Our Facilities and CMMS friends at the University of Delaware are passionate about learning, and they love to apply their knowledge to the challenges they face keeping the 1,996 acre campus up, running — and ready for students, faculty, and staff, to get down to the business of learning and discovering.
Michael Schlag, CMMS Administrator, and John Schwander, Manager of Facilities Information Services, are two of the leading brains behind the maintenance operations at Udel. They’re back with more words of wisdom on their mobile project, exciting new tech, and leveraging Maximo to effectively monitor and manage UDel’s facilities and assets.
John is the first to tell you that using IBM Maximo to its full potential is an “ongoing process.” Recently, the team took a significant stride forward with the integration of a mobile solution. As John puts it, “We had a workaround for putting time against Work Orders. It would take four to six weeks to get Maximo to be able to tell you the story of how many labor hours went against that work. It was a similar story with Materials and Material Charges against that work.”
The Facilities Management team knew they needed to find a more accurate — and streamlined — way to enter labor time, reduce hours going against the wrong Work Orders, and decrease keying errors.
With support from University administration, they implemented mobile technology to address these pressing issues. Technicians now have their WOs right in front of them as they work. Each maintenance worker has a tablet with their mobile solution. Whether they are addressing a heating issue in a dorm room or repairing a fixture in a classroom, the team has direction to check failure codes, make a log note about the actions they took, and, of course, enter their time.
John says, “That all seems like simple stuff, but there’s a lot that goes into making this a reality.”
Mobile technology is just one way that John, Mike, and their Facilities Management team are optimizing processes and results. They’re changing how they use their CMMS, going well beyond “simply managing reimbursable costs,” as John says.
To do this, John and Michael are focusing heavily on entering quality data into Maximo. “...we’re making progress to use the data, see how we’re doing, and examine our backlog of work.”
For example, they are digging into Planning work. If the Schedulers know the jobs on deck, the estimated hours required to complete them, and how that aligns with Labor resources and expected CM calls, they can schedule more effectively.
“Now we have a way of seeing that,” John explains. “Our focus has been on getting quality, accurate, useful data into the system so that we can reap the benefits of getting the information out of the system.”
Quality data is a must. Michael says, (only half-jokingly) “I try to rule the data with an iron fist.” It’s that important. He explains that in his previous role, there was a lack of consistency. If a team member couldn’t find a building, they’d add it to the system again. Or they’d spell or phrase work types differently every time.
John points to an issue with Location: “Previously, what we had was a free text field, and that can result in typo errors, and any number of differences as various people enter text. Then, when you want to mine your data, you can get stuck because it’s difficult to compile the information and ensure you’re pulling accurate results. Garbage in, garbage out.”
He continues, “If you’re trying to see just WOs from the second floor, for example, but you aren’t scheduling to the room level and it’s a free text field, well, it’s more likely that you’ll miss some WOs.”
Michael sums it up succinctly, “We knew we could improve how we manage the data.”
So, the UDel team seized the learning opportunity. As they’ve refined their processes, the team has become extremely selective about what data goes into the system — and how.
To this end, the data now conforms to a standard scheme that promotes consistency. In terms of Location, for example, the team can use a dropdown list so they know it’s coded properly.
Michael explains, “Data quality really requires a strategic, ongoing look from many perspectives."
"For another example, our Failure Code hierarchy needed improvement. It was highly detailed to the point of being unusable. We stepped back and took another stab at it and observed. When we found that it still wasn’t the best, we tried again. This time around, it’s much improved. It’s growing, which is important. This isn’t set in stone. And now we’re going through the same process with Asset Types and Asset Templates.”
John and Michael are continually on the lookout for ways to improve and use Maximo more effectively, from creating Location Hierarchies that drill down into specific rooms for greater precision to using their CMMS to better track assets and Failure Code hierarchy.
While this enables their team to do their jobs more efficiently, John also points out, “We can do a better job justifying what we need to do. With the data capabilities of today’s technology, nobody needs to take it on faith that we spent the dollars properly. We have the evidence right there.”
The UDel facilities management folks are putting some exciting new functions to work for them. In their newer buildings, for example, they utilize time lapse photos throughout their projects. John says, “Now, we can see the build process with pictures that can go back to the construction for any given dorm room; I can see when they had just the studs up and [were] putting in the rough-ins for the electrical.”
When later an electrician is scheduled to complete work in that room, he or she see where the wiring is before they open up the wall. Likewise, when a plumber is assigned to address a leak, they can see where the pipes run. It makes for a much more precise job, and technicians can get in and out more quickly.
They are also integrating reporting tools that will bring the data to life. John and Mike will be able to see a heatmap of the part of campus that has the most problems or the most problems of a certain type. For example, where are they seeing the most HVAC issues? This allows them to be that much more strategic in their Planning and Scheduling.
John says, “There’s a lot of forks in the road when you do an upgrade from reviewing business processes to adopting new technologies. We’re using the REST API with AKWIRE [Now Prometheus Routine Maintenance], and that’s already paid off.”
Like you’d probably expect from those working at a higher education institutions, John and Michael are always looking ahead to what’s next. How will they change how they use their CMMS to achieve even greater consistency and to streamline work? Rest assured, they have some ideas! One of them, according to John, is leveraging Prometheus for enhanced scheduling and efficiency.
“We want our technicians to know the order that we want them to work on jobs. We’ve planned them to work on X in the morning and Y in the afternoon, but they need to know that. We want our technicians to be able to use their calendars to see their schedule and what they should be working on for that day.”
Another initiative they’re anxious to get to work on is entering architectural drawings and schematics into their system. Right now, they exist on paper, disks that haven’t been loaded to the network, or somewhere in the network abyss where no one can find them. John says, “We want technicians, mechanics, customer service reps, managers, everybody, to be able to have an easy interface to see the floorplan of the building.” If there’s a problem on campus, they’ll know they’re in the right place.
No matter what Maximo CMMS improvements or refinements are on the horizon, collaboration and critical thinking will continue to play a starring role is facilities management services.
Michael emphasizes that it takes a “lot of thinking, a lot of collaboration, and a lot of meetings” to achieve what they have achieved so far. And it’s never truly done. There are always iterative improvements to be made.
There’s always another opportunity to learn, and UDel’s exceptional Facilities Management professionals wouldn’t have it any other way.