COVID-19 has forced sudden, radical changes across industries. Facilities management has become even tougher, but a CMMS software system remains the best way to gain control, find efficiencies, create transparency, and enforce accountability.

Tough challenges demand smart solutions. It’s not enough to just work harder. You need a force multiplier. Facility management software streamlines and re-enforces your operations.

Locate threats early with the open request portal in facility maintenance software

The first step to fixing problems is finding them, and that can be tough. Even with smaller facilities, there are a million places for problems to hide. Traditionally, maintenance departments have used a couple of different methods. One is to just wait until problems get so big they’re impossible to miss. Looking for small leaks? You can wait until there are giant pools of water on the floor.

Another method is the classic walkthrough, where facility maintenance technicians walk around assets looking for signs of trouble. Steam where there shouldn’t be? Electrical panel giving off a weird smell? Pump making more noise than usual? Maintenance departments use walkthroughs because they work. And here’s why: assets don’t suddenly stop working; they deteriorate. And along the way, they give off different signals that something’s wrong.

The distance an asset travels from peak condition to total breakdown is called the P-F curve. It looks like this:

Graph depicting asset condition vs P-F Interval

At each step, the sign is a bit more obvious. Think about the last time you burned the toast. It’s a simple example everyone can relate to, regardless of their professional industry. The first sign of trouble was the smell. But that was it; everything else looked fine. Then there would have been some smoke. Not much at first, but it would have become progressively thicker. Then came the flames. If only you had noticed the smell, you could have easily turned off the toaster. So that’s what walkthroughs are: technicians walking around on the lookout for early signs of trouble.

But there’s a limitation: your technicians can’t be out walking around the facility forever. There’s not enough of them and they don’t have enough time. So the next best thing, and sometimes it’s even better than walkthroughs by technicians, is to make sure everyone in the facility has an easy, standardized way to reach you. Now you don’t need an army of technicians standing constant guard. You’ve got everyone in your facilities ready and able to report problems.

The open request portal in CMMS software makes this happen. Instead of people trying to find your office phone number or the department’s email address, everyone can access the request portal.

Quick side note: generally, when you put “everyone” and “access” together, things get expensive. But with user-based subscriptions, requesters don’t count as users. They’re using the CMMS software to reach you, but you’re not paying for them. Another quick note: a good CMMS has an intuitive interface, which means it’s easy to learn to use. When you implement, technicians will need some CMMS software training, but everyone else should be able to figure out the the request portal just by looking at it.

So now you’ve got everyone in the facilities helping you find problems up near the top of the P-F curve, where things are simple and quick, not down near the bottom, where they’re complicated and expensive. And remember that it’s not only easy, it’s also standardized. You get the information you need to manage your on-demand work orders, which is often not the case when you’re dealing with voicemail and emails. The request portal comes with preset fields, ensuring that people know what information to include. You get the data you need to properly review and prioritize work order requests.

In the fight against COVID-19, it’s critical that you’re able to efficiently manage the department’s facility management technicians. When a request comes in, you need to be able to tell right away how serious it is. If someone calls and leaves a vague voicemail about an issue in the front-office men’s bathroom, it’s hard for you to know if you should even bother looking into it. But when someone reaches out through the request portal, and you learn that the sink’s not working which means no one can wash their hands, you know that it’s a priority. With COVID-19, health and safety issues, while always an important concern, have become critical. The request portal ensures you’re getting the information you need to make the right decisions and keep everyone safe.

Use that intelligence to build data-packed work orders with facility maintenance software

The open request portal makes it easy for people to reach you and provide you with the right information. Once you have it, you can use the CMMS software system to review the requests and then generate, prioritize, and delegate them. The work order tracking software built into the CMMS will then do its job of tracking the work orders.

It’s worth spending time looking at the ability to generate work orders. With older facilities management systems such as paper and spreadsheets, you’re limited in how much information you can include. How many slips of paper is a facility maintenance technician going to take with them? How much time are they going to spend adjusting the screen on their mobile device? With older systems, you can’t add much information.

But with CMMS software, you can include:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Customizable checklists
  • Digital images, manuals, schematics, and docs
  • Associated parts and materials
  • Work order histories
  • Interactive floor and site maps

Interactive floor and site maps that provide all details needed for preventive maintenance tasks including map locationstechs get exactly where they’re needed, right away

It’s worth looking at a few of those in more detail.

Step-by-step instructions, customizable checklists, and digital docs

These are always helpful because technicians can quickly see the department’s current best practices for each type of task. No more winging it. No more having everyone do everything a bit differently. Another advantage that a lot of people don’t realize is how it makes training so much easier. Instead of asking more experienced technicians to babysit newer members of the team, you can send people out on Day One, confident that they’ll be able to do the job well. They have everything they need to close out work orders efficiently with minimal supervision.

But it’s not only newer members of the team that benefit from detailed instructions. In the fight against COVID-19, all facility maintenance technicians need to be able to quickly learn new tasks.Take for example the new cleaning and sanitation schedules many facilities are following. There’s no time for a learning curve, and no room for error. Everyone in the department needs to know how to use the correct chemicals and follow the right procedures.

There are a lot of on-demand and scheduled work orders in any given day, and it would be a bit time-consuming to carefully add all that information for each one. And just for this purpose, work order software comes with an important feature called templates, where you can have everything added with a few clicks before customizing it. For example, you can have a template for work orders related to sanitation. Every time you use it, you get a work order that’s preloaded with instructions and checklists. You can then go in and change who it’s assigned to or when it’s due.

Associated parts and materials

This one helps technicians individually and the department overall. Because they know beforehand exactly what they’ll need for the work order, technicians arrive onsite prepared. No more running back to the inventory room for that part they didn’t know they’d need.

But there’s a second benefit, and it starts when the tech finishes. Because the CMMS software is tracking inventory, when the work order is closed out, the associated parts and materials are automatically subtracted from the inventory counts. The software always knows how much you have on-hand, and the numbers are updated in real-time. Once the levels hit customizable minimums, the software warns you, and with the purchase order module, even streamlines the ordering process. You have the lead time you need to get in your next order long before you run out.

Inventory management is always important. You want to have the right part at the right time at the right price. It’s a balancing act; too much and you’re spending a lot in carrying costs, but too little and you’re spending a lot on rush shipments for parts you need right away. But in the fight against COVID-19, it’s become critical. Supply chains are strained and slowed, and even when parts are available for shipping,  it’s hard to find someone who can deliver them quickly. With everyone focused on shipping essential supplies, it’s harder and harder to ship anything else. CMMS software ensures you can control your inventory even when supply chains have slowed down.

Send out and track work orders from anywhere with facility maintenance software

Now that you have the work orders packed with information, it’s time to delegate. It’s worth looking quickly at traditional methods to appreciate how much facility maintenance software streamlines the whole process. With paper- and spreadsheet-based systems, your data is always trapped and soon out of date. When you write something on paper, there’s only one copy, which makes it hard to share and easy to lose. With spreadsheets, you can have as many copies as you want, but they’re only copies for a short time. They soon turn into versions. How?

Imagine you’ve set up a work order on your computer. You then send it to a tech as an email attachment. But you have’t actually sent it. Not really. You’ve sent a copy, so now there’s one on your computer and one of the tech’s. And changes you make to yours are not carried over to the tech’s copy. So now they’re not copies. They’re different versions. Spreadsheets overcome the problem of not being able to share data. But they introduce a new problem: too many versions of the data. Someone’s always behind, working off of out-of-data information. CMMS software solves both problems by putting everything in one database. Now everyone is working from the same data, and everyone can see any changes in real-time. Everything is available from anywhere, at any time.

In the fight against COVID-19, you need you need to be able to stay in contact from far away. Up until now, being able to communicate with technicians over long distances has been a way to work more efficiently. And it still is. But now it’s a way to work more safely. When you can delegate and track work orders through any online desktop, laptop, or mobile device, no one has to come to the office to pick up paperwork. Everyone can maintain social distancing.

Schedule and track preventive maintenance with facility maintenance software

We’ve been looking mainly at on-demand work orders, but for many facilities managers, CMMS software is all about setting up, scheduling, and tracking a preventive maintenance program. The value is easy to understand; it’s easier to prevent a problem than to fix it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Preventive maintenance software delivers:

  • Increased uptime
  • Longer asset life
  • Easier inventory management
  • Improved efficiency
  • Increased safety

And of course there’s the benefit of just making your life easier. Instead of waiting for things to fail, you’re out ahead of the maintenance curve. You go into work knowing what you and your team will be doing. Everything is nice and orderly, predictable.

In the fight against COVID-19, these programs have become even more important. The pandemic has destabilized some parts of the economy, introducing both financial constraints and new uncertainties. Now more than ever, maintenance departments are being asked to do more with less, including working with less money and smaller teams. A preventive maintenance program backed by CMMS software saves money by tackling small issues before they grow into budget-busting problems. And because you’re able to schedule work far in advance, you can use resources more efficiently.

The Calendar Dashboard in Hippo CMMS that allows scheduling and tracking of preventive maintenance tasks

schedule and track preventive maintenance using the calendar dashboard

The pandemic’s effects have not been uniform. Some industries, for example hotels and restaurants, have been stopped in their tracks. Others, for example paper products and medical supplies manufacturing, are being pushed to their limits. Implementing a preventive maintenance program helps across industries.

The most important thing for idle facilities is to ensure they are in the best possible position for a quick recovery. Once demand returns, they’ll need a fast, sustained response. Methodically maintaining their assets now prepares them for future success. For facilities currently dealing with increased demand, preventive maintenance ensures critical assets stay up and running. Downtime and lost productivity should always be avoided. But right now, the stakes are higher.

Capture the maintenance big picture with facility maintenance software

CMMS maintenance software makes it easy to capture and share data. Then it makes it easy to leverage into actionable intelligence. Autogenerated reports present the data in easy-to-read graphs and insightful KPIs. With paper work orders, crunching all those numbers would take an impossibly long time. Spreadsheets would be only marginally faster, but much more prone to errors. All you need to do is accidentally copy and paste the wrong cell once for all your numbers to be off.

With CMMS software, you can quickly see where your budget is going. Which asset is costing you most in repairs and lost production. How much are you spending on parts and materials. When is the best time to stop repairing an asset and replace it altogether.

In the fight against COVID-19, tracking takes on new importance. When asked to do more with less, you need to know exactly where your budget is going. You also need to make sure the right work is getting done, especially work specifically related to preventing the spread of the virus. When generating templates, you can add categories. For example, you can put all sanitation-related task under the category “COVID-19.” The software can then pull only those work orders into the reporting module, allowing you to stay laser-focused on your current top priorities.

Get started with facility maintenance software

COVID-19 caught the world off guard. Now it’s time to take back control. But to do that, you need the right set of tools. Facility maintenance software collects, safeguards, and helps you leverage the data you need to run your operations smoothly, safely.

If you don’t currently have a solution or you’re dealing with a platform that’s not delivering what you were promised, today’s the day to get into a demo. You need to see the software in action. There’s no other way to really know how something works and how it can work for you.

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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