November 06, 2006
FM Goes to the Desktop
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Welcome to AECWeekly! Recently Autodesk launched their Autodesk FMDesktop Product Suite which consists of a number of applications – Facility Manager, Facility Link, Facility Web and Facility Request. The application FMDesktop was part of Autodesk’s acquisition of Applied Spatial Technologies in January 2006, and this is the first full version of FMDesktop launched by Autodesk. Read about it in this week’s Industry News.

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Industry News

FM Goes to the Desktop

by Susan Smith

Recently Autodesk launched their Autodesk FMDesktop Product Suite which consists of a number of applications – Facility Manager, Facility Link, Facility Web and Facility Request.

The application FMDesktop was part of Autodesk’s acquisition of Applied Spatial Technologies in January 2006, and this is the first full version of FMDesktop launched by Autodesk. The founders of Applied Spatial were from a facilities management background and were building the application on DWF before Autodesk purchased it.

According to Brian Haines, technical marketing manager, CAFM solutions have traditionally been built on top of CAD applications, as they have been on AutoCAD. “Most facilities managers aren’t that technically sophisticated and don’t like to work in a CAD environment for their daily work, so they will push that to the CAD department when they simply need to get a drawing out with a color coded floor plan of occupancy and will typically rely on someone else to open up an AutoCAD drawing and perhaps print it out. What we’re offering to them is a very easy desktop solution that allows them to be able to take ownership of their data,” said Haines.
“There’s a tremendous amount of information that’s created during design and construction. That information is often lost and there’s been no easy way to turn it over to get the information into the hands of the building owners and operators.”

In most organizations, Haines said that facility managers are still using manual processes. In one case, a facility manager at a large Chicago firm is using Power Point as his CAD application. He draws blocks of his rooms in Power Point, puts people’s names in those blocks and prints it out in a representation of a floor plan. His rationale: it’s easy to use and everybody has it.

That process takes a lot of time, leads to safety issues, inefficiency and credibility issues with the facility managers.

Facility Manager 7.0’s primary focus is space and asset management during allocations and inventory of occupant, and maintenance management which delivers scheduled maintenance capability within the product, managing the lifecycle costs of the facility and emergency management and project management. The product has built in capabilities that allows users to do some disaster planning and recovery. Users can take a snapshot of facilities data, including the drawings, and store it offsite on a CD or on a mobile device. “In case of a disaster, you can grab the CD, pop it into a laptop and be up and running with all your facilities,” said Haines. The project management
capability is focused toward the bundling together of work orders and task assignments for facilities related jobs.

Haines said that most major vendors focus on building portfolios of over 1 million square feet for CAFM systems. Without CAFM, facilities operations can be difficult to manage and up until now most CAFM solutions have been difficult to use.

The idea behind FMDesktop was to push it to the desktop to make it easy to use, and to not build it on top of AutoCAD as they had done in the past. “We really pushed the envelope down to about 100,000 square feet. At this size, most organizations get a dedicated facility manager or one that fills numerous roles and need CAFM but operate on manual mode. Most of their performance is difficult to predict and most of it is assessed in hindsight. This makes them very slow to react.”

Because much of the world uses AutoCAD for drawing and design, a lot of drawings are authored in DWG , which makes it easy for IT to leverage existing skills and data.

Besides Facility Manager, other components of the suite include:

Facility Link –a plug-in to AutoCAD which allows facility managers to do more of a traditional approach, i.e., connect drawings to the underlying database in a bi-directional fashion

Facility Web – a web wizard which allows you to go through a series of questions, then it publishes out all your facility information to a website

Facility Request – takes the facility capability and opens it up to the entire enterprise. This application allows employees to submit requests and questions to the facility team for getting work done on space occupied. This reduces the islands of information, and gives a clear picture of what’s going on.

FMDesktop gives Autodesk the ability to extend downstream in the Building Solutions Division. “We can take design data and move it seamlessly into the building lifecycle,” explained Haines. “From an operational standpoint, we have our design/authoring applications on the left hand side. During design and construction, a huge amount of information generally stops at the point where the building is getting ready to open.” FMDesktop takes that authored data and moves it directly into building operations, which allows the building operators to have that information. “The typical building lifecycle is roughly 25 years in the U.S.,” Haines said. “That
allows us to create long term relationships with facility managers.”

During a demo, Haines showed how you can take a Revit building and insert it into FMDesktop -- completing the BIM story.

Facilities management encompasses different divisions at Autodesk, and is not just limited to BSD, said Haines. ISD has huge enterprise implementations of FM, and the Autodesk Collaboration Solutions (ACS) has Buzzsaw for managing facility drawings. Carl Bass’ vision of “convergence” takes into account thinking beyond vertical divisions within the company to thinking of vertical industries. FM extends from infrastructure to information services inside the building to outside the building with the management of land and infrastructure.

Another product, FMEnterprise, takes the MapGuide based capabilities and with DWF, connects that data to FMDesktop. FMDesktop is good for a building of up to 12,000 square feet. A 100-1 million square foot customer may have a lot of data and need to connect information, so they might consider a move to FMEnterprise.


Trimble announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Meridian Project Systems, Inc., of Folsom, Calif., in an all-cash transaction. Meridian Systems provides enterprise project management and lifecycle software for optimizing the plan, build and operate lifecycle for real estate, construction and other physical infrastructure projects. Building owners, construction contractors, engineering firms, and government agencies use Meridian technology to reduce capital construction costs and improve project productivity. Closing of the transaction, anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2006, is subject to usual and customary closing conditions.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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