7 ways to help prevent flu in your facilities

Now that the holidays are over, everyone is back to work (or school). Which means one thing: It’s flu season.

The flu is most often spread during the winter months when people spend more time indoors. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the 2017 flu season might be more severe than usual, especially for young children and older adults.

According to the CDC, employers lose 225.8 billion (or $1,685 per employee) each year in productivity losses from absent employees. Facilities managers can help mitigate some of these losses by taking extra care this flu season to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces. Here are some tips:

  1. Identify surfaces and locations in your building(s) that occupants frequently come into contact with.

80 percent of illness-causing infections are spread through touch, according the CDC. The best way to prevent flu from spreading is to target commonly-touched surfaces. Start by thinking about what your occupants are likely to touch in a given day. For example:

– Do they use doorknobs and elevator buttons when they come in the building?

– Do they type on their keyboards, answer their phones, and sit at their desks?

– Do they use the countertops and sinks in the breakroom?

  1. Add additional cleaning rotations for these high-touch surfaces

Instruct your team on which surfaces they should target the most.

How FMX can help: You can use facilities management software like FMX to schedule these cleaning rotations. Your maintenance team will be able to view these tasks on their personal calendars, and they will know immediately when they are assigned to a task. You can also use FMX to send out reminders before these tasks are due (and when they are overdue).

  1. Make sure you clean soft surfaces as well

Carpets, curtains, and upholstery are often overlooked during cleaning rotations because they don’t appear dirty, but flu viruses can survive on soft surfaces for up to 12 hours.

  1. Choose disinfectants over all-purpose cleaners

All-purpose cleaners are designed to remove dirt and grime, not germs. In fact, just using a cleaner might make the problem worse. You may just be moving germs around, which is the opposite of what you want to do. Disinfectants, on the other hand, are designed to kill bacteria and viruses (like the ones that cause the flu).

  1. Choose the right disinfectant

You should also consider what kind of disinfectant would be most appropriate for your facilities. Arguably the most common disinfectant is chlorine bleach. The benefit of bleach is that it is cheap and effective. However, the chlorine in bleach is a respiratory irritant and can aggravate breathing conditions like asthma, especially in small spaces. Chlorine is also corrosive and may damage surfaces over time.

Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP) disinfectants are sustainable products which are less irritating to lungs, less corrosive to surfaces, and just as effective as bleach. However, AHP disinfectants are often more expensive. Here’s a quick guide about the common types of disinfectants.

  1. Develop and follow cleaning best practices

In order for some disinfectants to be effective, they must be in contact with a surface for a certain length of time and they often must remain wet during that period. For example, bleach should remain wet on a surface between 1-10 minutes for it to be fully effective. Always refer to the product label for instructions on how to properly use disinfectants.

How FMX can help: You can use FMX to build checklists for your employees to follow during cleaning tasks. You can require assignees to check off each step before they can close out a task. You can also give them the option to record their progress on a task and then close it out at a later time.

  1. Partner with your Human Resources department (or other organization-wide administrative department) to remind occupants about proper hand washing and discourage sick occupants from coming to work to prevent spreading illnesses.

Your organization can post signs or send out company-wide emails, for example.

How FMX can help

FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities make it easy to schedule janitorial and other planned maintenance tasks. You can also prioritize tasks based on need, view each and every task your team members are working on, create checklists, store important documents and other information, and keep track of time and money spent.

You can also use FMX to manage your inventory. FMX provides a unique QR barcode for every asset, and enables facilities staff to save time by scanning codes from any smartphone or tablet to adjust inventory quantities, obtain asset maintenance procedures and history, and more.

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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 

10 challenges school facilities managers face and how you can overcome them

As you’re reading this blog post, take a second and look at your desk (or if you’re away from yours, close your eyes and imagine what it looks like). What’s on it? Your computer, a few pens, maybe an energy bar that you haven’t gotten around to eating yet? What about stacks of work orders?

Many school facilities managers find their desks wallpapered with work order forms and post-it notes from taking requests over the phone. Those managers who have gone the electronic route, often have hundreds to thousands of unread emails in their inbox that they haven’t had time to sort through.

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School facilities managers frequently receive more work orders than they can handle. Meanwhile, they watch their budgets dwindle due to constantly running their HVAC and other operational systems to accommodate after-school activities.

As a result, they are rarely able to achieve their goals like developing a preventive maintenance plan and making capital improvements.

Check out our eGuide below on the challenges that school facilities managers face and how facilities management software like FMX can help you overcome them.

About FMX

FMX enables facilities managers to more efficiently and effectively track work orders, schedule resources, and plan maintenance. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view and is simple enough for teachers and administrators to use to submit, track, and manage their requests and events. With FMX, facilities managers gain valuable insight into facility use and costs, while teachers and administrative staff get updated status information on their facilities requests.

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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 

How to advance your career by improving energy efficiency

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With increased industry regulation and public support, sustainability is more of a priority than ever before. As a result, more and more organizations are creating executive and senior management positions to manage their sustainability projects. Some of these position titles include Director of Sustainability, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility, and even Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). This new trend gives facilities managers a unique opportunity to expand the roles of their departments and advance their careers.

These positions were usually created once the organization had already begun pursuing sustainability and energy efficiency improvements, according to a recent study by Kathleen Miller and George Serafeim of Harvard Business School. Facilities managers who make these improvements a priority are likely to be remembered once their organization is ready to create a CSO position. In fact, 86% of CSOs were hired internally, according to another study.

When do organizations create CSO positions?

Most organizations move through a similar process as they advance their sustainability efforts, according to Miller and Serafeim:

  1. Compliance stage: Many organizations’ first introduction to sustainability comes from needing to comply with industry regulations. Your organization may very well be in this stage right now. In this stage, those responsible for managing sustainability efforts are unlikely to hold a CSO position…at least not yet.
  2. Efficiency stage: Over time an organization will begin to focus more on how sustainability can improve their business and less on simply complying with industry regulations. These organizations frequently develop an overall sustainability strategy and work to implement it. It is at this stage, that CSO positions are most often introduced.
  3. Innovation stage: Most organizations move into the innovation stage after their sustainability strategies have been in place for a while. These organizations then begin to approach their sustainability efforts in a more proactive way.

How can you move your organization into the efficiency stage and beyond?

The first step is to get the attention of upper management by improving your energy efficiency, thus lowering your energy costs and improving your sustainability.

Most energy efficiency initiatives take the form of equipment or inventory replacements, for example, replacing a low-efficiency water heater with a high-efficiency one. These initiatives are popular because they are easy to identify and install, and the savings are immediately evident. Equipment/inventory replacements are a great place to start, however, they do cause some problems. For example, their contribution to your overall energy savings is minimal overtime, because it is just as easy to replace a high-efficiency product with a low-efficiency one. Organizations often revert back to their original products over time due to budget cuts.

The best way to permanently improve your energy efficiency and move your organization into the efficiency stage is to focus on load reduction. Basically, you want to decrease how hard systems, such as HVAC, have to work to maintain appropriate operational levels. For example, one way to reduce the load on your heating system is by reducing stack effect, according to author and engineer, Ian Shapiro.

Example: Load reduction by reducing stack effect

Stack effect is the “vertical upward motion of air in a heated building in the winter,” according to Shapiro. In the winter, cold air typically enters a building through lower-level outdoor access points such as doors and windows, loading docks, and mechanical rooms.  Once the air is inside, it finds pathways to rise to the top of the building. Some of these pathways include stairwells, chimneys, holes for pipes, elevator/mechanical shafts, etc. The air will then escape through an opening on the upper floor. When this air escapes it will cause more cold air to enter the building, starting the process over. The introduction of cold air into the building causes heating systems to work harder to maintain the set temperature in the building. If you can decrease the number of air pathways and entry points into your building, you’ll decrease the amount of new cold air that enters the building. As a result, you’ll permanently reduce your heating load and increase your energy efficiency.

How to get started

  1. Identify the pathways: Some of the more obvious ones are unused chases and chimneys and stairwell doors. Shapiro also suggests looking for holes around pipe penetrations, holes into chases for piping and wiring, as well as ductwork. Good places to look for these pathways are below kitchen and bathroom sinks and also around exhaust and supply ventilation grilles.
  2. Target entry points: You can further reduce stack effect by caulking and weather stripping the entry points into your building. However, it’s important to target the pathways first, as these improvements will reduce the air pressures that cause cold air to enter the building in the first place. Even as caulking and weather stripping wear over time, you’ll still maintain an appropriate load on your heating system.

How FMX can help: A Computerized Maintenance Management System like FMX can help you plan this and other energy efficiency improvements. With FMX, you can create planned maintenance tasks like the ones above and assign them to your staff. You can also measure the success of this project by tracking heating requests from building occupants.

For additional load reduction techniques check out this article by Shapiro.

About FMX

FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, reporting, and analytics can be valuable assets in your pursuit of improved sustainability and energy efficiency. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view simple enough for your team and your occupants to use to submit, track, and manage their requests. You can also use FMX to track equipment histories, worker hours, vendor rates and inventory.

 

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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


Three tips to declutter your storeroom and decrease inventory costs

How do you feel when you walk into your organization’s storeroom? Anxious? Frustrated? Maybe even a little afraid? For many organizations, storerooms are like attics: drafty, dark, and disorganized; places you only go if you absolutely have to. This blog post will provide fmxbottoolsyou with some insight to take back your
storeroom and improve your inventory management, enabling you to save time and money in the future.

Let’s look at some numbers

A typical organization overstocks about 29 percent of their internal inventory, according to the findings of CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management), Andrew Gager. Let’s say that your entire inventory store is worth about $50,000. That means that you likely have around $14,000 worth of overstocked materials. Now imagine what you could do if you had that amount back in your budget.

But overstocking is not the only way that inventory can be mismanaged. More than half (58 percent) of a typical organization’s inventory has been stationary for more than three years. Now, some of these untouched items are important, though uncommonly used parts. But a significant portion of these items are probably obsolete. Let’s use the same example as before: if your inventory storeroom is worth $50,000, that means that you have around $29,000 worth of potentially obsolete items.

Why do these problems occur?

  1. No system for obsolete part disposal

Parts and other inventory items can become obsolete in several ways:

Equipment replacement: The equipment that utilized the part was replaced and the parts cannot be used by the new equipment.
Damage: Improper upkeep or accidents have caused the part to become damaged.
Cannibalization: A section of the part was used for another purpose and was not replaced.
Expiration: In the case of consumables, cleaning solutions, etc., the part was not used by its expiration date and is no longer safe to be used.

Without a proper way to dispose of these items, they can take up valuable space in your storeroom, lead to unsafe working conditions, add extra time to simple maintenance tasks, and lead to the next reason, “disorganization”.

  1. Disorganization
    Storerooms are notoriously disorganized. Parts are often stacked on top of each other and are poorly labeled. According to Gager, facilities staff spend about 18 percent of their days searching for tools and inventory. Sometimes storerooms are so disorganized that facilities staff will go out and purchase what they need to avoid searching for it in the storeroom.
    Disorganization will often cause organizations to unnecessarily reorder inventory because parts are improperly labeled or lost. Your staff will then have to wait for the parts to come in before they can complete the work order or planned maintenance task.

How to take back your storeroom

  1. Create a catalog
    The first step in taking back your storeroom is to identify, document, and label what is currently there. This process will help you to identify obsolete items, commonly used items that were ordered and misplaced, and some real gems as well: you may very well be holding on to parts that are out of production but that you still need for your equipment. The best way to catalog your inventory is with a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), like FMX.
    As you go through this process, be sure to note the quality of each item and its priority to your organization. Is it in good condition? For consumables, is it still within its expiration date? For larger parts, does the item have all of its components? Is the part crucial to maintain operations or is it no longer needed by your organization? Enter these notes in your CMMS so that you can review them as you’re going through the next step, “obsolete inventory disposal”.

How FMX can help: Each inventory item receives its own entry in FMX, where you can include its name, supplier, and any details about its quality and relevance to your organization. Once the entry is created, FMX will assign it a unique QR barcode for easy identification and labeling. FMX also makes it easy to search for the exact item you’re looking for and edit its description or change its quantity. If you already have a spreadsheet of your inventory, an FMX customer success representative can import that information for you.

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Inventory entry
  1. Remove obsolete materials: Once you have identified obsolete items in your inventory, you’ll want to remove them. But wait, remember those numbers from before? You’re likely looking at removing 25 percent or more of your inventory store, and depending on the size of your storeroom, those items could be worth a lot of money. Before you toss them, check with your purchasing and/or financial departments. They may want to sell these materials or donate them for tax credit. At the very least, they’ll likely want to document the loss.

Regarding consumables—If your organization stocks a lot of consumables they likely already have a waste management process. If you are not aware of this process, ask around before you throw these materials in the trash or down the sink. If you have expired commercial cleaning products, check the labels. Manufacturers often include instructions for disposal on the label. If you can’t find any instructions on the label, check with your local waste disposal facility for how to properly dispose of the products.

  1. Determine appropriate stocking minimums and maximums: There is a thin line between being overstocked and being understocked. Think about the inventory used for your most common repairs and planned maintenance tasks. This should give you a good starting point to establish some preliminary stocking levels. Using a CMMS over time will give you a better indication of what your actual minimums and maximums should be.

How FMX can help: FMX can help you track which inventory items you’ve used in the past week, month, year, or more. This information will allow you to more closely predict how many items you’ll need in the future. FMX can also help you keep track of the amount of time it takes to reorder inventory items from suppliers. This information will give you a good indication of how much of a particular item to keep in stock.

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Inventory log

Another thing to consider when determining your stocking minimums and maximums is the item’s priority. For example, if you’re from a manufacturing facility and you do not have a critical part for a piece of production or safety equipment, that can be a big problem. Even if that piece of equipment rarely requires maintenance, it is important to keep at least a few of those particular parts in stock.

How FMX can help

FMX enables facilities managers and their staff to more efficiently and effectively track inventory, equipment, purchasing, and much more. FMX provides a unique QR barcode for every asset, and enables facilities staff to save time by scanning codes from any smartphone or tablet to adjust inventory quantities, obtain asset maintenance procedures and history, and more.

FMX also provides facilities managers with valuable insight into inventory usage and purchase histories.

allison_blog



Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


How to spring into savings by tracking heating complaints this winter

Turkey day has come and gone which means that winter is coming…and so are the heating complaints.

According to a survey by Building Operating Management, 68 percent of facilities managers said that the most common complaints they receive from occupants are about temperature. And 16 percent of respondents said they field a heating or cooling request every day. Complaints can be disruptive especially when you have preventive maintenance or capital improvement projects to get to, but tracking heating and cooling requests over time can provide valuable insight into your HVAC system.

Tracking heating and cooling complaints from occupants

I’ll bet that you can think of a particular person in your building who is constantly complaining about the temperature. How do you determine if the problem is in your HVAC system or your occupant’s imagination? Well, tracking these and other heating and cooling complaints across your building is a good place to start. You may start to see a pattern. Perhaps other occupants in the same area are also reporting issues. Maybe this person is only experiencing issues earlier in the morning or maybe they only experience issues when the outside temperature drops below a certain point. Tracking this kind of data may help you to determine whether a complaint has some substance to it.

Let’s say you’ve received a lot of requests for a certain area and have determined that the temperature in those rooms is not within range. So you check your HVAC system, but it looks okay. Maybe your problem isn’t your HVAC system at all, maybe there’s a leak or poor insulation is allowing heat to escape. Because you tracked the complaints, you were able to determine that there was a hidden problem.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) like FMX can help you to track the frequency, location, date and time of heating and cooling requests.

Responding to complaints

Occupants want to be heard above all else. They will feel a lot better if you can show that you’ve heard them and are making an effort to solve their problem. If you are unable to solve their problem, offering them a kind explanation goes a long way. However, if you ignore complaints, occupants will often take it upon themselves to find a solution to their problems. In the case of heating complaints, occupants will often use personal heaters in their work areas. According to a report by the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), 60 percent of facilities managers said that their building occupants have brought in personal heaters if they were too cold. Personal heaters can be a fire hazard, cause power outages and can potentially make the problem worse.

A CMMS can improve communication between your team and building occupants. And with FMX, requesters are alerted when any progress has occurred on their request.

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Tracking maintenance activities

In addition to tracking complaints, you should also keep a log of your maintenance activities. That way if you experience similar HVAC problems in the future, you’ll have documentation on how you fixed it last time. Tracking maintenance activities should also give you an idea of which pieces of HVAC equipment are requiring more maintenance than others: maybe a particular model is underperforming, maybe all of the models from a specific manufacturer are under performing. Having this information documented will help you determine when to replace your equipment and with what.

FMX can help you coordinate HVAC repairs whether they are performed in-house or by a vendor.  You can also track how often you’ve had to make an HVAC system repair and to which pieces of equipment.

Tracking costs

Determining when you should make a capital improvement to your HVAC system can be a bit tricky, but it is worth it. You’ll need to know the amount of worker hours it takes to repair your system and whether or not they’ve increased over time (or the amount of time it takes for your vendor to complete the project and what their hourly rates are). It is also helpful to know your cost of inventory for each repair. This should give a basic idea of how much you are spending on your current system and whether or not it would be cost-effective to replace part or all of your HVAC system.

With the reporting and dashboard module in FMX, you can track labor hours/costs and inventory expenses, so that you can focus on convincing your boss to invest in capital improvements.

How FMX can help

FMX enables facilities managers to more efficiently and effectively track work orders, schedule resources, and plan maintenance. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view simple enough for your team and your occupants to use to submit, track, and manage their requests. You can also use FMX to track equipment histories, worker hours, vendor rates and inventory.

 

allison_blog



Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


Take the LEED in Sustainability for Your Organization

Nowadays sustainable buildings are no longer wished for, they’re expected. But sustainability advancements are expensive, and your budget hasn’t exactly grown in recent years. And your organization really can’t afford to build a fancy, new, green building. So how do you meet those growing expectations of your occupants (and your boss)?

Gaining a LEED certification for your existing building is an excellent way to show your organization’s commitment to sustainability.

What is LEED?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the one of the most common third-party certification systems for green buildings. It was developed by the U.S Green Building Council (USGBC) and is used worldwide. There are several types of certifications, but the one you should be looking into is LEED v4 Operations and Maintenance (OM) for existing buildings.

Why should I pursue it?

LEED certification has many benefits in addition to the bragging rights mentioned above.

For example, you’ll see an increase in energy and water efficiency. And it just so happens that as you increase your energy and water efficiency, you decrease your utility bills. LEED-certified buildings have shown a 19% decrease in operational costs and use 25% less energy when compared to non-certified buildings.

You’ll also find that your building occupants become more productive as improvements are made to their environment. For example, according to the USGBC, sustainability in schools can even be linked to an increase in student standardized test scores.

Not to mention, as you work towards becoming LEED certified you’ll likely complete all of those preventive maintenance tasks you’ve been deferring for reactive work orders. You’ll also likely see a decrease in reactive work orders because your building(s) will be in tip-top shape. 

Is LEED worth the cost?

Going through the LEED certification process can be expensive: there are registration and review fees, in addition to the costs to update your building.

However, despite these expenses, you’ll likely see an overall decrease in your operational costs (as mentioned before) and an increase in your building value. LEED-certified buildings have been show to increase in value by 6.8%.

In addition, many state and local governments offer incentives for LEED certifications. For example, the City of Columbus, Ohio subsidizes the costs associated with the certification process for private and non-profit developers.

How does LEED work?

LEED certification is comprised of series of prerequisites, such as an energy efficiency audit. Once you have met the prerequisites, points are rewarded for any additional improvements. Your points are what earn you the LEED certification. There are four possible levels:

  • Certified: 40-49 points
  • Silver: 50-59 points
  • Gold: 60-79 points
  • Platinum: 80 points and above

Each point corresponds to a credit in the program. Credits are the types of improvements that you can get (you guessed it) credit for. 

I’ve thought about getting certified before. Has LEED changed in recent years?

LEED has recently undergone a bit of a makeover. The USGBC replaced the current LEED certification, LEED 2009, with LEED v4 on Oct. 31.

In v4, LEED focuses more on effective maintenance and performance (i.e. showing an increase in energy efficiency) rather than simply updating building design.

In addition, USGBC has done its best to simplify the certification process wherever possible. They have reduced the amount of necessary paperwork, simplified the recertification process, and consolidated many of the credits.

One of the most challenging aspects of the new LEED v4 is the increase in the minimum Energy Star score prerequisite. You now need a rating of 75. The LEED 2009 rating was 69! But don’t give up quite yet, the new LEED v4 focuses just as much on performance as it does on results. If you are making substantial improvements to your building’s energy efficiency, you can still qualify at the LEED Certified level with an Energy Star score of less than 75.

How do I get my LEED certification?

Start the process early: Now is the perfect time to start researching what it would take for you to pursue a LEED certification, especially if your organization starts its budget cycle in January. The sooner you start planning, the better you can manage your time and budget for the project.

TIP: Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) like Facilities Management eXpress (FMX) can help you set a timeline for your enhancements and assign responsibilities to your team members.

Check out the LEED User Guide: You’ll find information on how to prepare for certification, minimum program requirements, the differences between LEED 2009 to LEED v4, and useful tips and tricks.

Run the numbers: Many of the prerequisites of LEED certification involve reporting statistics, like your Energy Star score. These numbers can also help you to determine if it makes sense for your organization to pursue LEED certification at this time.

Focus on advancements, not on points: You’ll receive the best results (i.e. energy savings) for your project if you focus on making general advances in sustainability, rather than focusing on individual credits.

Tackle the easy credits first: Pursuing easier credits first will give your organization more confidence in your ability to achieve LEED certification. For example, you can make interior lighting upgrades and conduct an occupant comfort survey for some easy points.

Select professionals with green-building experience if you’re making any renovations or updates to the design of your buildings.

Submit your project for certification and wait: Unfortunately, the LEED certification process is a lengthy one. Not only does the project take ample time on your end, you also have to wait for your project to be reviewed and approved by the USGBC.

TIP: FMX can help you to keep track of the data you’ll need to submit for your certification. If your organization has decided not to invest in a CMMS as this time, be sure to keep thorough records on your project, especially if you anticipate any personnel turnover.

How FMX can help

FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, reporting, and analytics can be valuable assets in your pursuit of LEED certification. View our Buyer’s Guide to learn more about how you can simplify your facilities management with FMX.


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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


6 CMMS Best Practices for Stress-Free Audits

Does anyone not like getting two things for the price of one? That’s basically the idea behind using your CMMS to streamline audits.

If you’re familiar with CMMS’, you know they’re commonly used for managing work orders, scheduling preventive maintenance, tracking inventory, and so on. One of the hidden benefits of these powerful programs is that regularly performing the activities listed above will result in a wealth of facility data that you can use to verify compliance!

If you are currently using a CMMS, there are lots of ways you can tweak your processes to optimize your CMMS to become the perfect audit-assisting tool. If you don’t have a CMMS in place and deal with audits on a regular basis, read on to see just how simple things could be.

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Click here to download the infographic shown above.


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 Riana is the creative services manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not creating content or brainstorming new outfits for the FMX-bot, she can be found doing crafts and drinking copious amounts of green tea.