Much of facility management focuses on helping you improve asset and equipment availability. Here, you’re trying to answer the question “What are the most efficient ways to avoid unscheduled downtime?” 

Computer-aided facility management (CAFM) can help you with the next logical question, “Once they’re reliably up and running, how can my company realize maximum value from its assets and equipment?”

It helps to start with basic definitions and then build from there. 

What is CAFM?

You can quickly understand CAFM by looking at how it ties into the roles and responsibilities of a facility manager. An FM ensures an organization’s physical environment is up and running. But they also help the organization gain maximum value from that environment. 

Basically, facility managers put in place the potential for value-creation, and then they help make sure the organization realizes it. 

Take a simple boardroom. Through a carefully scheduled set of inter-connected preventive maintenance inspections and tasks, the FM makes sure everything is working, from the room’s heating and cooling to the bulb in the projector. But having a space where employees can work is not enough. So, the FM uses CAFM to run the reservation system while also periodically checking the booking history to make data-driven decisions about whether to expand the room to accommodate larger meetings or split it into two smaller breakout rooms. 

With CAD and BIN files 

One of the defining characteristics of CAFM solutions is how they integrate computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modelling (BIM) files to allow for accurate visual representations of facilities. Once the files are in the system, you can use them to do everything from plan routes for way-fairing to optimize the placement of desks in a shared, open-concept work area. 

Part of the definition of CAFM is also what it doesn’t include, and here it’s possible to better understand the technology by looking at how its focus and range overlap with and diverge from related platforms. 

What are the differences between CAFM and EAM? 

Companies use enterprise asset management (EAM) software to look after their assets and equipment, including scheduling and tracking inspections and maintenance, controlling maintenance repair and operation (MRO) stock, and tracking various maintenance metrics and KPIs. The main goal is often to keep things up and running, while the main benefit is cutting costs by avoiding unscheduled downtime. EAM is popular across industries, but especially in fleet, construction, manufacturing, and government. People up and down the organization chart can access and use the software, but the power users tend to be in the maintenance and other related departments. 

CAFM, on the other hand, has a wider set of features. A facility manager can use CAFM to reach many of the same goals as they could with an EAM, but also many more. Instead of the maintenance manager, it’s the facility manager who mainly uses CAFM. 

What are the differences between CAFM and IWMS? 

You could argue that there’s a basic EAM inside every CAFM solution, and there’s the basics of a CAFM solution inside every Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). 

While CAFM is more narrowly focused on a facility’s physical space and the people who work inside it, an IWMS delivers more functionality, covering facility management’s five fundamental domains: management for real estate, space, maintenance, projects, and environmental sustainability. 

What are the benefits of CAFM? 

Although there’s a long list of interconnected benefits crisscrossing industries, the fundamental benefit is that with CAFM, an organization can put the old methods of facility management behind them. 

In companies that have not yet implemented modern software solutions, facility managers waste a lot of time wrestling with stacks of data that are difficult to assemble, maintain, and share. Different types of data are locked into different mediums, including paper documents, spreadsheets, and blueprints. The result is data silos, making intra-departmental sharing difficult and interdepartmental sharing impossible. 

Modern CAFM helps you bring all your data into one place, a central database, where the formatting is standardized, making everything easier to find and share, regardless of project or department. 

And because all your data is accurate and accessible, you can start to leverage it into business intelligence that helps you keep assets up and running. And once you have a reliable infrastructure, you can use CAFM to find ways to ensure the company is gaining maximum value from its investments in physical spaces. 

More efficient 

Focusing only on maintenance activities, you can quickly see the potential for new efficiencies. Instead of trying to schedule and assign preventive maintenance tasks through paper or spreadsheets, with CAFM, you can share everything from upcoming due dates to detailed task instructions and checklists, including required MRO inventory and tools for every work order. And instead of rough general directions to the site, techs get clear, direct routes around the facility. 

More productive 

CAFM can boost productivity for both people and places. For example, a group of employees can easily book a boardroom without worrying about if the lights and monitors in the room work. They also don’t have to waste time worrying about showing up only to find the room double-booked. 

Managers can use the system to facilitate everything from onboarding new employees to moving existing staff to new desks anywhere in the facility. New hires arrive on Day One with a detailed map of their desk as well as the locations of the break room, bathrooms, and nearest fire exists. Staff that are moving to new desks might receive not only routes but times when they should make the move, allowing the managers to co-ordinate everyone to cause the least overall disruption. 

The organization can also boost the productivity of its spaces. Take that same boardroom. If the FM sees that no one is using it, they can make data-back decisions about how to boost use or cut costs. In some cases, they can repurpose the space. In others, they might set the lights to be off for most of the day, reducing overhead costs. 

Less expensive 

The first step to cutting costs is following the money. Unless you know what you’re spending and where, you can’t make the right financial decisions. 

CAFM helps you with cost tracking by making it easier to capture accurate data, keep it safe and up to date, and then leverage it into reports you can trust. From there, you can make the data-backed decisions that lead to real savings. 

For example, CAFM can help you discover which spaces the employees are not often enough to justify the overhead. It can also help you track energy usage at your facilities. How much is it costing you to heat the offices in winter? Do those continuing costs justify a one-time investment is better insulation or a switch to renewable energy sources? 

How do you know if CAFM is right for you?

Before you can make the right decision, you have to ask yourself the right questions. The first ones should be what problems you are trying to solve. 

It’s the same with medicine. It only works when you properly match it to the symptoms. 

Once you know your goals, you can start to look at costs for implementing and running CAFM. There can be a strong return on investment, but it’s not guaranteed.  Although it makes sense to find a software solution that can scale, you don’t want something that requires a long time to grow into.  Between now and then, you’re spending a lot of money unnecessarily. 

CEO summary 

CAFM helps facility managers keep assets and equipment online and then ensure the company is seeing maximum value from them. For example, they ensure everything is working in a boardroom, then set up a streamlined system for booking, while capturing usage data to help them decide if they should expand the room to accommodate larger groups or repurpose it completely. One way to think about CAFM is by looking at similar software platforms. Like an EAM, CAFM includes features for focusing on maintenance scheduling and facility management. And like IWMS, it includes features for facility management and employee experience. The differences are that CAFM has more features than an EAM but fewer than an IWMS. The foundational benefit of CAFM is that it helps facility managers pull all their data into one spot,  so they know it’s accurate, safe, and accessible. Good data delivers knock-on benefits, including streamlining maintenance, facilitating employee onboarding and moves, and cutting costs. 

About the author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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