Blog, Facilities Management

What is CAFM? Computer-aided Facilities Management

Accelerating digital transformation in the facilities management industry

In this article, Dave Bryan, Product Manager at Idox, a leading developer of specialist Computer-aided Facility Management (CAFM) software, describes how the facilities management sector has transformed over the last few years, and how CAFM software has helped to accelerate the deployment of innovative digital strategies to drive growth and efficiency.

Computer-aided Facilities Management (CAFM)

Two years of coronavirus has defied all possible conventions. The pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill for months at a time – altering our daily routines, business functions, communications methods, and a lot more.  

Amongst other things, one of the major sectors affected due to COVID-19 has been the facilities management (FM) space. As people began making drastic changes to the way they live, work, shop, and socialise due to the implications of the pandemic, the functions of the FM industry became more complex with new responsibilities.  

Consequently, the role of the facilities manager shifted from an operational to a strategic level – integrating people, places, processes, and technology to work together as one cohesive, well-oiled machine. The workload on them is ever-increasing – moving beyond the traditional requirements of buildings and assets management to additional services such as asset tracking, maintenance planning, property management, space management, and much more. As such, today’s facilities managers can no longer rely purely on static information and Excel spreadsheets to deliver advanced FM solutions.    

To compete in the ‘new reality’ and ensure smooth functioning of the built environment, the FM market is accelerating the adoption of innovative technologies that drive growth. Computer-aided Facilities Management (CAFM) is one such software.  

So, how can CAFM systems improve efficiency and effectiveness in the world of facilities management?  

CAFM

What is CAFM?

CAFM is a growing technology in the FM sector that helps digitise assets and streamline the administration of essential tasks using real-time data and automated processes. From security and building maintenance to asset tracking, help desk assistance and space management, strategic planning and the management of day-to-day operations to ensure the health and safety of occupants, a CAFM solution is designed to incorporate all aspects of property management under one roof. The collaborative nature of CAFM systems means that workflows can be optimised to ensure tasks are being completed in the most efficient, cost-effective, and compliant manner possible.       

m and e engineer directed by CAFM computer aided facilities management

Benefits of using a CAFM system  

Compared to a manual process of using disparate systems including email, shared drives, and spreadsheets, there are numerous advantages that organisations can reap with the deployment of CAFM. This is why, the global CAFM market is estimated to grow from $830m in 2019 to over $1.4bn by the end of 2026.  

While every organisation will have unique needs and requirements, typical benefits of installing a CAFM system include the following:  

1. Cost efficiency

Every business aims to bring costs down to maximise productivity. The comprehensive reporting capability in CAFM systems allows facilities managers to use data for efficient and informed decision-making, which leads to resources being used more productively. Integrating smart sensors with CAFM systems can track spaces in offices that require heating and lighting, for example, and only turn on the heat and lights when the space is occupied – which reduces energy usage and bills as well as supports efforts towards sustainability. On the other hand, occupancy sensors combined with room and desk-booking functionality show which rooms are available in the office – saving employees the inconvenience of double-booked meeting rooms and helping FM teams ensure cleaning schedules are adjusted to support an agile working environment. 

Preventative maintenance is another area where CAFM helps businesses cut costs. According to McKinsey & Company, predictive maintenance can generate substantial savings by reducing overall maintenance costs by 18 to 25%. A sophisticated CAFM system can pull together a central database, which can then be used to schedule planned or preventive maintenance tasks going forward – thereby reducing the volume of reactive maintenance tasks in a facility which attracts higher maintenance costs, loss of production, unplanned downtime, and potential damage to the asset.  

2. Optimised space and resource utilisation 

Post-pandemic, space management has become a core consideration for organisations worldwide. With working from home and hybrid working models becoming the norm, organisations today have fewer employees utilising the office space than before. Plus, social distancing requirements mean the same space is now being used differently. As unutilised space costs money to maintain, more and more organisations are now looking at optimising the work environment to operate at maximum efficiency. Designed to help with various aspects of space management, CAFM systems help facilities managers analyse how various assets are placed in a facility and determine better ways of allocating space and making the workplace a safer and more useful place for everyone – besides ensuring no money is wasted on unoccupied locations.    

2 people in office

3. Improved contractor management 

CAFM helps facilities managers conveniently interact with third-party subcontractors. Implementing CAFM solutions enables FM teams to store ratings, share documents, monitor SLAs (service level agreements), manage contractors’ information, and streamline communication via the vendor mobile portal – resulting in improved efficiency, better insight into contractor performance and enhanced customer experience for end customers. By allowing contractors to sign in and digitally update the status of their tasks and work orders into the portal, CAFM also ensures facilities managers have a real-time status of each task.  

4. Higher data accuracy  

Although spreadsheets may appear to be a simple way to log information and manage workflow, such files lack the meaningful format that provides FM teams with the necessary insight and automation to oversee and manage complex properties. For example, while information can be inputted into Excel to list assets and identify when maintenance should take place, Excel sheets cannot set up maintenance schedules and automatically notify the correct team to carry out the work. Moreover, with potentially multiple different people updating different spreadsheets and disparate systems, there is a high possibility of data loss, or the wrong data being entered into the wrong place. Hence, the use of spreadsheets in FM significantly increases risk and can end up costing an organisation in many ways – including time, inefficiency, inaccuracy, and non-compliance.  

In contrast, a CAFM system acts as a central hub that consolidates all data, documents, communications, and other crucial information in one place, and enables FM teams to log, report, and monitor data with higher accuracy – thereby improving overall performance, communication, and expenses. CAFM’s reporting capabilities are also crucial for businesses in ensuring that facilities remain statutorily compliant. Depending on the sector they operate in, businesses may be required to report on and maintain regimes for fire safety, PAT testing, energy performance, etc. – which CAFM software helps with.

CAFM Computer

5. Flexibility with admin dashboards 

Cloud-based CAFM systems allow staff to remotely access their FM system on any device from any location – even without the Internet connection. This means staff have continuous access to an accurate real-time record of the workflow, field personnel can upload information such as pictures and voice notes, and facilities managers can allocate tasks based on each team member’s geographical location.   

Thanks to the several benefits it offers, CAFM enables the workplace to be more joined-up and automated, whilst reducing energy consumption. Moreover, with sustainability likely to remain a key concern for businesses of the future, the potential of CAFM as a true enterprise solution will only continue to grow because it empowers FM teams to monitor energy and water consumption, introduce smart tech to reduce waste and use data to spot opportunities for further sustainability gains.    

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