In today’s economically challenged environment, managing educational buildings and facilities in the face of severe budgetary constraints has become an unfortunate reality. It is putting increasing pressure on education maintenance and facility spending. The investment problem impacts all levels of education; higher education funding has been significantly reformed, while state educational funding has become a priority topic of cross-party relevance.
In state school education, the maintenance issue has reached a crisis level. One in six schools in England have fallen into such a state of disrepair that they require urgent repair, a recent investigation discovered. At the same time, universities and colleges have increasingly struggled to ensure fees even cover their full economic costs of education, leaving little for buildings and facilities, other than from external sources and sponsorships.
Modernising education maintenance and facilities management can directly help to address many of these challenges. Computer Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) and Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) such as ShireSystem from Elecosoft can give education maintenance leaders the flexible digital platform they need to work smarter, plan better and make more informed decisions.
In this article we explore some of the complexities they face, and outline some of the ways that digital asset and task management can transform performance.
The complexities of education maintenance
The facilities maintenance challenge in an education environment is as complex as any other occupied building. Of course, facilities such as toilets and assets such as HVACs must stay in continuous operation. Maintaining essential safety systems such as fire monitoring and emergency lighting are non-negotiable. These bring a normal workload of servicing, resupplying, monitoring and compliance activities that would be familiar to any facility manager.
Yet there are additional considerations that compound your education FM challenge:
- All educational establishments must recognise and mitigate property-related health and safety issues. This is something that affects all organisations, but here you must pay particular regard to how these can impact children and young people. Additional needs might range from closer maintenance of guard rails to the state of a soft playground surface.
- There are specific estate compliance requirements for school estate managers. Schools have a range of maintenance responsibilities set by Government, set out in their Good Estate Management for Schools which generate compliance tasks ranging from monitoring energy and power use to creating waste reduction processes.
- There may be specialist M&E systems and materials to maintain, supply, and sustain records around. A school or a University laboratory requires systems such as gas supplies to Bunsen burners, or evacuation systems for fume cupboards. A parts failure in such systems could immediately become a student health and safety issue, so excellent spares inventory management is vital.
- Science teaching and research can also compound the challenge of storing and managing a huge range of chemicals and gases that fall under COSHH regulations, meaning a raft of Material Safety Data Sheets to maintain in addition to those for a more standard set of cleaning chemicals
- In recent years, maintenance of security control points, monitoring and CCTV systems has fallen increasingly in the lap of FM owners, as security for and around children and young people has become a growing priority for local authorities, parents, communities, governing bodies and school proprietors.
- Campus building models are common across higher education and increasingly in other types of education such as Academy schools. There may often be a single estate or campus facility owner who must oversee multiple buildings and sites, which makes it harder to maintain direct observation, and increases the challenge of managing or directing maintenance work.
- The security and child safety considerations of educational establishments can create an extra safeguarding imperative for schools maintenance owners, since third party engineers from FM service providers or equipment manufacturers may not be allowed access to buildings unaccompanied by a school representative – this can effectively double the labour cost of every attended visit, as well as creating extra pressure on capacity.
The state of education maintenance management
The complexity of education facilities management is significant – yet many establishments are simply not professionally equipped to manage these requirements.
Paper-based administration still burdens many organisations, even alongside largely digital information flows and communication. The problem frequently lies with the use of Office software for information that it is not designed to process. For example, spreadsheets are often used to capture asset registries, task lists, schedules and directories of data sheets.
Supporting documents are stored on school and college servers with little structure, version control or consistency, and in a range of file formats with documents ranging from MSDS sheets to manuals found in Excel, Word and PDF format.
This is coupled with, information being frequently distributed via email or sent externally to service providers and suppliers so there are always numerous versions insecurely in circulation.
Escape the spreadsheet and embrace the database
If educational institutions want to do better by their buildings and students, then it is time to make a change.
The pressure on higher education facilities is growing daily, as dramatic increases in student numbers are forcing a rethink of how campuses are designed and buildings are utilised.
Meanwhile, nearly 4000 schools in England have been judged by surveyors to require immediate remedial work. This came from the Government’s own collection of School Condition data. This was intended to help focus planned new investments but has instead provided a worrying call to action for local education authorities.
It is imperative for schools, colleges and universities to improve how they plan and manage education maintenance and grasp the opportunities of better systems.
They must act not just to ensure that young people have the safe facilities they need for good education in the future, but also before maintenance issues and connected costs escalate even further.
CAFM/CMMS solutions such as ShireSystem from Elecosoft offer a raft of opportunities for over-stretched education estate managers and maintenance leaders. They can help you to secure efficiencies, save money on maintenance, and sustain facilities in better operation.
- You can create digital meters and more easily record readings on water and power systems during routine inspections with data going directly into the system, so you can give more accurate reporting in real time to Accounting, as well as optimise energy waste reduction strategies to save more in a scenario where every penny counts.
- The digital database can hold an evolving body of information about key systems, assets and spaces in a single accessible place that you can share securely with your maintenance engineers or service providers, at your discretion. It makes the maintenance history of an asset easily available, show the inventory of its spares, and any engineer who works on it can update the work records directly and without delay.
- Keeping assets in efficient working order requires you to schedule essential service visits at the right time. With the support of a CMMS/CAFM you can ensure regulated safety checks of fire doors and other systems are timely and compliant, ensure service visits are fixed on schedule, and analyse any failure patterns in assets which suggest that a service visit should be brought forwards.
- Instead of relying on memory recall, to-do lists or diarised actions you can create timed and condition-based alerts so that you never forget an essential activity and are alerted to upcoming maintenance milestones.
- Maintain a single, complete and current repository of asset, maintenance and usage information that can help you to more easily and quickly generate monthly or quarterly Board reports and Auditor reporting whenever required
A CMMS/CAFM solution such as ShireSystem delivers education maintenance leaders a flexible platform that enables smarter school and college maintenance, by enabling more informed decisions based on complete, current and accurate data about assets, buildings and maintenance imperatives.
Moving to an FM solution that is designed to help you manage maintenance workload, tasks and schedules can be a natural evolution from spreadsheet-based processes of capturing information and lists. It will not only transform education maintenance management but will enable you to move towards Planned Preventative Maintenance, and secure even greater savings by extending asset lifespans, minimising emergency repair work and just-in-time inventory management.
Are you ready to organise and economise around your education maintenance management? If so, it is time to explore ShireSystem from Elecosoft or get in touch with one of our digital maintenance management experts today on 02380 224111.