A Facility Maintenance Automation System (FMAS) is an essential operational and management tool for managing asset preservation, ensuring that production systems operate as required, and minimising downtime. An effective FMAS should be able to support these functions by automating administrative tasks, as well as by gathering relevant information in order to perform this processes.
Why use an FMAS?
The primary purpose of an FMAS is to manage, capture, and track inspection, maintenance and repair activities of an organization. In real terms, most FMAS solutions perform the basic function of providing work orders to cover repairs and maintenance of buildings, plant and equipment. FMAS provide a scheduling facility for maintenance of planned preventive work on maintainable assets. Also, FMAS generally collect costing details for the labour and materials related to the work performed.
However, advanced FMAS solutions can also improve many other aspects of daily activities, as well as provide the tools to understand and analyse maintenance and repair processes and trends. FMAS can eliminate manual data entry, incorporate alerts, triggers, and escalation procedures, and shift focus from unnecessary administrative tasks to performing maintenance activities. FMAS can also assist in planning and predicting future needs, prolonging the life expectancy of assets, and managing processes.
Combining FMAS software with proven technologies such as handheld devices and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant such as a Palm) can substantially increase realised benefits from FMAS solution, which include: update information electronically, eliminating unnecessary paperwork and data entry; capture timestamps and signatures; provide maintenance personnel, engineers, and inspectors with electronic intelligent work orders; automatically track and manage inventories and timesheets; equip staff with easy-to-use tools that enable them to focus on their expertise and work activities, rather than on administrative tasks and paperwork; and incorporate barcodes to increase accuracy and efficiencies.
General Considerations in Justifying the Need for a FMAS Solution
Only a well-designed and easy-to-use FMAS solution can improve daily activities as well as index, and sort through years of information related to the maintenance, cleaning and strategic planning of buildings, plant and equipment. In reality, regardless of the size of an organization, a database of the work performed has to be maintained. Automation includes improvement of daily activities, automatic tracking of inventories, better work assignments, and shift of focus towards exceptions, not routine matters.
Managing the operation of on-site maintenance staff and contractors is a daunting and difficult task, however, if there is a corresponding record within the FMAS, then this tracking and management is much easier.
What information should be captured?
Statutory requirements (programs) could be entered into a FMAS as a scheduled maintenance plan with labour, materials and costs for projecting estimated future costs. By keeping a corresponding record in the FMAS and using the job number as a cross reference to the paper record, the organisation is able to quickly report on the status of the statutory work in preparation to annual signoffs and/or audits.
Using PDAs to dramatically improve activities and efficiencies
Additional considerations include the use of handheld devices that in recent years have become very popular as they keep millions of people organised. By extending the use of standard PDAs to business applications (or using handheld devices with standard PDA operating system such as Palm OS), users can quickly improve daily activities.
Including handheld devices in FMAS solution will migrate organisation from using paper-based FMAS software to a more comprehensive automation solution.
Handheld devices can verify data input, suggest possible outcomes to a task, suggest a course of action, or print a report. The handheld devices can also automate specific processes, include information about assets and equipment, automate inventory cycle count process, and provide easy-to-navigate functionalities, minimising key-strokes and maximising productivity.
So where to start looking for the right FMAS package for organization?
Look within own organization and determine what is happening with the maintenance and inspection functions. Check if there is an existing maintenance program in place; check its functions and who manages the information gathering process. Determine what maintenance is required to be performed on the building, plant and equipment that make up facility. Prepare some sort of brief as to the facility’s minimum and optimum requirements for a FMAS, the resources to manage the database and time frame for implementation. Research 3 to 5 providers. Have them present their product to assess the package in terms of ease of use, functionality and ability to meet your requirements.
Evaluate each proposal for specific FMAS functionalities: Does it address specific requirements? Does it minimize unnecessary or duplicate data entry? Can administrative tasks, reminders and notifications of upcoming events be automated? Is there a built-in dynamic escalation procedure? Can inspections and other activities in FMAS be incorporated? Can inventories be managed and tracked? Is there an ability to collect requests for work to be done directly into the FMAS via electronic means (such as PDAs or web portals)? Is there the ability to transfer work assignments to technicians via electronic means? What is its ROI (Return-On-Investment)?
This is a simplistic approach to the selection process; however, it will give most managers a good starting guide to the selection of a FMAS.
Benefits of Using Enhanced FMAS Solutions include: guarantee that all required tasks and activities are completed on time; incorporate various mechanisms to ensure execution of tasks, including automatic listing of activities, reminders, alerts, escalation procedures, and easy access to information; improve reporting and analysis capabilities; comply with Health and Safety and other Regulations; improve Business Planning and make informed decisions; improve operational efficiencies; increase productivity and profitability; perform activities effectively; simplify repeatable tasks; provide staff with easy to use tools that focus on performing tasks; let staff spend more time performing service activities and less time on paperwork and data entry; improve strategic and business planning; analyse records, needs and patterns; identify trends and highlight potential problem areas; improve controls and accountability; lead to better quality of work; ensure that service is performed according to warranties, guidelines and regulations; and receive customized reports delivered to email.
There are many additional benefits of using a system using handheld devices, in comparison with manual or paper-based processes: minimising errors, increasing accountability, and having the ability to quickly turn data into useful information. Last, solutions must be cost effective and providers must be able to demonstrate their business case and ROI.