CAFM: the great enabler

CAFM is key to integrated FM and can deliver more efficient property management, explains Mark Magee of FSI to PFM magazine.

CAFM shouldn't be viewed in splendid isolation from other business software tools, says Mark Magee, senior business development manager with FSI FM.  In fact, he says, it's an enabler for combining these tools and processes to provide a total FM tool. "CAFM is the key to integrated FM. It is the hub at the centre of the wheel that can deliver much more than efficient property management - it can facilitate HR, inform finance and create seamless customer experiences."

Seamless integration
Some integration between CAFM and other software tools will be bespoke to particular departments but others can provide essential information for various users, says Magee.  "Providing portals to suppliers can enable them to upload certificates of compliance, qualifications and training records, enabling HR and the FM team to check instantly that they are a safe contractor.

"Putting FM purchase ordering and invoice tracking information in an area where it can be easily accessed by finance gives visibility to these costs, enabling real-time updates on total spend against budget projections."

CAFM can also greatly improve customer service, says Magee. For example, as a visitor checks in the system asks if they require WiFi access; if the answer is ‘yes', the appropriate WiFi password is printed on their visitor badge. Similar integration with IT systems can provide caller ID recognition, enabling a personal response to callers to enhance their experience.

Technology of integration
Much of this integration is made possible by technological advances, Magee explains. RFID (radio frequency indicator) chips installed in or on equipment facilitate efficient property management: active chips enable engineers to log maintenance details back to the chip, providing useful information for the next operative. If a pattern emerges - for example, if the equipment repeatedly has the same fault - this can help with forecasting, enabling FMs and finance to budget for necessary replacements.

"Similarly," says Magee, "the emergence of IP-based devices has enabled the development of IP-based access control systems that support energy efficient operating systems. For example, a member of staff swipes their device to gain access to the building; this prompts a touchscreen for them to reserve a hot desk, which in turn informs the Power Distribution Unit to turn on the energy to that desk. But the data from the access-control system can also inform decisions about space utilisation and energy efficiency, providing key strategic data for professionals across FM, finance and HR. The data can reveal occupancy rates throughout the day: if these are very low first or last thing, this could inform a decision to reduce opening hours, with potentially large savings."

Successful commissioning
To achieve meaningful integration you need a CAFM system that can talk to other systems, ideally in real-time so your data is as up to date as possible, says Magee. "Fortunately, integration points between CAFM and other business software tools are becoming more and more accessible, particularly with the evolution of IP devices. You don't need integration from day one, but it is helpful to think about the touch points between CAFM and other corporate systems from the beginning - particularly how integration might generate business benefi ts - to make sure you commission a system that will deliver optimally."