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Animal facility management might be a smaller field, but it's an important one with many stakeholders. 

And it's also full of examples of how the right facility management software can help make life easier for facility managers in other industries. 

What you already know as an animal research facility manager 

If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're either already in the industry or looking to enter it. And that means you already know about animal facility management and the role and responsibilities of an animal research facility manager. 

But it's worth reviewing some of the basics to better explain the parts that relate specifically to the benefits of adopting facility management software. 

(Not in the industry and not planning to enter it? Keep reading. There's plenty here that still applies to facility management in general.) 

You're responsible for a wide range of facilities and animals 

A lot depends on the species you're housing, the types of studies the researchers are working on, and the other departments in the facility. Animal facilities can be on campuses, in private institutes, or part of research organizations connected to the pharmaceutical industry. You could be responsible for everything from a stereotypical laboratory to something that looks like a traditional farm. 

But regardless of the possible variations, you're always in charge of making sure the facility's assets and equipment are up and running. You ensure both the animals' well-being as well as the reliability of the experimental data by maintaining the right environmental conditions. You ensure everyone has what they need, from bedding for the cages to sterile equipment for the chemical and instrument rooms. 

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There are many moving parts, but the standards of humane treatment and the integrity of the data demand that you are in constant control. 

The work you do matters to many different stakeholders 

For the organizations funding the research, you deliver the best possible return on their investments. And the costs can quickly reach astronomical levels. For example, researchers can now use expensive designer "knocked out" and "knocked in" subjects, which have had specific genes turned off or on through complex genome editing. 

For the researchers, you protect the integrity of their data. They need the environment to be as stable as possible. And if not perfectly stable, then at least predictable. Same temperature and air quality always. The lights go on and off like clockwork every morning and evening. 

The smaller the number of variables, the easier it is for researchers to conduct experiments. For example, if they want to know the effects of a certain diet on health, they need to provide the same foods in the same amounts at the same times. Once other variables start to change, it becomes harder for them to connect the results with the causes. Was it the diet that caused the weight loss or was it the random changes in temperature that week the AC kept breaking down, stressing the subjects? 

For literally everyone else, you help the scientific community grow its knowledge of the physical world, which leads to advances in everything from neurology and psychology to addiction and disease. 

And those two facts of life for a facility manager mean you face a unique set of challenges, including: 

  • It's impossible to rely on a complaint-based maintenance program. 
  • There are many best practices, guidelines, and regulations you have to follow. 
  • A lot of your assets and equipment look the same, making it hard on techs. 

And even though that's only a partial list of your challenges, it's worth looking at each one more closely to see how the right software solution helps you.  

What you should know about facility management software 

It can make your life easier. That's the first thing you should know. After that, it's just a question of understanding how. 

So, here's how facility management software can make your life easier. 

Preventive maintenance means you're not relying on complaints 

If you were running an office building, you would know fairly quickly when the AC stops working in the middle of summer. And at that same office building, if the furnace stopped working in the middle of winter and a couple of pipes burst, flooring the stairwell, it would be the same. People would be looking for you, trying to reach you by phone or email. 

But it's different at an animal research facility. When something breaks, the subjects are affected, but no one else might notice right away. Especially in the case of a partial failure. For example, instead of a food dispenser not working at all, it might be dispensing the wrong amounts or at the wrong times. 

That means you can't rely on maintenance requests the way you might in other facilities. Instead, you need to be out in front. You need to find and fix small issues before they have a chance to develop into big problems that shut down assets and equipment, endangering both the quality of the research and the safety and comfort of the animals. 

Facility management software makes it possible for you to set up, schedule, and track a robust preventive maintenance program packed with inspections and tasks. For example, long before the HVAC system breaks down, a maintenance tech can see the puddle of water under an AC unit or hear a motor working harder than it should. 

Just to clarify, preventive maintenance is an effective maintenance strategy that all facility managers should be adopting to avoid unexpected failures and costly repairs. But for animal research, it's especially important because of the specific realities and demands of the facilities. 

Templates means everyone knows how to follow the rules and regulations

It depends on the type of facility, the type of research, and your location, but generally there are many rules you need to follow. In America, the Animal Welfare Act represents the minimum acceptable standard. State and local governments often have additional laws, policies, and guidelines on animal care. 

Facility management software helps by making it easier to include specific, detailed instructions in both scheduled and on-demand work orders. When you assign work to a maintenance technician, you can quickly include everything they need to do the work properly, including step-by-step instructions, customizable checklists, and safety warnings. 

If you're still working with paper or spreadsheets, adding all this information is often slow, error-prone, and frustrating. How much can you scribble on a single sheet of paper? How much can you cram into a cell? 

With modern software solutions, you simply create templates for your most common inspections and tasks, which you can then add to new work orders with just a few clicks. 

Site maps, floor plans, and bar codes mean techs fix the right assets 

Maintenance managers at other types of facilities have a similar problem, but it can be especially tough at research facilities. A maintenance tech at a hotel might arrive on the roof to fix an AC unit only to discover ten identical assets in a perfect row. If they're trying to close out an inspection or deal with a partial failure, they now run the risk of working on the wrong unit. 

For your maintenance technicians, it's worse. Because experiments often rely on many animals all housed in the same style of cages, finding the right asset or equipment can be a time-consuming, error-prone exercise in frustration. 

Hippo Site Map Floor Plan-1

Facility management software helps because you can plot the locations of all your assets and equipment on interactive maps and floor plans. Techs go exactly where you need them. And they can double-check they have the right asset by clicking on the map to instantly access all associated open work orders. In some cases, it also makes sense to identify assets and equipment with bar codes. When a tech scans the code on the asset using their mobile device, they can access critical asset data, including current work orders. 

CEO summary 

Animal research facility management comes with some unique challenges, and facility management software has the solutions. Because it's critical to maintain a stable environment but hard to learn about asset failures quickly, facility managers can use the software to set up and schedule preventive maintenance programs to find and fix issues early. With templates packed with instructions and checklists, they can also ensure maintenance techs do all the work correctly. An additional challenge is that a lot of the assets and equipment are identical. But with interactive site maps and floor plans, the managers can send techs exactly where they need them, confident the right work gets done on the right asset. By avoiding most problems and dealing with them efficiently when they do appear, a facility manager can deliver a stable, controlled environment that both costs less and produces valuable research data. 

Next steps 

Ready to start seeing the benefits of facility management software?

Hippo's here to help you get the solution that works best for you, including answering your questions about facility maintenance software, helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial.  

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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