize data to help anticipate potential problems and needs within their department.

Facility managers and owners lose money every day because they do not have a thorough understanding of the current condition of their facility. Although most facility operators view inaccurate building documentation as a major issue, they continue to operate in spite of it because of the difficulty in managing the rapidly changing information associated with remodels, expansions and regular maintenance. If owners or managers do not have a system for updating documents to reflect changes, they are of little use to facility teams. Maintaining documents that reflect the current condition of a facility is crucial for budgeting properly, allocating resources correctly and making data-driven decisions.

A simple system for updating documentation allows a facility operator to guarantee proper budgeting, making facility operations more efficient. Because of the large overhead incurred by FM departments, building managers know that theirs will be one of the first departments to lose funding during tough times. However, facility owners and operators also understand the importance of maintaining their buildings for long-term business continuity. If information and data on the current age, condition and location of facility assets is inaccurate, budgeting plans will be inaccurate.

Traditional budgeting methods—which rely solely on the opinions of a facility maintenance team—were sufficient in the past when facility information and data was not readily accessible and there was no better alternative. However, the days of often-imprecise budget estimation are over. With information readily available through BIM, CMMS and BAS, facility teams now have available data to help anticipate problems and needs within their department over the next twelve months. For example, CMMS software contains valuable information on the maintenance requirements for buildings assets and will be used to determine appropriate staffing levels. BAS software provides facility teams with equipment operating data to help determine replacement and renewal costs for building components. To avoid over or under budgeting for facility management and ensure maximum efficient, building operators must use this data to support their funding needs.

Understanding the current state of a facility is also important for allocating funds and resources to the right areas during daily operations. Without access to accurate space and asset information, facility managers will simply continue to maintain their building in the same static way, rather than properly delegating resources to match the needs of constantly-changing assets.

Just a few months ago, there was a project we worked on with a college that had inaccurate space information. They had delegated twelve custodial staff to clean an area they assumed to be 120,000 square feet. When we assessed the square footage of the area, we found the actual area of the campus was 100,000 square feet. Thus, the college had been improperly allocating two unneeded custodial staff to clean this area for the past several years based on an inaccurate assumption. Additionally, we have observed even more dramatic inefficiencies due to an improper count of the number of mechanical assets in a given facility. During a condition assessment we discovered that certain assets were never maintained because they were never entered into a work-order management system. The implications of not having an accurate inventory of the space and assets in your facility are serious, costing facility teams time and increasing the funding needed for replacing assets.

Once you properly allocate labor and resources within your facility, it is important that your team has easy access to accurate information to improve their productivity and decision-making ability. At another college we recently did work at, we found that their CMMS system had inaccurate and imprecise information on the locations of different assets. The location stated in the software for any air-handling unit in their inventory was labeled “the roof.” Each time the CMMS system generated a preventative maintenance work order, maintenance personnel would go to “the roof” and waste at least fifteen minutes looking for one of twelve air handlers before even beginning to perform the maintenance. If that HVAC technician had accurate information available to him on the condition and location of that air-handler, he would not only be able to locate the unit faster, he would have the knowledge to diagnose problems and efficiently develop solutions. While doing maintenance he could look up information in the building’s BAS software to determine the CFM currently produced by machine and compare it to the performance guide in the operations manual. With this data, he would be able to determine the maintenance requirements of the machine and perform them to ensure the facility temperature is properly regulated for the happiness of building occupants. Ultimately, improving the accuracy and accessibility of facility data and information will allow your team to become more productive and make good facility maintenance decisions.

Sound decision-making, resource allocation and budgeting all depend on accurate information on your facility. Many facility owners and managers conduct a conditions assessment only when they are expanding or remodeling their buildings. However, if you want your organization to remain competitive and run efficiently, it is not enough to only have a basic understanding of the current state of your facility and its needs. Facility information management software has made the lives of facility owners and operators easier. Implement a system for facility information management and allow your FM team to fully understand the nature of their buildings and plan for long-term business continuity.

Luke Perkerwicz is a Facility Innovation Coordinator with AkitaBox. He works with facility managers around the country to implement technology and information management solutions that improve building efficiencies. Luke can be contacted at lperkerwicz@AkitaBox.com or at AkitaBox.com

Begin with the End in Mind

Planning and executing the transition of facility information from construction to operations.

Although often overlooked by facility owners, the transfer of facility information—such as plans, warrantees with contact information, and O&M manuals from the design and construction teams to operations staff is a critical juncture in the lifecycle of a facility. It is at this very point that facility owners must make a difficult decision:  what facility information should the design and construction teams turn over, and how will operations staff store and access it?

Beginning facility design with these two questions in mind is the best method for facility owners and operators to leverage the facility information generated during construction and thereby significantly reduce later operational costs.

During the design and construction phases, architects along with contractors and subcontractors create thousands of documents. These teams are focused primarily on creating the physical asset, often giving little thought to the value of their documentation to operations. Additionally, their method of gathering and disseminating facility information is likely at odds with the future needs of facility operations staff. Document organization standards vary from company to company and even from person to person, creating more gaps and inconsistencies in the documentation handed over to operations staff at end of construction.

Facility owners must manage facility information on their terms. Instead of starting to assemble documentation at a project’s end, facility owners need to implement a data plan in the early stages of design. By establishing an agreement with the design and construction teams, facility owners can control how and when they receive facility information for operations purposes. A defined data plan will help facility owners avoid ambiguities and ensure facility information is not lost when construction concludes.

Once a facility owner has established a plan for transferring design and construction documentation, the owner must then decide how they are going to store it. Typically, this means creating a plan room where paper files are placed in binders and cabinets. Plan rooms—however— are not without their flaws. Most plan rooms are cluttered and disorganized. Also, documents housed in a plan room are only accessible on site.

Setting up a system that stores building information electronically is a better solution for facility owners and operators. First, electronic documentation can be backed up on a cloud or secondary server, protecting it from any physical damage. Second, the organization of boxes and cabinets full of paper plans and O&M manuals will inevitably be neglected by a facility operations team, later becoming worthless when operations needs to find a specific file for routine maintenance, repair or for a remodel project. Third, facility information stored electronically is accessible remotely, allowing secure instant access to any staff or outside contractors who need it.

As the design and construction of facilities becomes more sophisticated and complex, so too does the storage system required for facility information. Training manuals are becoming increasingly longer as the maintenance requirements for sophisticated equipment become more critical.  The number and complexity of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems make it necessary for maintenance teams to have access to as build drawings and equipment details as they navigate buildings and trouble shoot problems.   Finally, the proliferation of LEED certified facilities requires the operations team to track the energy efficiency of equipment and report the results over time.  The necessity to organize facility information electronically has never been more apparent.

By beginning facility planning, design and construction with operations in mind, facility owners can reduce repair and remodel costs, maximizing facility efficiency and saving thousands of dollars annually.  

This article originally appeared in Retail Facility Business magazine.

Written By: John Mulcahey, a licensed professional engineer with over 25 years of experience in facility management.

5 Steps Expert Facility Operators Follow to Improve Productivity.

June 3rd webinar RecordinG - Click Here

Facility owners and operators understand the power of information. From work orders and reports to floor plans and O&Ms, information drives the quality of decisions we make for maintaining and operating buildings. At this educational presentation, John and Luke will outline ways to leverage technology to improve facility information accessibility for productivity gains.

Webinar Summary

Government statistics indicate that the inefficient management of facility documentation costs our industry over $14 billion dollars a year. In previous presentations, John spoke about the hurdles facility managers face to improve team efficiency and how to overcome the difficulties of establishing a system for facility information management (FIM). 

This is part three in the educational webinar series, "How to Leverage Facility Information to Save Money." At this presentation, John Mulcahey and Luke Perkerwicz will explain how to use technology to put facility information into the hands of your team members for gains in efficiency and productivity.

Topics covered: 

  • Using the CSI MasterFormat and National CAD Standards to standardize information. 
  • Using intuitive organization to make locating and organizing information easy for team members and contractors. 
  • Useful and simple technology tools, even for non-tech savvy users. 
  • How FIM improves team accountability. 
  • Using the SAM method for information management. 
    • Standardize and Store information in one location.
    • Accurate and Accessible information.
    • Maintain information using simple systems.

For questions, email info@AkitaBox.com or call 608.229.9200

John Mulcahey Bio:

John Mulcahey is a licensed Mechanical Engineer in the state of Wisconsin with over 25 years of experience in the facility design and maintenance industry. He has been the owner’s rep on over $500M of new facilities and managed a staff of over 150 in the maintenance and remodeling of an organization with over 2 million assignable square feet. Mulcahey has focused on process improvement and innovation in facility management throughout his career.


Cover photo source.

How to Bring Facility Information into the 21st Century

Click here to see the original article published on buildings.com

By John Mulcahey

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.  

Cover Photo Source

The First Step to Improve Facility Management Productivity.

JOIN OUR WEBINAR - 11:30am, May 6TH

With thousands of documents ranging from floor plans to O&M manuals, how do facility managers even to start to organize their building's information? At this presentation John Mulcahey will talk about one simple strategy that will greatly improve facility management productivity and make organizing facility information easy.

Click here to register.

Webinar Summary

Government statistics indicate that the inefficient management of facility documentation costs our industry over $14 billion dollars a year. In the previous webinar, John spoke about the hurdles facility managers face to improve team efficiency and how to overcome the difficulties of establishing a system for facility information management (FIM). 

The first step facility managers need to take to improve productivity through FIM is to standardize facility information. At this presentation, John will outline a simple process your facility can use to exponentially increase productivity.

Coming up:

  1. The Biggest Inefficiency in Facility Management. April 9th, 10-10:30 am
  2. The First Step to Improve Facility Management Productivity. May 6th, 11:30am-11:50am 
  3. Establish One Source of Truth for your Facility Information. TBA
  4. The Key to Resolving Facility Management Problems Quickly. TBA
  5. Set your Facility up for Long Term Success. TBA

John Mulcahey Bio:

John Mulcahey is a licensed Mechanical Engineer in the state of Wisconsin with over 25 years of experience in the facility design and maintenance industry. He has been the owner’s rep on over $500M of new facilities and managed a staff of over 150 in the maintenance and remodeling of an organization with over 2 million assignable square feet. Mulcahey has focused on process improvement and innovation in facility management throughout his career.

Contact info@akitabox.com for any questions.

Cover Photo Source

An Even Better User Experience

AkitaBox Updates:

  • File Thumbnails
  • Improved Tagging Flexibility

File Thumbnails:

When viewing the files list in a project, thumbnail images of the file now appear next to the file name. Click on the thumbnail to be brought directly to the document viewing screen. Click on the file name to be brought to the file's detail page.



Improved Tagging Control and Flexibility:

Multiple tag values in the same category can now be applied to a document. For example, the tag Discipline - Architectural and the tag Discipline - Mechanical can be applied to the same document. This gives you the flexibility and control to organize and store your facility information in the best way possible for your team.


Tag category editing.PNG


Coming Soon:

Look forward to AkitaBox Connect, a new way to view your facility that will make accessing building information faster and easier than ever before. In addition, the AkitaBox advanced uploading tool will be released soon. Upload files of any size by simply dragging and dropping folders and files into AkitaBox.