January 18, 2010
Facilities Management: Beyond Buildings
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

Facilities Management: Beyond Buildings

By Susan Smith


The topic of facilities management came up repeatedly at this year’s Autodesk University, in response to the fact that in January of 2009, Autodesk had discontinued their FMDesktop portfolio of products.


Autodesk continued to sell FMDesktop but not actively. Users were left wondering what the replacement product, if any, was going to be. Phil Bernstein, FAIA, vice president of industry strategy and relations for AEC, stated that FM is sorely needed in BIM. “We need a bigger solution around FM and the owner.”


Beau Turner, director of Business Development at Avatech Solutions for Avatech, said that they had experienced “good growth” in FM in professional services. There was a need for FM processes “that the customer can execute themselves.” He also noted that architectural and civil are maturing in their use of FM.


All of this comes together in the past week’s announcement by Autodesk of their partnership with FM:Systems, a company that has focused on facilities management for over 25 years. FMDesktop users can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they can move forward without the fear of losing their FM product – they can use FMDesktop until they are ready to transition to FM:Systems tools.


The preferred industry partnership between Autodesk and FM:Systems ensures continued customer support for Autodesk FMDesktop software users. The terms of the agreement state that FM:Systems will provide extended support to FMDesktop users as well as the option to migrate to FM:Interact Workplace Management Suite. FM:Systems has also joined the Autodesk Preferred Industry Partner Program, a program that recognizes select third-party software developers for their industry-focused solutions.


The reason for discontinuing the FMDesktop product a year ago, according to Brook Potter, senior industry manager for architecture at Autodesk, was to focus on design and BIM applications, and allow a partnership to provide the FM segment of the product suite rather than develop their own solutions. FM:Systems is currently integrated with AutoCAD and will be with Revit.


Michael Schley, IFMA Fellow, CEO and founder, FM:Systems, explained that there are two points of this agreement – first is to take as good care of the FMDesktop customers as possible as the product that they have does not have a specific future. “What we put together with Autodesk is a plan to go forward with comparable or better products,” said Schley. “So there is an offer that those customers will be able to consider: first of all to support them on FMDesktop for the next year, secondly to migrate to one of our products at no cost. Along with that is to get training at no cost and support for migration at no cost.”


The second part is that FM:Systems will work with Autodesk to really push the state of the art BIM during the operational phase of the building. “We look at buildings as having long lifetimes – 40 years is the tax rule; two years of that is spent in construction, 38 years is spent in operating it,” said Schley. “What we often forget is that when that building finishes construction it’s not done, it’s not stopped being designed and constructed, so our vision stems from what we’re going to be able to do with Autodesk to really bring the collaboration tools redeveloped into the FM center, tie those into the front end of the process, into the design and construction so that
BIM is not just something that happens in construction and then gets handed off, BIM is something that lives out the life of the product.”


Schley pointed to two drivers on this, partly the technology – in the beginning of CAD it was promised to know everything about a building and it delivered on some of that. “Revit, Navisworks, GBS, Ecotect are really giving us the technology we’ve been wanting, so now the question is, okay the technology is here, what do we do with it?”


The second driver is the worldwide mandate to deal with the climate change and the statistics that U.S. buildings use 38% of all energy with 72% of all electricity. “We’re also seeing them as part of the solution,” Schley said. Owners want to see how their buildings can be trimmed down. BIM is coming at exactly the right time. The BIM tools are providing the platform for that analysis, plus the economy is such that more owners are looking at existing buildings and seeing what can be done with them.


In the last 10 years, the web platform has made it possible to envision tying everyone involved in using or managing a building together in one source of data and one technology platform. FM:Interact helps people organize information about how space is being used. Customers are interested in where they have wasted space and how they can leverage that space and gain efficiencies in their buildings. A second area is maintenance, both from a preventive planned maintenance and a help desk maintenance perspective. Customers want to know what it takes to keep a building running, and how can we use tools of email notification, common databases, etc. to make that run faster and more efficiently.


Real estate management portfolio is also under the FM:Systems umbrella. There are companies that have a lot of companies in a lot of places, they need to know what those buildings are and how they can be deployed to do the business of the company.


The key to managing a facility well is knowing what the building is but also what the organization is, who are the people, what are the structures, what are the financial relationships that are important, said Schley. “So we take all this messy HR and ERP data and our job is to link, to tie that into the CAD data. That’s our starting point. From there we get into other processes that may or may not have a heavy relationship in data but they relate because the same people are doing them. So one is managing construction projects, from an owner financial beneficiary point of view, such as what do I have out in contracts, where are we in time? What’s over what’s under, how does it
stack up by region, etc.”


Strategic planning is another important area of FM, tracking where the company is going, what it has, and what it will need. Asset tracking tracks all the things that are in buildings that need looking after, anything from office equipment, medical equipment, corporate artwork, to building systems.


“What we’re bringing to the table in this relationship is a lot of experience with all those things that go beyond buildings, and that’s where our customers live,” said Schley. “I think it adds a richness to this relationship with Autodesk that it’s probably doing a huge amt of work in getting the buildings built and then we bring the perspective of this thing called FM.”


Marty Chobot, vice president of Product Management, FM:Systems pointed out that if you look at the organizational structure in a lot of their customer organizations, there is a vice president of facilities in real estate and four functions underneath that person. There are people who manage space and occupancy, and those who do transactional activities such as corporate real estate and leasing, others who do maintenance and operations, and others who do projects.


“We’ve tried to build a platform for all those people to use that ties together all the information that breaks down some of the silos that have been there traditionally from a business organization point of view,” said Chobot. “It also lets them rationalize their product portfolios, so instead of having four programs for one department, they can have one and all share the information.”


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