There is never a wrong time to start getting physical with your assets making sure that you know what you have, where it is and its condition. As well as its statutory and mandatory compliance.
Since the recession hit the UK market the investment in physical assets has significantly reduced. But also the monitoring of the same pieces of equipment. The potential risk of major failures has increased significantly due to the shelving of things like asset surveys.
Out of sight may leave things out of mind until something significantly fails. Several examples of equipment failures have brought about surveys in recent years. From a call centre that had no UPS system at all, to generators not switching on in power failure due to parts being removed for replacement several years earlier and not replaced.
These are failures more importantly in processes rather than the Assets themselves. The failure relating to the generator was down to a change of contract and no asset survey being undertaken for condition by the incoming FM company. The UPS system not being installed for a call centre was down to the company not ever carrying out a survey at all and this was an FM company themselves in their own building.
The value of physical asset surveys begins with receiving the data gathered. But prior to gathering that survey data you should be asking what do you want out of the survey to begin with. Did you just want a count of assets for an idea of what you have on site then filling in the gaps with onsite engineers? Do you want a survey where you know where and what every asset is as well as its lifecycle and compliance? although it all normally comes down to budget the reality is that you need to know at a minimum what assets you have then start building a picture from it.
Asset lists are the beginning of a contract, everything relies on that information from budgets to what skills are needed to who you need for the contract and how many. As well as which contractors are required to maintain specialist equipment. Without it you are running many risks from legionella to business failure risks.
Which is why its important to get physical with your assets and get your asset data not only up to date but build the processes to keep them up to date and educating staff on why its important. Designing entire processes for not only success but failure, an example of this was in a shadowing exercise with engineers I asked how they update the data in the asset register. They said they have been trying for years but it always gets kicked back and the wrong PPM’s are sent regularly. This is a failure and the problem with the engineers and their managers was the reliance on the call centre which was simply not updating the information because they didn’t have the authority to do so. Having a company champion responsible for the asset register they can become the central source of information but also the main point of contact when things aren’t working. This allows them to assess the situation and see how things can be adapted to make sure the asset register(s) are kept up to date.
Showing why its important to keep the information upto date is also extremely important. An example of this is regular failures of equipment. You could have a £200 motor that shuts down every week due to some internal fault. It is much cheaper to replace it than constantly having an engineer going to reset it. Simple things like this save contracts money but also allow data to show why the client should be replacing pieces of equipment due to lifecycle and also regular failures.
Experienced and competent M+E Asset Surveyors can be difficult to find. I myself have been in the business for a decade and prior to surveying the maintenance and FM industry for over 20 years.
The biggest problem in the industry is the assumption anyone can do it. The reality is its often too late when people realise that its certainly not that simple. But often you will find budgets have been wasted on incompetent surveyors as well as poor planning which can often result in the survey being done again by competent M+E asset surveyors.
A good M+E Asset Surveyor will have the following :-
- Experience and knowledge of M+E equipment as well as the maintenance regimes involved.
- The ability to identify all plant and equipment and if not immediate, having the ability to source the information and identify equipment in an organised manner.
- Organised and capable of working on their own with good communication skills to deal with onsite staff and clients.
- Ability to read drawings and create sketches if necessary.
- Intermediate level Excel knowledge.
- Ability to adapt to problems that can develop due to remote working (e.g. Asset gathering Apps for a tablet failing they automatically fall back to pen and paper or a laptop for data gathering).
- Understanding the scope of work required and confirming and resolving anything that may become an issue (E.g. if a client is requesting that all light switches are added to the asset list confirming why they are needed. But also explaining that the switches may not be needed as a costing can be made on the lighting itself or based on the power distribution).
- Being able to follow tasks, methods, procedures, specifications and terminology required for the survey.
Many people in the FM and maintenance industries have no interest in working as an M+E surveyor due to working away from home, excessive amounts of paperwork, lone working to name but a few reasons. Which is why the skill set required is broad but also people actually willing to do it is fairly limited.
However if you are currently seeking experienced M+E surveyors I recommend getting in touch. Myself as well as the surveyors I am associated with are all experienced and have worked with and for many of the larger Facilities Management and construction companies.
M+E Asset surveying globally we are also interested in. Myself I have experience of working and living in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. With many of the surveyors I work alongside having similar experience.
What companies get out of asset surveying is often determined by the value they give it in the first place.
For example a rushed survey that tells you that you have 10 air conditioning units and not types,age,serial numbers etc. give very little information except to say they exist.
- But understanding age and the recommended lifecycle you can program for replacement.
- Knowing the ideal maintenance regime for their locations extends their life and improves productivity lowering running and maintenance costs.
- Knowing the brand and serial number assist in locating spare parts long after the labels have been sun damaged beyond reading ability. As well as other key information on the units such as its current gas.
- Condition of the units and things affecting it are also vital in understanding how long the unit is going to last and if already it needs programming for change.
- Health and safety issues for access and procedures not being followed can often be found during the survey. Identifying these could actually save lives.
For me these are the basics but the list is a lot more extensive depending how far you are willing to go with the information. For example if you started organising your company for a replacement over a 10 year period you could actually pre-budget everything in advance. Adding to that being aware of any hazards that may affect a changeover such as gases that are now redundant.
These things though are often overlooked by companies even though people managing the assets are more than willing to assist with the data. It mainly comes down to understanding of the information, knowing what can be found from the data and knowing how and where to use the information.
Adding to that having a good solid asset list kept upto date can also identify problem units on a flagging system that are breaking down regularly. Units that are becoming obsolete, e.g. you have 10 units the same and 2 had to be replaced due to failure and being unable to find parts. You are now aware the other 8 will need replacement in the near future and that they are now beyond repair.
All in all understanding the assets from a good asset list can save the company literally a small fortune. The broken down 2 air conditioning units in our example could have had multiple call outs for engineers trying to repair them even though if the system was kept up to date you would know they are needing parts that are unavailable. With the remaining 8 if an inspection by an engineer requires any major parts you know already not to send another engineer a second time but actually program for replacement.
The true value of asset surveying is the ability to understand your entire asset list and being able to create cost reductions through management of staff and equipment via the data.