Finding and Digitizing your Facility Documents and Drawings
The first step in creating an EFR system at your district is to collect all of your existing data and documentation.
In many cases, this also means doing site surveys for your assets and converting hard copy documents into digital files. Data harvesting is easily the most labor and time intensive step in the EFR process, but it’s critically important. A good tip to remember when embarking on data harvesting is to start with the end in mind. Think of the project specifications and close out tasks you need to complete when you have a facility project. This also includes the budgetary side of things. Oftentimes, you will need input from business officials to provide you with original cost information. It’s important to draw the line in terms of information and data that will be useful and necessary and the minutia data that you will most likely never use or look at. This will help you develop the scope of data you want to collect.
A good place to start is by collecting all of the existing facility and asset data that you have in digital formats. We have found that most facility managers do not track assets in a standard way, and instead it tends to be scattered around several places and people with no overall organization and standardization. Maybe you have some information stored on a local computer, a Google drive, and some thumb drives. Take some time to scour your digital sources to see what might be hiding out there. After identifying all of your existing digital data, you will need a single place to hold and organize it. A key component of an EFR Management System is having a secure, online storage portal that will help you organize, standardize and store your facility and asset information. There are solutions out there that help you make sense of your existing data and help give it order. We touch on this in more detail later. Once you get your existing digital data in place, it’s time to move to your hard copy documents and drawings
The next step may seem a bit daunting. If you are like most districts, you have a facility records room filled with filing cabinets, drawings and boxes of documentation. There is valuable information living in those hard copy documents that will be important to digitize so that you will have easy access to that information. Remember, keep the end in mind and think of the time you will save to never have to dig through filing cabinets again. A good place to start is to begin sorting through your hard copies and organizing them into piles- the toss pile and the keep pile. In the keep pile start to organize by building or system.
Up to date information takes precedence over outdated information, however it will be important to keep old drawings for reference. If your old documentation is not up to standards or is out of date/inaccurate, sometimes the best bet is to start clean. Obtain clean, up-to-date base files and start fresh with verified survey data. The old as-builts still have value and can be scanned and stored for record keeping, but are often not relevant and the priority in the beginning is to pull all as-built, and physical data into one place that is the most up to date. Typically, as-builts are only portions of the building with little continuity. We recommend scanning the documents as PDFs so that you can easily link the PDF files to asset records later on. Often storage is at a premium, every square foot in the building is valuable. After historic documentation is scanned in and loaded into the system these hard files can be discarded, freeing up important space, another added benefit of going fully digital.
The other big component is the labor involved. If you have a budget, outsourcing scanning services could be a possibility. If you are like most districts, your budget is probably tight and outsourcing scanning may not be an option. We recommend finding a clerical person that can do the organizing and scanning over time, bit by bit.
Often districts do not have the time to self-perform site surveys and this is a great place to partner with an outside service to come in and set up the backbone of your site drawings. It’s also an opportunity to train for best practices moving forward for your district in case you do want to self perform in the future. In our experience, the survey process (especially for larger districts) is a fairly large undertaking and takes time. Facility managers need to prepare themselves that this may take several rounds and/or years to data harvest, depending on the level of detail they want to achieve with their asset capture.
At the outset, it’s important to level-set before data collection to understand what is required. A series of meetings is typically needed to figure out what is most important to track. Every facility manager is unique in terms of what is important to them- down to the way they name assets, the assets that are most important to them, the limitations and priorities. This is critical to communicate with an outside partner in order to ensure a quality deliverable. A walk and talk session through your buildings is a great way to achieve this. We also recommend setting up interviews between your facility staff and the survey team. This knowledge transfer will ensure that future asset care will be more consistent and uncover quirks on assets that are not documented anywhere.
At the time of kick off, be sure to meet and review any hidden spaces or assets that may not be discovered during the standard survey process. After that, allow the survey service to start, making sure they are capturing (at minimum) make, model, serial numbers and photos. The end output should be dynamic and digital floor plans that have all of the assets you want annotated on them, along with the asset information they collected when you click on an asset symbol. The data from these floor plans will flow into other parts of your EFR ecosystem, helping you log issues, perform PM’s and plan replacements down the road.
Finally, you may be equipped with the resources and know-how to perform site surveys in-house. We recommend that you have the right EFR technology in place to help support your survey and data collection. There are resources available that have helpful information, tools and tips for doing surveys yourself. We recommend that you start with www.efrstandard.org as a launching point.
The value of interviews - For your buildings and assets
No one knows your buildings better than your people. By sitting down and interviewing them, you will uncover information that is not written down or readily available anywhere else. Often there are rooms and areas that are not easily identified on the drawings that have assets in them. In some cases, not even the Facility Manager is aware. But, your team is. Maybe it’s a sump pump below the subfloor, an electrical panel hidden in a classroom closet, external tanks, or external grease traps. Whatever the case, by interviewing the facility management team members, you will probably uncover some assets that you would have likely missed otherwise.
An important step further down the EFR process is the management of your assets. To this end, PM’s and Procedures are commonly held in the minds of your workers and often not on paper or documented anywhere. To ensure consistency of work being completed going forward, it’s vital to capture these and make sure the process is completed to the district standards. If your best worker left tomorrow, would your assets receive the same treatment by the rest of your team? You are maximizing the life and value of your equipment when you have properly documented PM’s that can be completed consistently throughout the team.
The value of interviews - For you, the Facility Manager
From the perspective of the facility manager, you know your department can struggle when there is a lack of consistent information. It’s usually the tribal knowledge of some folks that aren’t shared with others that makes work difficult. By allowing your team to be interviewed, you will unlock that tribal knowledge and increase the consistency of work being done on your assets, regardless of who is doing it. You also won’t have team members bugging you for information or asking you where something is or how they should complete a task.
Finally, and most importantly, when you properly set up PM’s and procedures, you create an audit trail on your work. You can be sure not only that your team is doing things the right way, but if someone asks when the last time a room was sanitized or when HVAC filters were changed, you can easily pull up the log and show it.