Figure 1. An example of the CMMS implementation process.
In response to a growing student population and a need to accommodate today's technology in support of the teaching curriculum, North Andover Public Schools (NAPS) in Massachusetts has been expanding and upgrading their educational facilities, including the addition of a new high school. The new 294,000-sq-ft North Andover High School (NAHS) contains more than 70 classrooms, administrative offices, and an 800-seat-plus auditorium/performance center, full cafeteria with a snack bar and canteen area, distance learning labs, television, and radio studios. It has some of the most technologically advanced systems of any public building in the town of North Andover, including:

  • Computerized BAS;
  • Life safety and critical equipment emergency generators;
  • Automated stage lighting and sound systems;
  • Video studio with sophisticated lighting controls;
  • Multiple roof top package HVAC units;
  • Central chilled water and heating hot water systems;
  • Sophisticated energy recovery systems; and
  • Specialized plumbing systems to supply and treat the waste from classroom laboratories.

Faced with the need to maintain this new, high-performance facility and its more than 500 pieces of primary mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and kitchen equipment, Paul Szymanski, the school system's director of management support services, recognized that their maintenance management processes needed to be upgraded to meet the challenge.

Ensuring that the appropriate PM would be accomplished in a fiscal environment of increasingly tight operating and maintenance budgets required a process tool that would allow flexibility, prioritization, and active real-time management. The solution needed to also give the administration the ability to adjust the plan in response to budget changes while keeping the risk of equipment failure to a minimum. The model for this solution did not appear in any nearby public school systems, but rather is one typically seen in large colleges, universities, and other types of institutional campuses or in major commercial and industrial facilities. The implementation of a CMMS was deemed the key administrative process improvement needed to help achieve a system-wide maintenance operations upgrade.

The North Andover School Building Committee fully supported and funded the efforts of the administration to obtain the CMMS. Lou Minicucci, chairman of the committee, said, "The investment in a CMMS would go a long way toward providing efficient and proper equipment maintenance in support of the overall academic process, the teachers, and the students. That's really important." With this kind of support and expectation, it was important to have a well-executed implementation.

Introduced by the project's architect, DiNisco Design Partnership, to the school building committee and the school administration, Richard D. Kimball Company, Inc. (RDK), a Massachusetts-based engineering firm, outlined a sustainable building management menu of CMMS opportunities that would be ideally suited for this 21st-century education facility.

Based on this introduction, RDK joined the NAHS project team and began the process to provide a CMMS that facilitates life-long care of the school's assets. Use of this tool and the maintenance process it supports can be extended to include other assets that make up the new school, such as technology items, building skin elements, roofs, athletic equipment, landscape features, etc. It can also be used for room-by-room asset management. The school system's CMMS offers the ability to later expand the upgraded building management process to other school buildings, new and old, as part of a long-term, proactive, sustainable business plan.

Discovery Phase

The first steps in providing a CMMS solution are to assess existing conditions and identify strategies for implementation (Figure 1).

In assessing the existing conditions, it is necessary to learn not only which of the facilities are to be included in the program, but how old the facilities are. For new facilities just coming on-line, it is easy to collect the equipment and O&M data using the contract documents and submittals.

In some cases, it is possible to have the construction contractor participate in collection of necessary equipment data and other operating information by making it a contract document requirement. Providing a CMMS for older facilities will prove to be more challenging and costly to implement with, often, many different equipment types and an equipment history of activities to collect.

In the North Andover project, the program was limited to include just the new high school in the early phase, with the caveat that the solution should be easily expandable to add additional facilities later. Since the high school construction project had already been started, adding extra responsibility for more detailed equipment data collection to the contractor's scope of work was not practical. In other building programs where the determination to have equipment data forms completed by the supplying contractors is made early, the scope of work can be simply included in the bid documents.

It is important to learn as early as possible what O&M manual information is available in which formats. Is the information available electronically or, as in the case of older existing facilities, are they dog-eared, paper versions? New construction information can be both paper and electronic, as was the NAHS. Other requirements that need to be addressed raise questions such as, "Does an existing database exist for older facilities equipment?" and "Is there an equipment numbering or label scheme in place?" Older maintenance databases need to be taken into account when developing a new solution. New facility projects that have no legacy equipment data schemes, such as the NAHS, allow a "clean sheet of paper" to put best practices in place.

Whenever a new management system is being developed, it is extremely important to learn from any existing operation's processes what works, what doesn't, and why. Existing manual or computerized maintenance management processes developed over many years have had the advantage of constant tweaking to meet the organization's needs. Understanding how they work, what are the process flows, and what are the interfaces with other functions in the organization are all key to providing a successful, new solution within the larger organization's environment.

Figure 2. Components of the process that to some may seem like "extra" steps, such as preparing data for use on handheld computers, can prove valuable when warranty details or maintenance histories are needed on the spot.

System Construction Phase

The selection of the CMMS software and hardware, their procurement, and setup are the next steps toward system implementation. For NAHS, RDK partnered with InterPro (, a Boston-based maintenance management solutions firm, to identify the requirements for the CMMS application software.

Using a firm specializing in this type of software application allowed a rapid identification of best practices and a broad understanding of what would work best in North Andover's situation. The number of expected users, the number of expected pieces of equipment, the access strategy, the method of maintenance work order execution (in-house and/or out-sourced), and the potential for growth will all influence the software system requirements.

The hardware required to run the CMMS application needs to meet the user's internal standards as well as having capacity to host the software. NAPS was able to leverage existing municipal supplier relationships to procure the hardware and operating system software, and its public school status gave them an advantage in procuring the CMMS. InterPro loaded the software systems on a dedicated server equipped with remote Internet access and the necessary security and communication interfaces. The system is Web-accessible not only to the NAPS staff, but also to RDK and InterPro for any needed support and administration.

System Integration Phase

Taking the empty, raw CMMS and turning it into a fully operational management tool requires dedicated diligence and is the one step that, more often than not, is not completed properly. Many CMMS are bought loaded and sit "on the shelf" underutilized and eventually abandoned.

A good integration process that ends up with a usable CMMS requires a detailed and often tedious series of steps to ultimately load the particular facility's equipment information. User screens, workorders, and reports need to be set up in a way that includes exactly what the user needs to see, in a meaningful presentation, to enhance usability across the board. Basic to the operation is a good collection of equipment information.

Where an outdated maintenance management system is being replaced, a migration of the equipment data from the old to the new CMMS will be required. It may be an electronic database migration or it may require entering data from old records directly into CMMS equipment record screens.

For new construction like NAHS, much of the equipment data can be obtained from the construction documents, schedules, shop drawings, equipment submittals, and O&M manuals efficiently and easily in the office while the building construction is going on. Verification of equipment information and collection of additional specific data, such as serial numbers, is done after the actual equipment is delivered. If the process is started early enough, the installing contractors can be required to submit the field information as part of their services. Since the amount of data collection and data entry can be very large, real cost savings can be realized by being creative in assigning these tasks. Using co-op students, interns, or administrative support personnel should be considered to keep project costs lower.

With all of the equipment identified, equipment labels can be generated and applied. Using barcode labels like at NAHS and as presented in the last month's issue of Engineered Systems, allows tracking and identification options including the use of handheld PCs by the maintenance staff to save time and improve accuracy (Figure 2).

The final step in integration is to populate the PM tasks and develop the associated work orders (Figure 3). Each type of equipment must have a prescribed set of maintenance tasks and a frequency of performing those tasks to achieve the maximum equipment operating life. These tasks are found in the equipment O&M manuals, in industry standards, and in the experiences of those who regularly maintain the systems.

Choosing what tasks should be entered requires a knowledgeable facilities professional, although, again, the actual data entry can be done economically by less experienced support personnel. Accumulating the tasks into logical workorders and the workorders into biddable work packages as well as the design of status reports, all combine to transform the equipment database into actual PM management tools. With these management tools, NAHS will be able to prioritize their PM workorders based on safety and health requirements, risk and impact of equipment failure, and labor and budget constraints. They will be able to plan when they will use their staff to perform PM and when they will use contracted service companies.

System Commissioning and Operation Phase

Like all high performance systems, the CMMS should be commissioned. System setup must be documented and trial operations need to be performed to verify and demonstrate that the CMMS meets the system requirements. And, most importantly, the users must be thoroughly trained in the operation of the CMMS. Working alongside a professional implementation team as the CMMS progresses through its various phases is an ideal education opportunity for staff. Formal training sessions and hands-on operation are also excellent ways to learn the system's operation. Only after training can this tool be fully and successfully applied.

As an operating mode alternative, taking the lead from property management firms who maintain multiple facilities and campuses covering millions of square feet, workorders can be efficiently and effectively managed from a single remote CMMS site. An enduser may opt to out-task the day-to-day management responsibilities to a central resource such as RDK, where the oversight and administration of this planned maintenance process can economically be shared among multiple users and sites.

For NAHS, the next step following system commissioning is the actual daily utilization of the CMMS. Using the high-performance Internet-access feature, they can now operate the system, remotely running the standalone CMMS through its paces.

For some time, the school system's CMMS will continue to reside with RDK and be operated both from RDK, InterPro, and the remote school maintenance offices. During this stage, the endusers in the school system receive live on-the-job training while operating the system in parallel with RDK and InterPro. In the future, when the NAPS staff is ready, they will assume full operational responsibility for the maintenance management system.

Figure 3. A good integration process may involve a detailed and tedious series of steps, including entering facility data and setting up user screens, workorders, and reports in a way that includes exactly what the user needs to see. However, the result is a truly usable, effective CMMS.

Future Opportunities

Starting with relatively simple PM workorders, the use of the CMMS should grow and improve. Focusing on continuously improving the process requires buy-in from all the staff involved and means using the experience and lessons learned by the entire operations team. Resource leveling (spreading the work out to meet the availability of staff), seasonal scheduling (packaging the work for completion during off seasons), cost management by bundling types of tasks and utilizing regional sourcing strategies, workorder analysis (getting what you pay for), and benchmarking, are all great opportunities for facilities management to fully develop and use the CMMS tool.

Long term, the CMMS can be applied to provide facilities operations a tool for strategic asset management by supporting life-cycle cost analysis, facility condition assessment, facility condition indexing, material management, and long-term planning. However, the future expanded and sophisticated use of the CMMS in the facilities management process will always rely on the thoroughness and integrity of the initial equipment data.

NAPS has positioned itself well to take advantage of the broader management opportunities that a CMMS will support. As Paul Szymanski always says, "It's all about the kids. It's our job to make sure that at the end of the day, it is a wonderful experience for the students, the teachers, and everyone who sees what this new high school has to offer." Keeping the facilities in good, economical, operating condition is a big step in continuously providing that wonderful experience. ES
Illustration furnished by DiNisco Design Partnership, courtesy of F.M. Costantino.