A Plain English Guide to Facility & Asset Management Software


Property Management Analyst, Software Advice

The range of software solutions within the maintenance and facility management sectors can be overwhelming. These systems, which have some overlapping functionality, have left some buyers understandably confused.

To help clarify the difference between the types of systems, I interviewed three industry experts: Joseph Valeri, President and COO of Lucernex Technologies; Chris Kluis, Mintek’s Marketing Director; and Andy Fuhrman, VP of Product Development at Bricsnet.

Needless to say, these guys are experts. I, on the other hand–not so much. While all of our experts provided great insight, they also encouraged me to simplify that knowledge, and boil it down so the average person could also understand.

First and foremost, the primary difference between the software systems is their depth of functionality–that is, the number of features they offer and challenges they solve.

So, here are the most common software solutions in the maintenance and facility management markets, and the business challenges they address.

Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM)

Manages space planning, tracks asset location, and oversees move management.

All of our experts agree that current CAFM software is primarily used as space planning tools–with the goal of optimizing the usage of space, while keeping track of physical assets.

Companies have a lot of space, particularly those with several floors or multiple locations. They also have lots of assets–like desks, chairs, computers, and telephones.

CAFM systems keep companies organized by keeping track of how space is being used, who’s using that space, and where the organization’s belongings are currently located. Essentially, these solutions form a relationship between a business’s space, its people, and its stuff.

Because CAFM software has such specialized space planning functions, it’s often used as a building block for the more complex systems discussed below.

Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

Tracks asset maintenance and the cost of the work; monitors equipment location, and keeps detailed records of the equipment’s maintenance history; tracks labor resources.

In addition to the types of physical assets a CAFM oversees, some organizations also have things that need regular maintenance to ensure minimal downtime. Consider high-value assets like: Boeing 747s, MRI machines, and dump trucks.

“CMMS applications provide greater functionality, such as maintaining critical equipment found in health care facilities, data centers, labs and manufacturing,” Fuhrman explains.

Failing to perform routine maintenance tasks on equipment can lead to unnecessary downtime. Furthermore, failing to perform recommended maintenance can lead to unexpected failure–ultimately requiring replacement. Repair is far less costly than an untimely replacement.

Malfunctioning equipment may pose hazardous conditions for employees. So, computerized maintenance management systems also assist in maintaining a safe work environment.

Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)

Incorporates basic CMMS functions with a more detailed infrastructure; manages finances, human resources, and other administrative departments through an entire enterprise.

Let’s think of an EAM as an advanced CMMS. “The core of an EAM is a CMMS solution, EAM simply offers additional tools for more complete asset management,” says Kluis.

Instead of focusing solely on physical assets, EAM looks at the entire asset portfolio of an organization: financial assets and fixed assets (physical property that cannot be easily converted into cash, and depreciates over time). EAM’s goal is to optimize asset productivity and prolong its lifespan, while minimizing the cost of ownership.

By reducing the total cost of an asset throughout its lifetime, an organization can hinder unnecessary expenses–and therefore maximize profit.

Because EAM oversees lifetime asset performance cross-departmentally, or among different facilities within its portfolios, it’s a solution often sought by large businesses or organizations with multiple locations.

Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS)

Acts as a comprehensive solution incorporating applications for real estate, project, facility and maintenance management, and sustainability.

IWMS is a blend of all of the above–and then some. IWMS combines CAFM and CMMS features with applications for real estate needs (lease management, for example), project management, and even applications for environmental sustainability–measuring energy consumption and forecasting usage.

“IWMS is more than facility management, so it’s ideal for corporate clients with a lot of space in a few locations,” Valeri says.

Essentially a Jack of all trades, IWMS has become a popular choice for facilities because it incorporates multiple applications that organizations typically need. Organizations needing special functionality may implement CAFM and CMMS solutions as a foundation for comprehensive solutions like this.

“An IWMS offers a global solution, but may not provide some of the special functionality of a standalone CMMS solution,” says Kluis.

Determining Your Organization’s Needs

Now that you understand the application types, you can use that as a basis to determine your organization’s needs. Your investment should be based on the level of functionality and the number of business challenges you'd ultimately like solutions for.

Do you happen to be a facilities professional, maintenance manager, or CFO? Which solutions are most relevant to your operation? Do you find that shifting vocabulary has made finding software solutions more complex or more simplified?

Or, have you recently undergone a software investment? What challenges did you face, and what information made choosing a solution easier? Feel free to share your insight and experiences below.

Photo courtesy of Pimlico Badger.

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