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Hippo's turn-key onboarding and implementation solutions ensure companies get their computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) up and running as smoothly as possible. An important part of the process is a complete facility audit. But what is a facility audit, and should your company get one?

Implementation specialists Mike Sokulski and Tyler Syrowitz have traveled the world helping companies get their assets into Hippo's CMMS. Mike has done audits all over, including a museum inside an aircraft carrier, a small island community, and even a jail. Tyler has worked with customers throughout Canada and America, including OG Packing, where cherries are processed, and Columbia Pulp, where straw is turned into paper and packing. Here they share their insights into facility audits and how companies can set themselves up for success.

What is a facility audit?

An audit is how all the asset information that needs to get into the database gets into the database, Mike explains. An implementation specialist comes onsite and catalogs a facility's assets, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and production. Generally, there are three phases.

Phase one: onsite cataloging of assets

First, an implementation specialist arrives onsite to catalog assets. They walk around the facility with a camera and tablet, taking pictures, mapping locations on a digital floor plan, and gathering information. Mike says he collects a lot for each asset, including "serial numbers, model numbers, what electrical panel is it tied to in case you need to shut it down, and for some bigger assets, even motor information."

Every company gets an audit tailored to its situation, but usually Mike or Tyler will be onsite for two to three days. In rare cases, when it looks like it might take more than a week, Hippo starts thinking about sending both.

A new trend is companies requesting barcoding. "As we're doing the audit, we're attaching barcodes to the assets... A lot of companies like it. They like having a number they can reference," Mike says. The benefit for the company is that later technicians can scan the barcode tag with a mobile device to access all the asset's information. On Mike and Tyler's end, barcoding adds a few extra steps. They need to find a good location for the heavy-duty tag, which they then add to the asset's information along with the barcode.

Phase two: offsite database building

Back at Hippo's offices, Mike and Tyler start putting everything together. "We take all that information, which is a lot, and essentially we're combing through it and building your database," Mike says. Times vary according to the size of the database, but Hippo typically estimates between four to six weeks to get everything loaded, says Tyler.

Phase three: preventive maintenance scheduling

Everything depends on how much of a Preventive Maintenance schedule is already in place. In some cases, companies just need their information added to the CMMS. In others, Mike and Tyler help companies establish a schedule. "We try to do some research on the equipment and come up with industry-standard PMs." Hippo already has a lot of this information on hand, but Mike and Tyler sometimes need to hunt down manuals and contact equipment manufactures directly.

Should your company get facility audit?

Mike suggests companies think carefully about the following questions:

  • Do you have an accurate and complete list of all your assets?
  • Do you have someone on staff who can load everything into the database, and can you afford to take them away from their regular assignments?
  • Are your assets close together? Or, will information be coming from different locations and sources?

If a company answers no to any of the above, it should think seriously about an audit, Mike says. Alternatively, a company can decide by asking itself one question: Do you want a turnkey solution? If the answer is yes, an audit is the way to go.

Tyler has a different question companies can ask themselves: Do you want to be efficient? Tyler knows experience pays when it comes to auditing. Recently, he worked with a company that thought it had thousands of assets to be entered into the CMMS. When Tyler arrived onsite, he realized the number was actually in the hundreds. The company had been counting every part as an asset when it often only needed to be looking at groups of interrelated parts. "Think of your laptop," Tyler says. "You can have ten assets or one. Would you say it's a screen plus a keyboard plus a mouse? Practically speaking, for maintenance, it's one asset." If it breaks and you're writing the work order, that's when you can be more specific about which part needs attention, he advises.

Tyler saved that company time and effort during the audit. He also saved the maintenance department from long-term frustration. His work prevents companies from bloating their database, making work order generation and preventive maintenance scheduling more difficult. "It costs money to have us come there, but we're saving them money," he explains.

How do implementation specialists prepare?

First, Mike and Tyler reach out to the company, because they need to know the company's timeline and how far along the maintenance department is in the overall process. They then need to hammer out the logistics, such as setting arrival and departure dates, reviewing safety requirements, and establishing who will be the onsite liaison. In some facilities, Mike and Tyler are given a brief tour and made to watch a safety video before being left alone to complete their work. In others, a manager or member of the maintenance department is with them at all times.

To help them plan out the audit, implementation specialist request:

  • Easy-to-read, digital floor plans, usually as PDFs or CADs
  • Existing lists of assets
  • Current PM schedules
  • Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&ID)

If a company wants barcodes, Hippo prefers knowing that in advance, so the tags can be shipped directly to the site.

How should companies prepare?

The more preparation a company does leading up to the audit, the better it runs. Having all the requested documents, especially clean digital floor plans, makes finding and cataloging assets faster.

On top of good maps, Tyler encourages companies to provide good guides. Having someone from the company who's familiar with the facility helps build better accessibility into the databases. Specifically, Tyler wants his guides to know if the technicians have special names for any of the assets. Using these names, which can be completely idiosyncratic, ensures the technicians and the database speak the same language.

Knowledgeable guides also ensure accuracy. Although Mike and Tyler have audited facilities in many different industries and have seen all kinds of assets, they sometimes come across something new. Tyler audited a facility full of highly specialized machines imported from Italy for sorting and packaging cherries, and his guide was invaluable in helping get the right information into the CMMS.

Mike also encourages companies to have their assets ranked by criticality, so that the most important ones get done first. If there's time at the end of the audit, he can then move on to a secondary list of nice-to-haves.   

What are the unexpected benefits?

Some companies are surprised by how Hippo's CMMS makes training new staff easier, Mike says. Instead of having to be told where everything is, new technicians can access information-rich digital floor plans. Instead of having to be walked through a common repair, they can look at historical data for an asset or follow a customizable checklist.

Tyler sees audits as a chance for maintenance departments to see how much Hippo cares and to spread excitement about implementing a new facility management software. Any new project requires a level of buy-in from staff to be successful, and audits help introduce the technology and get everyone onboard.     

There are benefits for the implementation specialist, too. Both Mike and Tyler enjoy traveling and meeting new people, and both agree it's always interesting to see new equipment in new industries. Mike recently had a chance to audit fuel trucks for Shell Aviation. The vehicles are enormous, with 25 to 30 assets each, he explains. "That audit was really cool."

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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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