We have all seen pictures of the first computers. They were huge machines, often taking up entire rooms. Large manufacturing plants with access to these machines leveraged them to run computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), that read paper punch cards to track simple recurring tasks. As the innovation in technology progressed, computers became smaller, faster, and affordable, giving more businesses the space to adopt the system for equipment tracking.
Since its inception, CMMS has transformed from being a paper-based asset tracking tool to a digitized repository that tracks asset lifecycle and facilitates maintenance operations. Large building portfolios use CMMS programs to help schedule maintenance and improve an asset’s life cycle. Despite the digital transformation in building O&M in recent years, CMMS systems are still used at sub-par efficiency as a lot of processes still involve manual inputs and effort duplication.
“CMMS is seen only as an asset and maintenance management tool, a series of records, nothing more than that,” said Vaishnavi Murthy of Facilio. “If we want to get the full value out of a building’s CMMS, it must be used to automate functions and facilitate integrations with multiple systems.” Right now building managers use dozens of tools including ERPs, accounting and finance, and BMSs besides manual methods such as emails and spreadsheets. Navigating all of these is inefficient and doesn’t create the kind of process innovation that most building management needs to improve operational efficiency and decrease cost. Since a CMMS is such a core component of a building management’s technology it makes sense to try to accomplish as much as possible within it.
Once every building function is consolidated into the CMMS, it becomes much easier to automate processes. Vaishnavi Murthy cites the example of a 300-building portfolio in the UAE that was able to apply this approach of a connected CMMS to find ways to automate workflows and power a mobile workforce that allows them to increase workforce productivity by 13 percent. Automation through a connected CMMS also allows properties to automatically adhere to their service level agreements with vendors and lease agreements with tenants. This was possible through a better, reimagined version of CMMS—one that connects systems, people, and processes.
CMMS needs to expand from its legacy form, that of a system of records, to become a system of action that can be used to automate reporting to owners, investors, and regulators about things like energy use and sustainability improvements. The end goal is to gather the right performance metrics and use them to help the building run better. A modern CMMS needs to meet occupants, clients, and vendors right where they are through mobile apps, portals, and real-time dashboards.
To achieve that goal, users need access to data at every level. Having data in siloed platforms eliminates the ability to find the correlations that help create process innovation. A connected CMMS will act as a single pane of glass that integrates data from disparate tools, facilitating data-driven decisions.
“The modern CMMS needs to be able to integrate with third-party software,” Murthy said. “That’s why we have an open API approach to make it possible to integrate with other enterprise and building management systems.” One large four-acre campus of offices, retail, and community spaces was able to integrate over 14 systems including building management and automation systems, fire alarm, security systems, CCTV cameras, lighting, and elevator control. Not only did this let the team control the site and all its assets remotely, but it also was able to give them insights into the performance of every building on the entire campus.
A lot has changed since the first computers came out. We had no idea back then what these computational machines could do. The same is true for CMMS tools. Today they can do more than track an asset’s life cycle. Does that mean the complete power of CMMS is now unlocked? Maybe not. What we can say for certain is that this evolution was made possible by breaking down data silos and integrating multiple systems together. Even with all of the progress that has been made with a CMMS for buildings, there is still room for improvement. There are untapped uses for a modern CMMS that we have not even considered yet. Building a strong foundation for our buildings’ computing systems will allow them to continue to improve in order to satisfy our growing needs.