For owners of corporate offices, housing estates, schools, hospitals, and retailers, maintaining a facility and keeping it in tip-top shape can be an overwhelming task. But, that’s where Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) Software can help.
With the right tools, facility managers and landlords are able to streamline a building’s maintenance and management processes. Resulting in maximized efficiency, improved workflow, and happy occupants throughout the property.
What Is Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) Software?
Defined by the IFMA as the “practice of coordinating the physical workspace with the people and work of the organisation”, Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) Software is a digitized tool used to organise and plan the management and maintenance tasks within a facility.
An effective CAFM system incorporates features that aim to improve the efficiency of a facility’s processes, enabling landlords and facility managers to deliver the best possible workplace experience for their occupants.
Some vendors may portray facilities management in the same light as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Or even an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWNS). But, it’s important to know, that CAFM Software is so much more than that. For instance, it offers the maintenance management capabilities of a CMMS as well as the workplace management of IWNS. Overall delivering a variety of valuable building management functions.
Typical features of a facilities management system include maintenance planning, asset management, work order management, and space management. With these features, facility managers are able to:
- Manage and track assets as they move between buildings
- Reduce downtime of essential workplace equipment with preventive maintenance
- Reduce reactive maintenance costs with effective planning and scheduling
- Streamline work order processes such as repairs and maintenance
- Ensure the health, safety, and well-being of a building’s occupants
- Integrate with systems such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Building Information Modelling (BIM)
- Provide effective workplace management through space and move management tools
CAFM Software is a tool commonly used by enterprises and owners of multiple facility sites. But, with the rise in affordable SaaS and cloud-based options, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are beginning to take advantage of facilities managment solutions.
What Are the Processes of a Facilities Manager?
The role of both a facility manager and property owner is to ensure efficiency and safety throughout the premises. This is achievable through asset management, preventive maintenance, and work order management processes.
But, keeping on top of a building’s endless tasks and requirements can be challenging. Especially if jobs are being managed via time-consuming and error-prone methods such as pen-and-paper or spreadsheets. In fact, 44% of facilities in 2018 used only paper to organise their property processes.
To understand how businesses can benefit from a CAFM tool, they first need to identify their current facility processes. A great way to do this is to question how you operate within the building. Such as:
How Do You Ensure the Maintenance of Equipment? Whether reactive or preventive, identify how you plan for building maintenance. This can include planning for mechanical, electrical, or structural maintenance. For example, how do you plan for the maintenance of your HVAC systems and elevators?
How Is Equipment Made Available to Occupants? Supplying equipment doesn’t just mean making sure water coolers and kitchen kettles are available. It requires you to know the location of each piece of equipment as they’re moved between spaces and buildings.
Do You Collect Occupant and Space Management Data? Throughout the years, you may have collected data about your occupants and spaces within the property. This data could be an occupant’s name, length of residency, and any financial details. But, where do you store this data? Is it in a spreadsheet?
How Do You Communicate Work Orders Between Maintenance Personnel, Occupants, Contractors, and Management? When organising facility processes, it’s important that you keep in touch with all levels of workers. Whether that be by email, phone, or two-way radio. This includes relaying information to maintenance personnel, technicians, and occupants. In some cases, you'll need to provide updates to the executive management team as well.
Are You Responsible for Outsourcing Facility Processes? This includes being in contact with various facility management companies. Including cleaning, catering, waste management, security, and maintenance teams. As well as collecting and managing data regarding each external contractors and their work orders.
How Do You Recognise and Implement the Latest Facilities Management Trends? You may be expected to scan and analyse the market for new trends that can enhance your building’s processes. For instance, a recent trend is the use of drones and aerial imagery. With this, facility managers can identify any required maintenance needed to roofs and the exterior of high-rise buildings.
Being responsible for tasks such as building maintenance, cleaning, and asset procurement can take its toll on a facility manager. With so many processes to oversee, gaps may start to appear in a building’s workflow. For instance, a facility manager is expected to manage aspects such as:
- Health & safety
- Energy usage
- Work orders
- Service charges
That’s not to mention critical activities such as maintenance and equipment management.
But, when problems do appear, it's important to take note of each one. By doing so, managers can identify the exact features needed from a CAFM tool to help close these gaps. When it comes to identifying gaps, it's beneficial to separate them into two groups. These are hard facilities management services (Hard FM) and soft facilities management services (Soft FM).
What’s the Difference Between Hard and Soft FM Services?
Knowing the difference between hard and soft facilities management services is crucial. Especially when it comes to identifying the functions required from a software solution. Keep in mind that the right CAFM tool should be able to deliver on improving both hard and soft services.
Each service is unique to a property and can depend on the business type, building size, and location. It’s also important to remember that most services, whether hard or soft, are required by law.
What Are Hard FM Services?
Hard FM services are physical parts of the property that cannot be removed for the sake of the safety and welfare of the building’s occupants. These include:
- The maintenance of air conditioning units, heating systems, elevators, lighting, and plumbing
- The structural maintenance of the building and its grounds
- Ensuring fire safety systems are regularly tested and in working condition
- Responding to occupant requests and improvements
- Implementing preventive maintenance to avoid costly downtime of essential equipment
What Are Soft FM Services?
As opposed to hard services, soft FM services impact the workplace and make the working environment more pleasant and secure for occupants. Soft services are more comprehensive and complex when compared to hard services. These include:
- Project management and having a clear dialogue between departments
- Ensuring office spaces, common rooms, toilets, and windows are cleaned
- Calculating ROI values for workplace assets
- Providing security throughout the premises in the form of CCTV and RFID entrances
- Ensuring proper waste management and recycling practices
- Providing an efficient catering service
- Providing easy move management and workspace management
Top Tip: If you can't pinpoint challenges within your workflow, it’s a good idea to seek external input. Don’t be afraid to ask your team if there is anything they can see that needs improving. You could also contact other facility managers in your industry and ask what challenges they have faced in the past.
Key CAFM Features Needed to Meet Maintenance and Management Goals
Having a solid understanding of what you require from a CAFM tool can benefit your choice of software in two ways:
- You’re able to generate milestones and KPIs to measure the success of using a CAFM tool
- You're able to easily outline and communicate your expectations with the business’s decision-makers
Depending on a building’s processes, the primary functions of a facility management system will vary. For instance, with equipment downtime costing facilities between 5% and 20% of their productive capacity, a goal may be to decrease downtime. In this case, you’ll want a facilities management solution that focuses on preventive maintenance.
It’s important to note that all CAFM solutions will provide similar features and capabilities. But, some will focus on the aspect of one task more than another. Common features include:
- Maintenance planning & management
- Move management
- Work order management
- Asset management & tracking
- Workspace management
- Workplace safety & compliance
- Environment and energy management
After mapping out facility tasks and identifying the challenges of maintaining a building, you’re able to highlight the specific features you need. For instance, you may require a tool to:
Improve the Workflow of Maintenance Processes The improvement of workflow management can enhance the dialogue between maintenance personnel, teams, and departments. As well as enabling processes to run smoother. You're able to see what equipment is scheduled for maintenance and what maintenance is overdue or in progress.
Reduce Ongoing Facility Costs With the right facilities management tool, you can track and record all facility and maintenance spending. With this, you can produce reports to identify the resources that are having the biggest impact on the budget. Building expenses include energy bills, the cost of ground maintenance, and the outsourcing of personnel. For instance, in 2018 energy expenses averaged $0.06 per square foot (PSF) for industrial buildings. With ground and landscape maintenance expenses averaging $0.02 PSF.
Track Equipment and Facility Assets in Real-Time The right CAFM tool lets managers connect and sync tracking technologies to provide real-time data. Tracking technology includes IoT devices such as RFID tags, GPS trackers, and Bluetooth receivers. With this, a facility management system can collect real-time data such as energy usage and equipment failure. As of 2018, 47% of manufactures are placing a greater emphasis on the use of IoT devices in their properties.
Store Occupant, Office Space, Reservation, and Maintenance Data Instead of collecting data in spreadsheets, you may require an easier solution. A CAFM system will provide you with a central archive for all of your data, which can be accessed through a centralized dashboard.
Assist With the Procurement of Equipment and Inventory As well as managing inventory levels in real-time, managers can record each stage of the procurement journey to plan future budgets. An automated ordering system can also be built-in to the system to enhance the restocking process.
Improve Maintenance Scheduling to Prolong Equipment Use With Facilities Management Software, you have the ability to track the life cycle of building assets. This helps to build effective preventive maintenance schedules. As well as letting maintenance teams know when to repair or replace an asset to avoid extended periods of downtime.
Enhance the Health and Well-Being of Occupants Health and well-being are essential for increasing work efficiency in a building. By monitoring processes and collecting data, you’re able to understand the effect your management has on an occupant’s well-being. This includes air quality, temperature comfort, and lighting levels. As well as factors such as access to nature and having an outside view from an office.
Top Tip: To ensure a tool is best suited to you, separate your requirements into two lists; ‘I need’ and ‘I want’. Using this method allows you to prioritize certain aspects over others. For example, "I need the system to be cloud-based to access data on mobile devices". Or, "I want to upload our company logo into the system".
How to Find and Compare the Best Facilities Management Software
Whilst most software for facilities management can look the same, there are variations that can make a significant difference.
For instance, you may come across one application that is focused more on providing mobile access for departments. Whereas another tool may put all of its attention into maintenance management, much like a CMMS.
The slight differences in a vendor’s product make it important for you to have an idea of what you require from a CAFM tool. Once you have these desirables in place, you’re in good shape to search the marketplace. Here’re four steps we recommend taking while searching for the right vendor:
- Have a definitive list of the features, requirements, and KPIs
- Shortlist at least five vendors that match your list of requirements
- Screenshot, write down, or print out the functions that each vendor can supply
- Make a list of noteworthy points from each vendor such as free trials, training support, and prices
At the end of the comparison and evaluation stage, you should be left with the ideal tool that is going to meet your requirements. While also improving the efficiency of your management and maintenance processes, and helping to achieve your goals.
Here’re a few points to keep in mind when it comes to comparing Facilities Management Software vendors against one another:
Actively Seek Out a CAFM Free Trial or Live Demonstration
Access to a vendor’s product, via a free trial or live demonstration, can make the difference between choosing vendor ‘A’ over vendor ‘B’. Usually, an online demo will be the first interaction you have with the product. It may also be accompanied by a salesperson who will walk you through the product, giving you a chance to ask any questions. This is then followed by a free trial, where you can test the product yourself and understand the system’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to your maintenance and management requirements.
Top Tip: If you can’t find a free trial on the vendor’s site, get in touch with them directly. Most providers are more than willing to give prospects in the purchasing stage access to their system. Be wary of vendors that refuse to offer a demo or free trial of their product.
Consider All Key Areas of the CAFM Software Product
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to understanding a vendor’s CAFM tool. Consider this:
- Does it have a clear user interface that is easy to navigate?
- Are you able to identify the right maintenance and management features that you require when using the free trial?
- Were you able to find and contact the vendor’s support team? If so, were you satisfied with their reply and response time?
- Did they offer training, video tutorials, or web-based classes on how to use their product?
- Have they had any prior experience providing software to other facility management businesses that are similar to yours, or in the same industry?
- Do they meet the correct legal requirements to comply with GDPR law regarding the collection of occupant and personnel data?
Cross-Check Each Product With Your Requirements
Make sure the chosen tool can meet each of your identified requirements by cross-checking your needs and asking questions, such as:
- Can the product provide the right features to improve the workflow and communication of facility processes throughout the organisation?
- Does it offer the right reporting and analysis tools to accurately track and help reduce ongoing facilities, maintenance, and equipment costs?
- Will it provide a notification-style system that alerts you when a maintenance work order has been started, completed, or is overdue?
- Can the system migrate occupant, equipment, and maintenance data and store it all into one accessible centralized database repository?
- Can it be aligned with an asset management tool that works with IoT-enabled devices, such as GPS trackers and smart heating systems, to provide real-time data and prolong the usability of equipment?
- Is it a web-based/cloud-based solution that allows all maintenance personnel to access specific data from anywhere, at any time, via a mobile device?
Enquire About Prices, Plans, and Hidden Costs
Lastly, ask each vendor about the price of their product. You’ll want to know their pricing plans and if there are extra fees for storage limits or implementation. Knowing the price is crucial for understanding the ROI of the product in relation to your KPIs and milestones; “is it worth it?”.
Best Ways to Deploy a New CAFM System
Once you’ve found the best Facilities Management Software solution for managing your building, then comes the fun part; deploying it. But, before this can happen, you’ll need to have all decision-makers and stakeholders on board. This is particularly important if you’re operating as a facilities manager, landlord, or site owner.
You’ll also have to consider the needs of the employees who are expected to use the tool, such as maintenance teams and outsourced cleaning personnel. Ask yourself:
- Is the software easy-to-use?
- Will employees need to be trained in the new system and how long will it take?
- If training is required, will it be provided or are employees expected to study independently?
- Should employees be familiar with hardware and equipment that is included with the system, such as barcode scanners?
- Will there be specific functions for each department, such as scheduling cleaning and ground maintenance?
It’s then time to get approval from the decision-makers. Here’re some key points to keep in mind when making your case to an executive management team:
- Refer to how this tool will aim to serve the company’s best interest
- Include plenty of numbers and figures in your presentation, such as ROI calculations and KPIs
- Detail how, and if, existing tools can be utilised and integrated with the product
- Present a detailed plan and timescale for deployment and full integration
- Highlight any risks that may appear during integration
When the time comes to develop a detailed integration plan for your new facilities management tool, there are a few things that need to be considered. Such as:
What Is the Timescale for Deployment of CAFM Software?
Once you’ve purchased the tool, you may have a rough idea of the time it takes to meet your goals. But, deploying the tool can be a lengthy process. So make sure to leave time for any challenges you may face.
Do Staff Need to Be Trained?
Don’t expect your CAFM tool to instantly improve your facility processes without the right training. This requires time and money, so be sure to factor this into your plan.
Can It Be Integrated With Other Systems?
Consider the challenges when integrating the product with other tools such as email, calendars, data storage, and file-hosting. It may take even longer to integrate other applications as well, such as BIM and CAD systems.
Can Existing Data be Uploaded and How Long Will It Take?
You may have collected a large amount of data regarding building space, maintenance work orders, and occupants. This data will need to be transferred into your new system, which can be a lengthy process. Whether you do it yourself, or your vendor offers help at an extra cost, you’ll need to consider the time it takes to complete this transition.
Top Tip: It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t expect to see results straight away. You may only start to reap the benefits of Facilities Management Software once you’ve put in the work. Make sure the system is working in every aspect and its features are set up to your every need. The more time and work you put into using the system, the quicker you can start achieving your goals.