In 2020, sales for legal cannabis in Canada hit an estimated $2.6 billion, doubling the 2019 numbers.
But for all that growth, the industry still faces operational challenges that directly threaten profits.
Now more than ever, cannabis operations need a dependable, scalable facility management solution to meet increasing demand.
But before looking at the solution, it's important to review key points about the industry and examine some of the root causes of its problems.
What is the cannabis industry?
The legal cannabis industry in Canada includes producers, processors, and retailers. They grow the plants, process them into products, which they then sell.
Where is all this work happening?
Although the plants are famously hardly and can grow in many different climates, modern growers meticulously control every aspect of the grow environment, including temperature and humidity. In some cases, they even use carbon dioxide injections to speed up growth cycles. When located near other buildings, these facilities require extensive filtration systems to prevent the release of dusts and odors.
Here, processors use various methods to extract materials and oils from the plants. Because some of those processes involve natural gas or propane, there are "high-hazard" rooms with extensive fire detection and suppression equipment.
Depending on the local laws, there are specific safety and security requirements, including air filtration and alarms.
In a lot of ways, cannabis is the same as many other industries, with the same combination of broadly similar interconnected parts. What makes it special are some of its current challenges.
What are the current challenges for cannabis companies?
For all the similarities with other industries, there are also important differences.
Many cannabis companies have embraced vertical integration. Basically, they've adopted the seed-to-sale model. There are a lot of benefits, but the model also comes with a set of challenges.
But before looking at it in more detail, it's worth looking first at the software that shares the name.
There's seed-to-sale software, which is tangentially related to the business model but also different. Here, the software helps organizations track their products throughout the entire life cycle. Not the assets and equipment, though. It's the clippings, plants, seeds, and buds. Organizations need this information to meet strict compliance requirements.
Seed-to-sale business model
It's similar to the one used by farm-to-table restaurants, where the server can tell you everything you would ever want to know about the food on your plate, including the life of the chicken you're about to enjoy, starting from even before it was an egg.
There are many benefits to this model, but when any one thing breaks, the whole chain can fall apart.
If you are running a bakery and the person selling you flour goes out of business, you just switch to a new supplier. If you have a flour mill and the farmer who sells you wheat has a bad crop one year, you can buy from a different farmer. But if you are the farmer and the mill and the bakery, there are no easy alternative suppliers or distributers.
A bad crop means your mill and bakery suffer. When the assets at the mill go down, your crop might rot while the bakery shelves sit empty. Ovens down at the bakery? You might lose the capital you invested first in the harvest and then in milling it.
With seed to sale, you need everything to run smoothly. If there is an issue, you need to fix it before it has a chance to interrupt your interconnected operations.
Even with all these challenges, the industry has seen rapid growth, and that's created a new problem, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers:
"Unfortunately, much of the technology used by cannabis operators today is rudimentary, unscalable, and unsustainable."
How can facility management software help cannabis companies?
It can help by ensuring companies see maximum ROI on their investments in assets and equipment. And because the software makes the assets more reliable, there are fewer chances for small issues to develop into major problems that cascade through the seed-to-sale model.
Investments in keeping one asset up and running help support ROI on all the assets and equipment across the organization.
Facility management software has many features that can help you see better, faster, more reliable maintenance, which means your operations stay online and within budget.
Open request portal for fast, accurate maintenance requests
The big challenge for facility managers is knowing where to put their resources. Having a team of trained maintenance technicians doesn't help unless the FM can deploy them efficiently.
The open request portal makes it much easier for the facility manager to stay on top of maintenance requests. Now instead of everyone trying to track down the FM's number or catch them in their office, anyone can quickly, efficiently reach out with a request by simply logging into the portal.
And because it comes with customizable fields, your facility manager can ensure they get the information they need to properly review each request. They can then generate, prioritize, and assign on-demand work order with the data techs need to get the job done.
Work order templates on PMs for consistent SOPs
The open request portal helps FMs with on-demand work orders, but ideally those should represent only about 20% of the overall maintenance work. The other 80% should be scheduled preventive maintenance work orders (PMs), where the FM uses a combination of inspections and tasks to find and fix small issues before they have a chance to develop into budget-busting problems.
Templates help with consistency, ensuring that no matter which tech does the work, it's done the same way every time. With paper- and spreadsheet-based methods, your FM must write everything out by hand or copy and paste from different files. At every step, there are chances to introduce small errors that, overtime, compound into unreliable data. But with templates, the FM makes one perfect copy of instructions that they can then easily add to new PMs.
Interactive site maps and floor plans for "repeating assets"
The goals for maintenance management tend to build on one another. Techs need to arrive quickly and well prepared for each inspection or task. But first, they need to arrive at the right location, which can be hard to do.
Having interactive maps and floor plans with asset and equipment locations might seem excessive, but for the cannabis industry, it's critical. Remember, at grow and cultivation facilities, there are rooms packed with endless rows of identical assets and equipment. Because the growers want everything to be consistent, they've set up everything the same way.
But if the work order says to look at the temperature sensor in Room X, how does the tech know which of the 20 sensors to fix?
When they can quickly find it on the map, they can save themselves a lot of time and you a lot of money.
Although the cannabis industry has enjoyed consistently rapid growth, operations still find themselves dealing with operational obstacles. Many have chosen the seed-to-sale model, where each company vertically integrates growing, processing, and distribution. Along with the benefits come added risks because even a small local problem can quickly spread, negatively affecting the entire organization. The solution is likely multi-faceted, but the adoption of facility management software can play an important role. When facility managers have access to strong, streamlined workflows, they can find and fix issues both earlier, faster, and better.
Hippo is here to help make the process of finding the right solution for your organization easier, including answering your questions about maintenance strategies (and everything else related to maintenance and compliance), helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial.