Maintenance Q&As

What is CAFM software?

Answered June 17 2019

Computer aided facilities management (CAFM) software gives facilities managers the tools to plan and monitor assets, schedule maintenance and repair tasks, track work orders, and meet compliance requirements. CAFM software helps maintenance managers clarify the cost of repairing and maintaining assets, the quality and condition of current equipment, and the performance of vendors.

In certain areas, such as huge old warehouses, decades-old companies with large inventories, and companies that use multiple facilities, CAFM software can make the difference between chaos and order. It fills the gap that other software solutions leave and is a great leap forward into the future. 

Other things that CAFM software can accomplish include: 

  • Utilizing the Internet of Things in your facility.
  • Monitoring remote assets that are part of your facility but are in a different location.
  • Organizing data and information into concise reports.
  • Controlling certain aspects of physical building maintenance, such as work orders and replenishment paperwork.
  • Working alongside other software solutions to provide a clearer understanding of the facility’s relationship with the overall company. 
  • And more

Depending on the software solution in question, it may or may not be able to accomplish these things. However, depending on the needs of the facility, they may not all be needed. Here’s why companies choose to use computer-aided facilities management software and the circumstances in which they see the most return on investment from these solutions. 

Why Use CAFM?

Companies use CAFM software because it brings cost efficiency, flexibility, mobility, and metrics measurements to any given facility. While the metrics in question may change, the goals appear slightly different, and the facilities’ needs are wildly different, CAFM software reaches across all industries and makes their facilities management better.  

Let’s start with a high-level overview and work our way through some examples to see how CAFM software improves the facility as a whole. Keep in mind that these are only examples of how a CAFM system may work. It will ultimately depend on the company, facility, and employees in question. 

The purpose of CAFM software

CAFM software allows each facility to tailor its solution to meet very specific needs. For example, consider a facility used for storing highly valuable products. They will need increased security, very accurate inventory counts, and tight control over who comes in and out of the facility. 

Now consider a huge sprawling warehouse that contains massive amounts of inventory which is distributed on a regional basis. Both facilities may be able to use the exact same software solution, depending on the individual system. All they will need to do is tailor it to fit their unique needs.

This creates a situation where one experienced facility manager now has the ability to implement a working solution across multiple locations in a fairly short period of time. 

Facilities managers and CAFM software

Moving on to a mid-level look, how do the people in charge of facilities use CAFM solutions? The short answer is that facility managers can run their buildings more efficiently with CAFM because they can easily control all their work orders from one system and one point of access.

All managers need data and information at their fingertips. This is particularly true for facility managers. Instead of spending hours of fruitless time wading through paperwork, a few simple clicks can bring them the report you need in a well-organized software system. 

This frees managers up to attend to the myriad of other tasks on the back burner and allows companies to focus on the bigger picture that otherwise fades into the background. 

Daily benefits of using a CAFM software

How about on a daily basis? When a facility uses CAFM software, most maintenance technicians can conveniently access data from the system with mobile devices. They can enter completed work or problems identified into one location from any one of a series of checkpoints. Employees can take proactive steps to identify problems almost immediately, instead of wading through multiple forms and documents to report an issue or problem. 

Hard copies of paperwork don’t need to be filled out and filed anymore. They can’t be inadvertently destroyed or forgotten in a corner. While some problems, such as turning in forms on time, still remain, many of the obstacles to keeping accurate records are removed. 

Finally and most importantly, quality CAFM software provides the data to allow facility managers to track and measure their KPIs in ways that aren’t otherwise possible. For example, consider a facility that wants to measure their work order fulfillment time. That information can be automatically tracked through a CAFM interface. The same is true for other KPIs such as workforce productivity, number of employee complaints, and average completion time. 

Now that we’ve covered what the software does, let’s look at the fundamentals of CAFM systems, what they include, and where it makes a difference in a facility. 

What Does a CAFM Include?

All CAFM software includes three main components that the rest of the features synergize around. These are:

  1. Space management
  2. Tracking asset abilities
  3. And physical building administration. 

Space management is at the top of every facility management team’s mind. How a facility can use its space more effectively and efficiently is a struggle that almost ever ends. CAFM software takes much of this load and automates it. 

Taking CAFM software into a new space, extension, or facility enables facility managers to plan a move to a new space, or expansion by working with Building Information Modeling (BIM) tools and other architectural software. A collaborative effort between these software solutions enables new facilities to start off on the best organizational scheme possible. 

The next aspect of CAFM software is its tracking abilities. Most mainstream CAFM software will track assets of all sorts. These can include the location, history, and track record of:

  • Tools and equipment of all sizes
  • Company computers and the software on them
  • Lock and entry systems, both traditional keys and programmed cards
  • Facility-specific expenses and accounts
  • Facility systems, such as HVAC and electrical systems
  • And more. 

In conclusion, when a quality solution is used to manage your facility, CAFM software touches every part of the building in question. 

It’s one thing to say that any solution can make any situation better. Where does CAFM software make the most difference? 

Where CAFM software makes the most difference 

CAFM software can make a difference in any facility in any industry. The theory is not limited by the size, space, requests, scope, or other common barriers that most software solutions struggle with. (That’s reserved for individual solutions!) 

However, it does offer some significant advantages to specific industries, companies, and employees. Let’s take a look at each of these categories and how it makes a difference on an industrial, company, and employee level.

Industries

CAFM software makes the most difference on an industry level in industries that require large facilities and heavy maintenance in those facilities. The larger the facility, the harder it is to keep track of everything without some form of automation. When a centralized solution is implemented in these facilities,  the benefits carry much more impact in a large facility as opposed to a smaller facility that does not need much heavy maintenance.

Some examples of industries where this is particularly true include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Maintenance
  • Industrial technology facilities
  • Large technical or vocational schools
  • Universities or other large campus facilities

Companies

If a company has a mid to large range facility, they can typically benefit from some sort of CAFM software solution. Even if they need a much bigger software solution in order to tell all of their needs, some element of facility management software will be part of that larger solution. 

Companies will see the most return on investment from a CAFM software solution in cases where:

  • Large or multiple facilities that need to be managed from a fairly centralized location
  • High levels of oversight/security are needed in the facility 
  • Increased documentation is required by the upper management or by law enforcement
  • And other situations that require increased tracking, observation, etc. 

Is CAFM Right for You?

Although CAFM solutions offer many benefits to some facilities, others may do well with simple, less expensive software while some large companies may demand even more functionality. Here’s a quick overview of the two major software systems that may be better suited for certain facilities and organizations, depending on their needs. 

First up is a situation where the focus must be on maintenance. Most organizations focused on primarily maintenance tasks may obtain everything they need with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) system that handles work schedules, work order assignments, tracking of repairs and assets, and compliance. 

On the other hand, CAFM works with CMMS, computer-aided design (CAD) and BIM tools to bring together a broader amount of facility data than is possible with a CMMS. A good place to start if you think you may need more data and power in your system down the road is with a CMMS that can, in the future, interface with a CAFM suite of tools. 

What if a facility is simply too big for a single solution? Software that expands functionality to include heavy analytics, invoicing, payments, and sourcing contractors are beyond the reach of CAFM. An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) is the next step above, extending data management into real estate, project management, and sustainability topics. This is typically on top of the other elements in a CAFM.

However, because of the massive size of an IWMS solution, it isn’t necessarily the best investment for a smaller or mid-sized company to make. These solutions are also typically time-intensive to set up and slow to implement. If you are in a field that pivots quickly or utilizes facilities that shift from purpose to purpose, an IWMS may not offer the flexibility that you need. Small businesses typically find themselves without the necessary resources, while larger facilities may become enslaved to the software. 

A CAFM system fills the gap between simple, one or two trick systems and prohibitively large systems that cover more than is needed at any particular facility. It eliminates old and obsolete systems in a fairly straightforward way while still retaining the flexibility and functionality of multiple systems.

Do you fit in that category? 

In conclusion 

CAFM software is software that is designed specifically for facility managers and their needs. It reaches across multiple industries and company sizes. The only unifying feature between its many different uses is a facility that needs managing. 

It offers many different benefits to companies from the executive level all the way to the new night-shift employees. CAFM software can replace obsolete systems, increasing efficiency and productivity in a matter of weeks instead of months. 

When a facility manager can access all the important data about any given facility, at any given time, time, resources, and energy are freed up from the minutiae. These savings impact many different areas that range far beyond the facility into the very heart of companies. 

And it starts with a resolve to do better.  

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