Facilities Management: When to Get Formal

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By Greg Allshouse

Facilities management (FM) practices vary widely within the cable operations landscape; not every cable operator has a formal system in place, and FM practices can even vary within the same company. There may be home-grown spreadsheets, just a collection of manuals that came with the various pieces of equipment (maybe ordered and findable, maybe not), or nothing at all.

How do you know when it's time to upgrade to an actual computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)? There are multiple considerations to take into account when implementing a CMMS program. Here are a few examples.

  1. What do you specifically want to use the CMMS for? If your goal is to provide an all-inclusive program for asset tracking (both equipment and real estate), vendor management, planned preventive maintenance, documenting repairs, issuing work orders, tracking your in-house staff's time and tracking your expenses in one system, then you should move to a CMMS.

  2. How many facilities do you have, and of what size? It is typically recommended have at least 50 sites or a total of 500,000 square feet of space. When implementing a CMMS program, it is recommended that you include all of your facilities, including offices and warehouses. This provides for the maximum return on your investment.

  3. Where will the data be stored? There are two options for this. You can host the program on your own server or you can use a web-hosted service. Each has its pros and cons, including startup costs, ongoing expense, maintenance and backup, and accessibility.

  4. Who will administer the data? Do you have staff with the knowledge and time to administer the data if it is housed locally? Also, who will update the data, whether it is local or web-based?

  5. Who will have or need access to the data? In a more robust program, the more licenses you have, the higher the fees are. One option is to use a system that has floating licenses, which limit the number of users who can access the system at one time.

  6. What is your budget, and what is the return on the investment? Costs for a locally hosted CMMS program range from a couple thousand dollars to upward of $20,000. These costs are for the system only and do not include any startup costs or ongoing license fees. A web-based program typically costs between $100 and $500 per month per user. One CMMS vendor states that a system pays for itself via a reduction in your facilities' maintenance budget of 5-15% annually. And there are intangible benefits as well. For example, a well-maintained facility has a smaller carbon footprint than one that is not maintained.

To summarize: When to switch to a formal CMMS program depends on all of the above factors, as they relate to your company. There's no "one size fits all" answer. It comes down to what resources you currently have, what new resources you need, and the cost/benefit ratio.

Greg Allshouse is an independent consultant and 32-year cable veteran. Reach him at greg.allshouse@comcast.net.

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