Effects of Technology Development on implementation: PFM discusses

Commentators, including FSI, Concept Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) developers, provide PFM magazine with their thoughts on how the march of technology impacts on implementing CAFM systems.

With an increasing number of FM businesses reporting that they have invested in CAFM systems, PFM asked a selection of providers what effect advances on technology have had on ease of implementation.

Judging by the response, there has been dramatic improvement in a number of areas, making the adoption of systems far quicker and less labour-intensive than earlier versions.

Among the various advances, two key technological improvements are highlighted by FSI (FM Solutions) Limited's Senior Business Development Manager, Karl Broom.  He tells us that both Building Information Modelling (BIM) and mobile devices with bespoke apps are having a radical effect on the ease of initiating CAFM systems.

"Initial population of a CAFM system with all the physical structure and building services / plant data for a new site, or more so, an entire portfolio, traditionally required intensive, manpower-heavy weeks or months," he says.  "Sites were physically scouted and manual detailing of relevant assets compiled in spreadsheet format in preparation for validation and eventual transfer into the CAFM asset inventory."

This required skilled employees to understand the assets and the way the CAFM system deals with them.  And this data-assembly chain is prone to human error at numerous points, Mr Broom continues.

This increasing implementation of BIM from early design stages and through construction and fit-out provides the ultimate data solution for putting CAFM in place.  Vast quantities of rich asset data, compiled in industry-standard formats, can now be directly imported into the CAFM system to potentially reduce months of work to hours.

"Project scale limitations and legacy sites mean BIM data is not always pre-available as the ideal.  However, mobile devices with bespoke apps and built-in intelligence streamline the process to a worthwhile degree, including the capture of pictures, O&M manuals and geo-location data - in addition to lowering the skill level required of surveyors while still diminishing human error.  Once asset data has been collected it is passed back to the CAFM where service regimes are automatically applied, based on criteria set for each asset type, thus rapidly reducing mobilisation time," says Mr Broom.

Further thoughts on the advantages of combining BIM with CAFM systems are provided by Sitedesk Chairman Michael McCullen, along with two further options to deliver improved return on investment (ROI).

"BIM has created the opportunity for CAFM systems to import valuable new information.  Although BIM is a process it is underpinned by software, enabling contractors to collate design and O&M data in a digital format for handover to FM teams at completion," he says.

The format for BIM data transfer is the next consideration, Mr McCullen continues.  COBie is the BSI standard for BIM data exchange and can export valuable O&M data from BIM tools to CAFM systems.

"This should make it easier to populate CAFM systems with asset information - but a shortcoming of COBie is that it excludes the 3D model itself.  Some BIM tool providers are working with CAFM developers to ensure that data is exported from BIM software while maintaining links back to the 3D model to provide a 3D context - but this is far from universal."

The last key technological development is the Internet of Things (I0T), which may actually add to the complexity of implementing a CAFM system, he states.  Sensors and intelligent devices must be correctly installed, and CAFM systems correctly configured, to fully utilise their data.

"This is essential in order to realise the true value of real-time data, displayed in an interactive 3D model, displayed in an interactive 3D model, on mobile devices.  However, the potential benefits and savings from intelligent monitoring of buildings should far outweigh upfront costs and complexities," Mr McCullen concludes.

Service Works Group Chief Executive Officer Gary Watkins tells PFM readers there is little doubt that rapidly improving technology has been of significant benefit to the workplace, with exponential growth in processing power and storage in recent years making new systems more accessible.  Software has become very sophisticated and can measure and monitor the workplace as never before, he says, but the user is still able to harness this power through a few clicks and keyboard strokes.

"Not only is CAFM powerful and simple to use, it has also become more flexible.  The ability to cherry-pick elements of a CAFM offering that can integrate alongside an organisation's existing system, like finance or BIM, has never been easier," says Mr Watkins.

With technology becoming more mobile - and working environments changing year on year - users are now "very comfortable" with all manner of interfaces and how these can assist them when navigating the workplace.  Software is now so intuitive that expenditure on training is a lower concern for many businesses.  In this sense, the rapidly changing technological landscape has made implementation of CAFM far easier than 10 or 15 years ago, he continues.

"That said, technology is always in danger of becoming obsolete; will the cutting-edge system of today be suitable for the challenges of tomorrow?" he asks.  "This is a key question that decision makers need to be asking themselves and perhaps the only issue that threatens businesses pushing forward with digitisation."

"FMs need to engage with software providers that have an eye to the future, who understand mobility demands and developments such as the Internet of Mobile Things (IoMT).  Vendors need to demonstrate that they are capable of maintaining pace with the rapidly changing tech landscape," says Mr Watkins.

Fast-moving technological developments - coupled with growing user expectations for easy and cost-effective digital options - are redesigning how services are implemented and delivered across the spectrum, says CAFM Explorer Director Claire Visser.

Within CAFM, technological advancements have had several direct impacts.  There has been a rise in smaller, niche SaaS solutions which have increased market competitiveness but customers are moving away from these as they tend to only support a minimal subset of activity requirements.  The emphasis has been on providing a complete, feature rich, integrated solution with the same agility and speed to operation, she continues.

"We understand that users want positive and effective experiences throughout the CAFM process.  Having a great product is not enough - the whole experience needs to be fluid from start to finish."

Implementing an all-encompassing CAFM system is not a daunting process and customers should be supported through every step, with dedicated account managers and training staff on hand to ensure users manipulate the system to its full potential.

Ms Visser further explains that the following technological benefits are included within her company's software:

  • On-premise and cloud-based engineers - engineers can use mobile, end users can use web-based helpdesk functionality to accommodate all needs.
  • Mobile functionality - enhancements include QR code scanning, retrieval of work orders, asset history and associated documents, signature capture, stock assignment, cost allocation and live-time capture.
  • Mobile capability - access to a wider range of data at the point of service, including integration with SFG20 data, taking advantage of industry-recognised maintenance standards.
  • Integrations - including active directory for single sign on, BMS for automatic generation of work orders, plus integration with finance systems, particularly service providers, to create a seamless process from point of request to payment.

These provide a snapshot of how CAFM software is adopting the benefits of technology to accommodate the changing needs of FMs, Ms Visser concludes.