The first generation of FM was implemented on expensive mainframe computers with applications that were quite comprehensive and integrated. Vendors such as IBM and Intergraph offered facility inventory management, requirements programming, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), location and layout planning (i.e., stacking and blocking), and facility master planning (scenario planning).
Starting in the mid-1980s, this centralized, integrated model for facility management software technology became fragmented with the widespread deployment of personal computers.
PC applications, representing the second generation of FM technology, were initially built around office automation software such as spreadsheets or databases. No standards existed for graphic or nongraphic databases and these "islands of automation" rarely were designed for integration with other applications.
The SPACE program, developed during the 1980s, was for automatically generating stacking and blocking diagrams (in section and plan, respectively) from an adjacency matrix. It enabled users to input various space planning scenarios based on different growth projections and determine if each scenario would fit into the building envelope.
These second-generation computer-aided facility management (CAFM) systems, connected through slow local area networks (LANs) were restricted mostly to inventory (property, space, and assets) management and reporting applications.
The third generation, starting in the early 1990s, was characterized by robust integration between various FM graphic and nongraphic applications — still using the PC platform. Diverse FM application modules shared data by virtue of new database management systems (DBMSs).
With the advent of client-server databases from companies such as Oracle and Sybase, enterprise-wide computer-integrated facility management (CIFM) systems significantly reduced the data transmission bottleneck and resulted in increased links to external corporate databases.
Thus began the capability to create real-time space reports with occupancy information and occupancy cost analyses. Links to mainstream corporate databases made CAFM/CIFM more strategic in nature and raised the importance of facility managers. For example, organizations started to track costs (personnel and assets) associated with space, which in turn led to space charge-backs to the business units.
Generation four came with the explosion of the Internet. Initially, FM vendors used the Internet to post static information by publishing HTML-formatted reports from the client-server applications.
Next came some transaction server-based Web queries (using Java, Whip!, Active Server Pages, Cold Fusion and a host of other web publishing tools) for functions such as entering or querying the status of a work request or requesting a customized graphic or nongraphic report from the software.
The emerging Web language XML (Extensible Markup Language) not only transmits data regarding display parameters but also interprets what the data means. At present there are no industry-accepted fmXML protocols but it is just a matter of time before fmXML becomes the glue that links and integrates FM data, especially for e-commerce tools and applications.
Internet-based CAFM systems include workflow and technical document management, collaborative project extranets for managing design and construction projects, and e-commerce for purchasing FM goods and services.
To use Internet parlance, we are entering a B-B ASP world (a business-to-business application service provider model). This means that businesses will be hosting e-commerce Web applications for other businesses.
Evolution of Infrastructure Management
IM principles enable the management of strategic and tactical processes related to all corporate assets from a common, integrated environment. It embodies concepts made possible by management's growing realization of the strategic importance of information technology (IT) and that IT can influence all aspects of an organization's business. No business unit, facility management included, is immune from this centralizing force.
During the first three generations of FM technology, the management of the IT infrastructure involved in most cases the care of the mainframe computer and associated LANs. Partly because of the potential benefits of IM, however, IT increasingly incorporates:
PCs and all other computing devices (e.g., laptops, palm tops)
Communications and telecommunications protocols and vendors
Vendors and other types of corporate-wide data
Internal and external Web technology including intranets and extranets
Benchmarking and financial metrics for cost-benefit analyses
Various aspects of mission-critical work processes such as procurement and financial management
Although the relationships between IM investment, risks, and rewards are just beginning to be understood and quantified, there are enough case studies available to conclude that organizations that understand such relationships and invest heavily in IM receive more business value and return on assets (an increasingly common FM benchmark) than those that do not.
For the facility manager, it means that the role of FM technology will change as IM is better understood and accepted by organizations. It means that an asset (whether a chair, a PC, a paper clip, or a building), will be processed by the same technology and with the same benchmarks and work processes that are in place throughout the organization.
It means that the support structure required for corporate strategic decisions (e.g., human resources, finances, real estate, IT, purchasing) will all be using the same technology and business processes and reporting to the same corporate or organization management.
Now every resource an organization is responsible for, whether leased or owned, is part of an integrated strategy that effects the entire life cycle of that asset. In the IM environment, understanding the life cycle of assets from purchase to disposal is critical.
Benefits to Facility Managers
To sum up, effective IM deployment and management will integrate and implement all the promises of the generations of FM technology that preceded it.
Provide a single repository of information about all occupants, locations, and assets that an organization owns or leases
Capture, track, and potentially calculate the impact to an asset on an organization which in turn will minimize downtime and expenses
Minimize the cost and time of moving employees, assets, and systems of an organization from one location to another
Enable new FM and RE technologies and applications to be deployed throughout an organization
Provide much more rapid integration of FM and RE data with human resources, IT and financial systems
Leverage the large investment made in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
Facilitate the definition, collection and reporting of financial and operational benchmarks that are consistent throughout the organization.
Eric Teicholz is president and founder of Graphic Systems, Inc. an independent FM/RE technology consulting company.
This article is excerpted from "Facility Design and Management Handbook," edited by Eric Teicholz, copyright © 2001, and is available from The McGraw-Hill Companies and Amazon.com.
Note: images in the book are in black and white.