If you ask Lee Kaufman, senior vice-president of professional services at VFA, the benefit to facility managers of maintaining accurate asset data is clear. In a recent webinar titled See the Big Picture: Keeping Your Facility Asset Data Current, Kaufman pointed to the ability to develop long-term plans, extend building and infrastructure life and justify spending requests.
Yet, he said, “Whenever we speak to organizations about maintaining data, its accuracy, I’m not quite sure exactly what it is — whether it’s a time, an energy, or a money issue — but it always seems to be that 5,000-pound elephant that’s in the room that nobody really wants to speak about.”
The fallout from stale data can be higher costs for avoidable emergency repairs and missed opportunities for bulk procurement across a portfolio of facilities.
Before facility managers can develop a plan for keeping facility asset data current, they need to consider how that data is used within their organizations, Kaufman said. This includes examining what needs to be done to maintain facilities in their current condition, as well as responding to change and recovering from disaster.
In the case of Hurricane Sandy, he said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was prepared to offer immediate assistance to a number of New York hospitals. First, though, FEMA needed to know what was in those facilities, what its replacement value was, and what its current condition was. Having that data at the ready in that situation was critical for those hospitals.
Kaufman said that there are two key components to an effective program for keeping facility asset data current: data maintenance and reassessment.
Data maintenance is updating data as changes occur though the course of day-to-day operations. For example, if a roof is scheduled for replacement and then is replaced, that information should be updated in the database.
“(It’s) almost like cramming for test. If you leave all of your studying to the last day, it’s going to be a lot harder,” he said. “If you do things a little bit at a time, you get to a much better end result and have much better data.”
Reassessment is a larger, periodic sweep done to capture new information that wouldn’t normally be picked up during day-to-day operations.
Facility managers need to conduct both data maintenance and reassessment, Kaufman stressed. If only data maintenance is done, data periodically improves in the short term, but continues to degrade in the long term as new realities are not captured. If only reassessment is done, data continues to degrade until the next reassessment is done, which may be three or more years later.
Common obstacles to implementing programs such as these are limited resources, whether they are time, money or personnel — or a combination thereof.
Kaufman recommended starting with a good baseline for data, and integrating data maintenance into day-to-day operations. By taking advantage of mobile technology, in-house staff or third-party providers can update information as preventative maintenance and repairs are completed. Through the use of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), the act of closing out a work order can automatically update baseline data.
As for reassessment, he said, some organizations may not be able to reestablish their data baseline with a desired level of frequency (for example, reassessing a third of an organization’s portfolio every year for a three-year reassessment cycle).
One strategy for addressing these situations is to prioritize facilities by impact and risk (low, medium or high), determine which facilities need to be reassessed frequently on a short cycle, such as laboratories, and which facilities can be reassessed infrequently on a longer cycle, such as warehouses.
Ultimately, Kaufman reiterated, it’s important for facility managers to keep facility asset data current to inform critical decisions.
“I wouldn’t want to give a C-level person, or my director, or my vice-president within my organization a funding needs report over the next five or 10 years on how much money I need to spend in my facilities to have them support my mission with data that’s five years old,” he said.
“It becomes pretty apparent that whether you’re doing short-term planning and just trying to address day-to-day items within your facility, you’re trying to mitigate some risk within your organization, (or if you’re doing) longer term planning, it’s really crucial to have the most up-to-date data.”
Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.