A new technology revolution has begun, and it is bringing substantial productivity improvements for overworked, cost-conscious facilities teams. Building owners and facilities managers are now joining the AEC technology revolution that once seemed to stop just outside their door.
“Most facilities engineers and workers spend 20 percent of their week — that’s one to two hours every day on average — looking for current as-builts, O&Ms, warranties, and other information needed to complete their repair or improvement projects”, says Kumar Wiratunga, Corporate VP of Technology Solutions at Walnut Creek, CA-based ARC, a 29-year-old, 1,300-person, publicly traded firm that specializes in facilities solutions. “Technology can now eliminate that 20 percent productivity drain spent searching for building information.”
Although the industry has increasingly migrated to digital documents in recent years, that information is still usually printed out and handed off to project owners. But the long-term bottom line of operating and maintaining increasingly complex new facilities well after project delivery has caused facility managers to seek a better way.
“The owner wants to know ‘Is that deliverable sustainable over the next 30 to 40 years?’” says David Trask, National Director of Facilities Solutions, for ARC. But invariably, he adds, even as technology has advanced in so many areas, the answers to that essential question have continued to reside in antiquated storage methods like binders and boxes of plan rolls. And more recently, that data set has been updated to include BIM models, but most are “just put on a shelf and not touched again,” notes Wiratunga.
So there’s an inherent disconnect. In recent years, as more apps and communication tools have proliferated for building teams, the information access gap has actually grown wider for owners and their facility managers.
“On most projects, there are still only two main options for storing building information: analog and paper-based, or in BIM models that are too technical and too sophisticated for most owners,” says Trask. “So what’s the alternative? Well, since owners represent most of our customer base, we really gave that considerable thought.”
After extensive customer research, ARC unveiled it’s ARC Facilities Solution early this year, which firm believes will improve both productivity and emergency preparedness for facilities teams and owners.
“With simple buttons on a tablet or phone, even non-technical workers can access any information they need in seconds, anytime and anywhere, says Wiratunga. “Most everyone today knows how to use a smartphone, so this offers the same quality of user experience. It’s not paper, not BIM. It’s the same ‘tap, swipe, pinch’ interface that we all know so well now.”
And even in test mode, the product already has turned heads. Matt Baker, public works facilities manager for the City of Wilsonville, CA, saw a demo of the ARC Facilities product last year at an industry trade show in Portland, OR. He and his team were immediately impressed “when we saw them scrolling through plans and O&M pages with just a couple of clicks or swipes of their finger,” recalls Baker, who subsequently visited ARC’s offices along with more colleagues. “One thing that we were immediately excited by was how quickly someone could scroll through a set of plans and hyper-link to details and just quickly access the specific information.”
For large owners with hundreds of facilities nationally and sizable annual building programs — such as Marriott, Costco, or Advocate Healthcare — imagine how their data adds up, too, complicating not just O&M issues, but life/safety matters in case of emergency.
“(They) have an advanced search engine in the cloud,” marvels John Montenero, chief procurement officer for the City of Palo Alto, CA. “I’ve had employees call me up to say, ‘John, I just want you to know, wow, this thing just saved me tons of time.”
That’s music to Wiratunga’s ears. “From my perspective, at this point, we just want to build awareness that there is now a better way to deliver a building to an owner,” he says. “These solutions give owners a better way to communicate to the building team more clearly what it is that they want.”
This article was sponsored by ARC. For more information on ARC Facilities, click here.