I opened the door, and there it was, a complete history of the school’s inspections and maintenance records all nicely stored in bound paper folders on shelves covered in a mantle of dust.
During a recent Facility Management assessment in China, I was presented with such a storage room full of bound folders of checklists, reports and records kept by the operational personnel of the school, covering the complete history of the property. The documents were seldom, if ever, referred to again after they were filed away. Many of the documents were records of inspections by engineering teams, nurses and environmental health and safety personnel, and were very thorough. This kind of tedious writing and record keeping can be very useful, but the process of filing the reports away and never accessing them again happens more often than we care to admit it.
While all of the record keeping and information has been recorded into a beautifully crafted document, the paper, the records are written on, are more valuable than the records themselves. While the documents do show a moment in time in the history of the school, there is no way to analyze, cross check, and dice the information and understand if there is a repetitiveness to the incidents or repairs carried out within the campus, not to mention the inability to track health and safety incidents.
To shed some light into Facility Management (FM) operations, we convinced the school leadership, and subsequently the different teams, to collaborate with us and collate all the historical information into a database. At the beginning it was a dull job of transcribing verbatim from the checklists that were in the records’ room. Eventually we were able to connect the database with expenditures and invoices, and, by using excel and implementing some analytics, we created a tool that helped dice and scrutinize the historical data giving us greater insight into the work being carried out, the effectiveness of the maintenance team and greater efficiency reducing the financial cost of contracted work.
This platform does not predict the future. However, the owner of the house, the Facilities Manager, needs to demonstrate responsible ownership of his (her) budget. The FM Manager needs to track incidents, review asset lists, review how Work Orders are carried out and relative costs calculated. This data gives the big picture of the status of the campus both daily and long term. It also helps finance teams understand how much is being spent at any given time by the facilities manager at the simple click of a button.
Several school facility managers are recruited based on their technical or organizational skills; essentially they are fixers. They either fix it in-house or need to coordinate with outsourced staff and vendors to get repairs completed, on time and on budget. Proactive FM, though, can contributes to the bottom line of the school, improve the return on assets and increases the satisfaction of staff, students and parents. Schools are businesses and, no matter the management position, the FM needs to support the bottom line of the school and directly consult leadership on facility and operational considerations. The alternative is often Finance reacting to user complaints making decisions based on budgets. This alternative is often one of the major complaints stakeholders in the community have.
This article was written by Luca Mantovani, a PDacademia Consultant.