Marry facility and asset management

Uniting the disciplines of facility management and asset management is an emerging trend in manufacturing.

By Vada Dillawn

When Nic Bogren, validation engineer for Novavax, a clinical biopharmaceutical company in Rockville, Maryland, walks into his office each morning, he has to choose which hat he is going to wear. As part of the technical services department, Bogren and his colleagues manage engineering, safety, validation and facilities, so their job priorities vary; they are responsible for maintaining both the facilities and the manufacturing equipment. ”It makes sense that the facilities group is responsible for maintenance of assets, either in-house or through outside vendors,” says Bogren.

Novavax is following a trend emerging within the manufacturing environment: marrying the disciplines of facility management and asset management. Before this trend, management’s first priority was getting the product out the door; thus, the maintenance of the operating equipment that produced the product was equally important. Facility maintenance (FM) — maintaining the building envelope of a plant — was often ignored or deemphasized. Now that energy costs are rising dramatically and energy conservation is taking front and center stage, management is again looking at optimizing efficiencies within the building envelope, instead of haphazardly assigning such duties to various departments without conscious, strategic planning, explains Bogren.

Smart tools bring assets and facilities together

The role of facility management within the manufacturing realm has grown in part due to the advancement of the tools that support FM and asset management. The practice of facility and asset management evolved from a paper-and-pencil, work-as-needed support service to a sophisticated, technology-driven profession in which a computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) system provides the necessary data to run and manage assets in a production environment.

It was difficult for corporate management to budget for maintenance, as there were several maintenance budgets spread over the various labs and areas.

“These smart tools allow the management of asset and facility to co-exist,” says Abdul Rani Achmed, CEO of CWorks. “A manager can easily maintain both his facilities and the assets within that building envelope by using a single system.”

Equipped with these software tools and the information they supply, the manager in manufacturing now has a broad perspective of the plant and its many working parts, explains Rani Achmed. This includes knowledge of the plant equipment and asset life cycle, knowledge of energy costs and potential for cost savings, and knowledge of personnel costs and time spent on repair and maintenance.

“As other industries make strides in technology, these smart tools become even smarter,” says Rani Achmed. “With this growth in tools that support the manufacturing environment, there is more opportunity for asset management and facility management to exist side-by-side.”

The power struggle within the marriage

But with opportunity also comes issues. Who should ultimately be responsible for facility management or asset management? Should it be the operations group or the facilities group? Does it make sense in terms of economics and efficiency to have them managed within the same department?

“It depends,” says David Berger, P.Eng., partner with Western Management Consultants, and contributing editor of Plant Services. “Ultimately, it is a decision that management needs to make strategically keeping the organization’s goals and mission in mind. For instance, I recently completed a project for a large airport in Canada. Maintenance of the building envelope was handled by Operations. The mission of the airport was to create a safe environment for passengers of the many flights occurring there. True to its mission, Operations, which was also in charge of facilities management, made maintenance of the functionality of the airport’s assets its first priority. And the reality of this stance is that a technician could be fired for not replacing a burned out light bulb on the runway; however, the same technician’s job would not be in jeopardy for failing to replace a light in the airport terminal.”

A process for determining who takes the lead

To assist plant managers in creating the most efficient management of the manufacturer’s assets, including its building envelope, Berger suggests management undergo a process.

  • Determine the type of asset and its function. Is it a part of the building envelope, or is it manufacturing equipment?
  • If the asset is a part of the building envelope and therefore under the function of facility management, do you have a facility maintenance person?
  • If you do not have a facility manager per se, then facility maintenance may go under the umbrella of a different department such as the operations/asset management department. If this is the case, facility maintenance may not be as high of a priority and it may take a back seat to other functions.

To avoid that scenario, another option would be outsourcing the maintenance of the facility. Ask the question whether you want to farm out this responsibility. If you are considering outsourcing, make sure that you do it for the right reasons: cost and ease of use. Before outsourcing, you need to have your house in order; otherwise, outsourcing will cost you much more in the long run. With a small manufacturing plant, it might not make fiscal sense to outsource. However, a single plant may be too small to adequately manage its facilities as it is probably operationally focused. In that case, the pros and cons of outsourcing should be weighed. For large sites with multiple building facilities, the recommendation would be to have a facility management department that looks after maintaining the building envelope as well as other facility management functions such as building security, logistics, food services and disaster planning.

Into the gray

What happens when the asset doesn’t fall under either category? Within the building envelope, there will be gray areas: those assets or responsibilities that don’t easily fall under any distinct category. For instance, consider an asset such as a dock leveler. This piece of equipment found at any loading station must be adequately maintained, but should it fall under the responsibility of asset management or is it a part of the building envelope and therefore managed by facilities? Other nebulous gray areas include safety equipment; infrastructure including roads, bridges and pipes; landscaping; specialized doors between operational areas; explosion-proof walls in hazardous material storage areas; and special production flooring. Basically, anything that is not clearly part of a normal building envelope could be considered within this gray area. Again, managers need to go through the foregoing process to determine where the best fit is, explains Berger.

The Novavax marriage

For Novavax, the blending of responsibilities of both asset management and facility management made sense. Previously, the lab managers and area supervisors would schedule maintenance with the vendors when the maintenance could not be done in-house. However, it was difficult for corporate management to budget for maintenance, as there were several maintenance budgets spread over the various labs and areas. It became clear to management that all maintenance costs should be in one budgeted place.

Sometimes the facilities group is very busy and the maintenance of the lab equipment is not scheduled in a timely manner. But lab managers are aware of this situation and so are in touch with the facilities department before the maintenance due date.
Sometimes the facilities group is very busy and the maintenance of the lab equipment is not scheduled in a timely manner. But lab managers are aware of this situation and so are in touch with the facilities department before the maintenance due date.

“When the switch was made to have the facilities group do all maintenance including assets, it was a little bumpy at first,” says Bogren. “Now, after a year or so, it works very well. This was dependent also on the fact that the lab managers and facilities department did not have a lot of turnover in personnel. It may be more difficult if there was a lot of turnover.”

Problems do arise when maintenance of both assets and facilities are combined. In the case of Novavax, sometimes the facilities department is very busy and the maintenance of the sophisticated lab equipment is not scheduled in a timely manner. “We are able to overcome this obstacle because most of the lab managers are aware of this situation and so are in touch with the facilities group before the maintenance due date,” says Bogren, who believes this will be remedied once Novavax’s CMMS is populated with all maintenance tasks.

“We understand that data entry and the associated time lag for getting this input entered can make it difficult for getting real-time reporting,” agrees Rani Achmed, who also recommends taking the extra step of entering asset specifications and maintenance tasks. “Just remember to keep the input accurate. Garbage in means garbage out. As soon as this information is input into the system, PM tasks will become more routine.”

E-mail Vada Dillawn, JD/MBA, Dillawn&Clark, at