March 16, 1998
Volume 50, No. 24
Facilities Management blueprints space for new software system
Ken Crellen wants to reassure Emory's employees: If you see strange people wandering through your office in the coming months with tape measures and notebooks, they're not taking dimensions for your replacement.
Instead the surveyors will be documenting the University's indoor and outdoor space-a presently cloudy figure somewhere between 6 million and 10 million square feet-to gather data for Facilities Management Division's new Facilities Information Management System (FIMS), a $2 million software investment that will streamline how FMD maintains Emory facilities.
FIMS will put up-to-date building information in a central location for any department to access, said Crellen, a project manager in Campus Planning who's overseeing the space-management aspect of the system's development. It is a labor-intensive process nearly three years in the making, but he said the system is scheduled to come online in phases this fall.
In addition to Crellen's project, FIMS also incorporates a new web-based facility management system for FMD maintenance. Charles Norris, FMD's Customer Service Center manager and the project manager for the FIMS effort, said customers will be able to send work orders electronically and find out the status of any maintenance project through FMD's web site. Once the work is finished, customers will receive an e-mail notification, complete with an optional service survey form to send back to FMD with comments.
"We're working toward as paperless a system as we can," Norris said. "Instead of generating a ton of [paper] work orders, we'll send the information to the shop computer and personnel can work off that electronic list. Also, for quick response we'll be able to send it to an alpha-numeric pager the mechanic is carrying."
FIMS initially came about because FMD's old legacy system was not Year 2000 compliant and could have cost as much as $1 million to make it so. FMD figured as long as it was going to have to spend money to upgrade the old system, why not go ahead and purchase a better one? FIMS will offer more services, be more user-friendly and is cheaper to maintain, Norris said. It has an annual operating cost roughly 35-40 percent lower than the legacy system.
"We also expect to do a lot of benchmarking with this system because the vendor [AEC Data Systems in San Antonio] is probably the premier vendor most universities are going to now," Norris said. "So we'll be doing comparisons-how much is it costing us to take care of a research building compared to other institutions?"
To make sure the new system would cater to the University's varied needs, Beverly Cormican, assistant vice president for business, headed a steering committee back in 1995 to find out just what those needs were. Armed with a wish list of a couple hundred items, the committee settled on the FIMS software.
"The system, technologically, can pretty much do anything you want, as far as keeping track of data, all the way down to the smallest room attribute," Crellen said. "What we must do is evaluate the cost effectiveness and value of maintaining this data to determine the correct level of information detail."
Cormican said a related project also set for completion in the fall is a classroom and event scheduling system that encompasses meeting spaces on campus. Individual schools or departments will still handle room scheduling themselves, but they will all do so through a program interface with the FIMS software.
"There are certain things we want to provide for all users as much as we can from a central source, but it would be an almost impossible task for one group to try to maintain all the information for every room on campus," Norris said. "So we're developing a tool set for customers to track their own space-related information; they can track their furniture, computer systems, equipment inventory, etc. We'll give them system access for their area, and they can track the space-related information they feel is important to their business process."