Keeping everything up and running at schools and campuses is a constant test for their maintenance departments. But CMMS software helps them pass with flying colors.
Educational facilities include everything from simple single-room schoolhouses to multi-facility campuses stretching across acres. Regardless of size, CMMS school software makes it easier to collect, share, and leverage data. With less downtime, you save time, money, and effort.
Let’s look at some features and see how they make life easier for school and campus maintenance departments.
Stay close together from far away with facilities management software and cloud computing
Everything in a school is far away, even when it’s close together. That’s less philosophical and more practical than it first sounds. In some cases, your team is spread out over a large campus, each technician in a different building. In others, everyone might be in the same building, but the layout makes it hard to connect. Remember, a lot of schools are basically endless hallways lined with classrooms behind closed doors. You can be twenty feet from someone, and it still might take ten minutes to find them.
Cloud computing-backed CMMS system brings everyone together, even from far away. You might be wondering right now how that’s different than mobile phones. Doesn’t even the most bare bones basic smartphone keep everyone connected?
It’s not the same. With cloud computing, all your data is kept safe and secure on one central database that everyone can access from anywhere, at any time. They can use any Internet-connected desktop, laptop, or mobile device. When you’re using phones all by themselves, you’re reduced to phone calls, voice mails, and maybe spreadsheet attachments on emails. Let’s look at the challenges.
Phone calls are great for communicating small bits of information, a few at a time. But as soon as you need to explain a complicated process, the person on the other end needs to go from high-tech to low, grabbing a pencil and writing stuff down. You’re moving backwards in time.
Then there are spreadsheet attachments, which are generally terrible for two different reasons. The first is that they’re hard to read. Spreadsheets were designed to be read on large desktop and laptop screens. What’s usually the first thing you do when you open a spreadsheet on your computer? You adjust the font to make everything bigger and easier to read. Even on a large screen, all those lines tend to blend together. But with CMMS software, the user experience is so much better. With responsive design, the software figures out what device you’re using and adjusts to make everything easy to read and navigate. No more endlessly trying to pinch and spread spreadsheet cells. No more squinting to read tiny text.
The second reason they’re terrible is that they’re full of out-of-date data. When you attach one to an email, you’re attaching a copy. So, now there’s two: one on your device and one on theirs. Any changes you make on yours do not carry over to the other copy. And any changes they make on theirs have no effect on your copy. You’ve doubled the amount of data you have but you’ve also doubled the amount of inaccuracy.
With cloud computing, everything is in one safe spot. Everyone is working from the same data, and everyone is able to see any changes in real-time. When a work order gets updated or closed out, everyone can see it. Think of the maintenance department as a band. When backed by cloud computing, everyone is playing the same song. Running a maintenance department without cloud computing sounds terrible.
Get the information you need with facilities management software and an open request portal
At schools, not only is it important that you have open lines of communication but also you need a lot of them. Every maintenance manager, regardless of industry, needs a way to collect maintenance requests. Take someone working at a manufacturing plant, for example. They might hear about issues from the front office, equipment operators, and their own technicians. But the maintenance manager at a school, though, needs a way to collect requests from teachers, administrators, and administrative staff and students. Remember, even small colleges have thousands of students.
The open request portal makes it easy for people to submit requests and easy for you to evaluate them. Instead of people trying to track down your office or your phone number, they can quickly use the portal to submit a request. How do they find the portal, though? Easy: you include a link on the school’s website.
Once on the portal, people can see exactly what information they need to include, which makes your job a lot easier. If they’re just emailing you, without any clear idea of what information you need, most people will miss things. Imagine getting this email:
“There’s a leak in the sink in the girls bathroom.””
If only the person included the building and floor! Also, it would be nice to know how bad the leak is. Because the request portal has specific fields that need to be filled out, people send the all the information you need to approve, generate, prioritize, assign, and track work orders easily. And prioritizing them properly is a must for schools. There’s a huge difference between getting a request to look at the play structure because one of the swings is squeaking and one of the swing chains being broken, creating an instant choking hazard for children.
Still on the topic of prioritizing requests, maintenance at schools is a different than in other industries because it’s so seasonal. There’s a huge difference between the average day in September and one in mid-July. The types of maintenance requests and their relative priorities change. You’re not going to rush to fix the lights in a classroom over the summer, but you might when it’s getting used every day in September. CMMS software helps you make sure work orders get done the right way, by the right techs, and in the right order.
And remember, cloud computing means all of this can be done from anywhere, at any time. When you assign a work order, the tech knows in real-time. CMMS software makes it easy to know where techs are needed. And it also makes it easy to give them everything they need once they get there.
Make every tech an expert with facilities management software and work order management
The oldest building at Harvard, which claims to be the oldest university in America, is Massachusetts Hall. It was built in 1720, and is still being used today for office space and dormitories. Try to imagine the mix of original materials, hundreds of years of retrofit systems, and new upgrades in just that one building. The Internet modem could be beside something that predates the Declaration of Independence. An extreme example, but a lot of schools and campuses are basically the same: a mix of new and old buildings and systems.
And even if everything was really old or brand new, there would still be a wide range of types of assets and equipments requiring maintenance. Everything from the bathrooms to the vent hoods in the labs, from the deep fryer in the cafeteria to the air conditioner in the faculty lounge. But it’s impossible for techs to have an encyclopedic knowledge of every era of construction, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. They also can’t know everything about every asset.
With the right CMMS, they don’t need to. Instead of keeping all your department’s hard-won know-how inside techs’ heads, you keep it safe in the facility management software. It comes down to what information you can include in each work order. Tech’s get everything they need to close out work orders properly, efficiently, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Digital images, schematics, O&M manuals
- Associated parts and materials
- Complete asset work order history
A good CMMS even has interactive site and floor maps.
Not only does this help techs work more efficiently on a wider variety of tasks, but it also helps the department safeguard what’s called “tribal knowledge,” the department’s shared knowledge that’s not written down anywhere. Now when someone retires or moves to a new job, all their experience doesn’t walk out the door with them.
Hit the three “rights” with facilities management software and inventory management
Including associated parts and materials on work orders means techs arrive on site with everything they need to complete the maintenance or make the repairs. But it also helps you automate your inventory control, ensuring technicians have the right parts at the right time at the right price. How does it do all three “rights”?
Every time you associate a part with a work order, the facilities management software removes it from inventory as soon as the work order is closed out. There’s always an accurate count of what you have on hand. You can also look at past usage rates and current lead times to set up par levels. For example, you decide you always want to keep at least two backup fans for the lab air hoods in inventory. As soon as the inventory levels dips below two, the software sends you an alert, reminding you to order more. Then from inside the software, you can use the purchase module to reach out to your vendors.
Automated inventory control is also great when your inventory is split up across different buildings. For example, if you have a campus with ten buildings, where would you keep the spare light bulbs? Instead of one giant pile, you’d have a bit of inventory in each building. When you run out in one building (which should be extremely rare because you’ve got your par levels set and always reorder before you run out), you can quickly check and track the inventory in other facilities. This type of inventory management is especially helpful for school division-wide maintenance departments who look after many different buildings. When you’re out of parts at one school, you can quickly check the surrounding schools’ inventories.
Stay on schedule with facilities management software and preventive maintenance
The open request portal helps the department collect, prioritize, delegate, and track on-demand work orders. Info-packed work orders means techs can work on a large variety of asset types. These features help the department work more efficiently. But the ability to schedule and track preventive maintenance is a little different. It helps you work less.
Preventive maintenance software delivers:
- Increased uptime
- Longer asset life
- Easier inventory management
- Improved efficiency
- Increased safety
That’s because at the core of preventive maintenance is one simple, powerful truth. It’s easier to avoid a problem than fix it. By actively looking for small issues before they have a chance to grow into big problems, you save time, money, and effort. And once your PMs are scheduled in the CMMS software, there’s really no way to forget them. The software does all the remembering for you. All you need to do is check the easy-to-read calendar. The software also does all the reminding. When a task is due, it sends out email alerts.
Moving away from reactive, on-demand maintenance to scheduled, preventive maintenance is especially important for educational facilities. Classrooms and campuses are full of safety and compliance issues. Quick example: The average university lab is full of expensive equipment, research subjects, and years’ worth of data. A burst pipe or the HVAC breaking down over a hot weekend can cause irreparable damage.
When it comes to a preventive maintenance schedule, really the best part is coming to work every day already knowing your schedule. It’s so much less stressful than having to wonder nervously “What now?” every time the phone rings.
Make data-driven decisions with facilities management software and reporting
A good CMMS collects and protects your data. But a great CMMS can take that data and really make it work for you. Because we’re on the subject of education, here’s a quick test. How many of these questions can you answer about your maintenance operations:
- Which asset has cost you the most in parts and labor in the last six months?
- Which item in inventory has the fastest burn rate?
- What’s the next large asset you’ll need to replace, when are you going to replace it, and how much would it cost you if you didn’t replace it?
If you don’t know the answers now, do you know where you could find them? And if you know where you could find them, do you have a sense of how long it would take you to track down and add up all those numbers?
With facilities management software, the answers are just a few clicks away. Basically, the software does your homework for you, collecting the data and then putting it into easy-to-read graphs and KPIs. Once you can see the maintenance big picture, you can start making better decisions.
Learn more about facilities management software
It’s hard to learn about something by just reading about it. You need to see it in action. Teachers do this all the time. Did your English teacher have the students sit and read Shakespeare by themselves? No, she read parts out loud, asked students to perform with her. And your math teacher worked out problems on the board in front of the class. She didn’t send you home to read the book cover to cover on your own.
It’s the same here. You need to see it in action to really understand how it works and how it can work for you.
Ready to learn more about facilities management software?