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.

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 advance your career by improving energy efficiency

manufacturing_nurture_blog_image

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.

 

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.

Maintenance Request Screenshot.png

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. 


3 Ways to Avoid Facility Fiascos this School Year

Your school’s fresh paint job is drying, the floors are squeaky clean, and the classrooms are in tip-top shape for your students and staff. So, bring on the students, right? Not just yet! Phew, glad we caught you before you did anything rash. Now is actually the perfect time to start adding some to-dos to your list that will help you start the new school year off on the right foot. These tasks are a lot like the idea of preventive maintenance, which is the practice of performing routine repairs or inspections to prevent a future emergency and extend the life of your building. If you carry out these simple tasks now, it could help you avoid conflicts and costly surprises down the line.

1. Get your school’s staff onboard

Maintaining open communication with your school’s faculty and staff is paramount if you want your facilities to operate with minimal hiccups. A couple simple practices can be the difference between an educational facility that runs smoothly and one that constantly needs attention.

  • Get into the habit of explaining the reasoning behind any requests you make of your colleagues. By properly explaining why certain rules are in place, you can prevent misunderstandings that would otherwise result in disaster.
    • For example, you may ask your colleagues to keep their thermostats at 74ºF. In your mind, you know it’s to keep mold from growing and to cut back on cooling costs. However, a teacher may think you just like to make them miserable so one Friday, when they can’t take it anymore, they disregard your request and turn down the thermostat to 65ºF. Then, to make matters worse, they leave it on in the empty classroom over the long weekend! Unbeknownst to them, they just left behind the perfect breeding grounds for mold. How could this have been avoided? Next time, provide the “why” behind your request. Providing the context behind a request makes your staff feel like they are in the loop and helps the information stick when it matters most.
  • Sometimes emails don’t get read or announcements are tuned out, so take advantage of your empty school and arm your facility with adequate signage. Don’t want a door left open? Make a sign for it. Want to remind staff that lights should only be on during certain hours? Make a sign for it. Tired of students using the emergency doors to leave school? Make a — you get it. On your next walk through of your facilities, create a list of signs that need to be made. No need to be fancy, a simple word document can do wonders.

2. Start fresh

Just like a student gets a spiffy new haircut before their first day of school, tidying up your facilities will help you start the school year in style. When you’re focused on big tasks like facility remodels or repairs, smaller tasks, such as organizing your janitorial supplies and closets, can get pushed further down your to-do list. It’s not too late to set aside some time to get your department ready to take on whatever the school year throws at you.

  • Organize the little things. Start with your desk and surrounding office space, then move on to your supply closets, custodial closets and any other storage areas that may need a little TLC. Rally your staff to help cut organizing time in half. Depending on your storage spaces this may be a daunting task, but the first step is to set aside as little as an hour a week just to get started. Break it down into small, actionable steps. For example, start by disposing of old inventory or cleaning supplies and making sure all their usage and safety information is visible. If you want to go the extra mile, you could even replace your cleaning supplies with their environmentally-friendly counterparts. To encourage easy maintenance of your freshly assembled space, label items and ask that your team abide by your new organizational set-up.

3. Whip your workflows into shape

While summer may symbolize freedom for students and teachers, most of us understand that work never takes a break. However, since your facilities are emptier than normal, summer is the ideal time to usher in a new era of facility management for your building(s). Facility management software provides incredible value to schools and implementing one now could gain you many opportunities to save on costs and improve your facilities. A good facility management software keeps work order, vendor activity, and inventory information in one place. Ideally, a facility management software system should take the stress of keeping track of maintenance duties and following up with work orders off your shoulders. With the extra time gained from using facility management software, our customers managing school facilities have been able to take on initiatives focused on making their schools the best learning environments they can be.

  • Kick off your search by documenting and prioritizing your school’s needs and areas for improvement. Many of our customers in school environments come to us with an unstructured work request system and are overwhelmed with keeping track of vendor activity and maintenance requests. Do thorough research to find a software system that fits your school’s criteria. Make ease-of-use a necessity — the more people feel comfortable navigating through your software solution, the more people will use it. For more information, check out our eGuide on selecting a facilities management system.
  • If facility management software is out of the question, brainstorm ways to improve the efficiency of your current work order, preventive maintenance, and event scheduling workflows. What are your three biggest holdups?Are your work orders getting lost every few weeks? Can your staff’s efficiency be improved? Maybe it’s time to reestablish your expectations of your team. Find solutions that fit within your workflow and test them out to see if they have a positive effect. Taking the summer to establish these new practices gives you a good window to work out any kinks and develop the best way to instruct others on your new procedures.

How Facilities Management eXpress (FMX) Can Help
FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, event and transportation scheduling, and reporting and analytics are providing value to schools around the nation. We work with onsite single sign-on and allow unlimited users, making us a great fit for schools of any size. Click here for more information and to learn more about how K-12, higher education, and charter schools like yours have simplified their facilities management with FMX.

riana_blog_headshot.png

Riana is the assistant marketing director at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not creating content or running the FMX customer community, she can be found doing crafts and drinking copious amounts of green tea.

 

Sources:
https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/2003347.pdf