Know-How: Facilities Management

A work order gets lost in a pile of documents on a desk, and a plumbing leak goes unfixed for weeks. Administrators fail to communicate with each other, and a school gymnasium is double-booked. A minor roof repair at a school goes to the top of the priority list because the principal and the maintenance director are fraternity brothers.

In many schools and universities, facility management can fall victim to these inefficiencies and missteps.

Computer programs that help administrators manage their facilities can eliminate some of the bureaucratic obstacles that create a logjam for many schools and universities. Facility-management software enables administrators to prioritize projects more easily and allows any party to have up-to-the-minute status reports on work projects.

For a school or university to use a software system successfully, staff must be able to use the system without anxiety or complications.

“One of the most important things we looked for is that the system had to be user-friendly,” says Bobby Owen, maintenance director in the Henry County, Tenn., district. “It had to be easy to use not just for the maintenance staff, but for all of our employees at each one of our facilities.”

At Utah State University in Logan, Andy Hofmeister, assistant director of housing and food services, wanted to eliminate steps that were bogging down the work-order process.

“Communication was a big problem within the department,” says Hofmeister.

Utah State chose a software system that schedules workers, tracks assets and work orders, and prioritizes jobs.

Until it adopted a new software program, facilities rental in the Northshore School District in Bothell, Wash., was plagued by double booking, custodians assigned to the wrong facilities and frustrated customers.

“When a room is booked, the software sends relevant booking information … via e-mail to the custodians, building managers and school administrators affected by the event,” says Sara Land, the district's facilities and field-use specialist.

Some facility-management software providers host an institution's data on their system, and school employees gain access to the system via the Internet.

NOTABLE

Elements of a good computerized maintenance management system:

  • Acknowledges the receipt of a work order.

  • Allows the maintenance department to establish work priorities.

  • Allows the requesting party to track work-order progress through completion.

  • Allows the requesting party to provide feedback on the quality and timeliness of the work.

  • Allows preventive-maintenance work orders to be included.

  • Work-order systems should account for the date a request was received and approved, a job tracking number and job status.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Planning Guide For Maintaining School Facilities

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