April 04, 2023.
Like most mature job functions, facilities management regularly face the scenario of senior employees retiring, more so than newer industries like artificial intelligence or electric vehicles. Every one of us can relate to the retirement party for an esteemed colleague that is hanging up their hat, we are gathered around to recall fond memories, we celebrate the good times, we are grateful for our senior colleague Tim’s coaching and camaraderie. And then it hits us, when Tim walks out of that door, along goes four decades of knowledge, precious knowledge of every building, particularly difficult sites, cranky mechanicals that only Tim could fix, maintenance routines, unknown whereabouts of hidden shut off valves, the complex network of pipes and wires that miraculously work. But Tim’s job is done, he has earned a well-deserved retirement and it’s time for new employees to take the reins.
Starting on Monday, unless there is an emergency call over the weekend, two new employees, will take over Tim’s route, his role. They have been training for two weeks, but how does one transfer four decades of knowledge in two weeks? Every site wasn’t covered during training, some buildings were left out. New employees didn’t embrace old, stained, torn floor plans with numerous notations that were hard to read. They tried to take photographs of maps and floor plans and important notes written on walls and on air handlers and other mechanicals. Those numerous photos on the phone could not be sorted, and difficult to remember where each photo was taken. There is an audit coming up, some of the sub-contractors’ employees do not speak English, other senior employees are overloaded and can’t come to the aid of the newbies taking over from Tim. So, what does one do?
It would be great if there was a way to plug a data cable into Tim’s knowledge and download all the most important information into minds of new employees and sub-contractors and audit inspectors. While we wait for such miracles, what if all of Tim’s knowledge was available on an app? An app that Tim along with everyone else on staff had been using and had saved locations, pictures, notes, maintenance schedules, quirky nature of some of the mechanicals, shortcuts, the data that only comes from years of experience. What is it? How does it work?
For most new employees, the most pressing challenges revolve around – where is everything? Where are critical mechanicals that require routine care, where are the emergency shutoff valves, where are filters that need replacement, where are dispensers that cannot go on empty. A digital app on your phone will guide you to whatever location, a blue dot marks your spot and just like outdoor maps you use in your car, indoor maps do the same thing, they help you get to where you want to go. Why is it important? No matter how good a printed paper map is, when you are new and the building is old with many nooks and crannies, with many turns and twists, it takes a few attempts before you locate something, that’s frustrating, its precious time lost, and it’s costly.
Whether it was physical inventory check or an annual audit, the plan was always to ask Tim; the CFO wants an accurate count of critical and high value assets, the facilities manager wants to know if assets have moved from one building to the other or from one end of the factory floor to another, every extra minute with auditors costs more money. A digital app with IoT sensors attached to critical assets can track assets that can be moved, physical inventory of critical assets with the digital app takes a fraction of the time. Since most of the data is already available in the app, the auditor does not need to write or type up asset descriptions, matching bar codes and actual mechanicals is done accurately and super-fast. You know where everything is, you can ‘see’ those assets from your desk or from home.
Two weeks of training under Tim prior to his departure, was insufficient; the new employees made notes, they have their own copies of maps and spreadsheets, but it takes months to learn everything. A digital app is easy to learn, Tim just has to highlight his routines and talk about his experiences, the new employees can jot down notes on the app, if need be, they can search for everything – like asking Tim long after he has left the building. They can see images of the assets, of valves, of the sensitive equipment of panels that are regularly inspected, in essence the app provides a digital twin to the building. They can even view Tim’s notes on the app, written during each site visit or service call, new employees can add their own to Tim’s notes, digitally and those notes are instantly shared with all users.
It’s hard to find new recruits in FM, and when we do find new employees, many don’t make it past the training, younger employees do not want to do the same work in the same way as the prior generation; they did not grow up driving using paper maps, they don’t like to sit by a desktop and look at spreadsheets of assets, they can’t quite understand why notations on the air handlers are important. A digital app can change all of that. When training and new employee orientation is done using a state-of-the-art app, when all the way finding is built in, when there are no more spreadsheets and floor plans to peruse, the process is more fun and engaging to both the trainer and trainee. When brand new employees go home and show the app to their family and friends, they will more likely show up the next day.
There are digital apps available that do exactly as described above. One such popular app is called InMapz, a simple to use and install, very affordable app that you can use on your tablet, phone or even your desktop. At its core, InMapz helps you locate anything inside your buildings and surrounding ground, it keeps track of assets and tricky mechanicals, it reduces training time and helps new employees find the right valve in seconds and guides them to it, the app helps you plan maintenance schedules, when the filters need to be replaced, how much warranty is left on a critical equipment. It saves you the trip late at night during an emergency call; your new employees will love it, their training time of a week is now ample, and they find it much better to use an app rather than an old floor map, contractors can find everything instantly, language is no longer a barrier; you will save a ton of money during regular audits. InMapz your buildings and preserve’s Tim’s valuable knowledge forever.