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Sun 23 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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The art of maintenance

King Abdul Aziz University explains how switching to an asset management system allowed it to both track its millions of dollars in assets and the maintenance crews who keep the university functional.

King Abdul Aziz University explains how switching to an asset management system allowed it to both track its millions of dollars in assets and the maintenance crews who keep the university functional.

January's rain deluges in Dubai proved an unexpected showcase for the value of preventative maintenance.

Now, with just a button-push or click, I can find out from all the facilities I'm running, how many work orders are completed and how many are outstanding.

Many older office buildings across the country which had weathered previous storms experienced significant debilitating leaks. In some extreme cases, the leaks forced office workers to evacuate the premises while overstretched maintenance crews quickly went into action with buckets and plaster.

Unfortunately, the continuous rainfall meant that in many instances, work crews could not even reach the afflicted buildings, leaving managers with no choice but to send staff home - which cost enterprises even more in lost revenue and productivity.

While it's unlikely that anyone could have predicted the record downpour, it's precisely this sort of scenario that Engineer Farhan Al-Bulaihed, general manager for operations and maintenance at Saudi Arabia's King Abdul Aziz University, actively seeks to avoid. One of the key weapons in his preventative maintenance arsenal is the Maximo computerised management maintenance system (CMMS) he installed at the university to assist in managing his workforce and assets.

With 40 employees in his department and more than 600 contractors, Al-Bulaihed has his fair share of responsibility within the university, which has a student body of close to 40,000 students. At any given time, he explains, between 10,000 and 15,000 students will be staying on campus as well.

"I head the maintenance department which takes care of all the building, facility and utility maintenance in the campus. The campus is like a small city - it's about seven million square metres. We have our own treatment and central utility plant. We don't generate our own power, but we have our main substations from the utility company in our campus," he says.

As Al-Bulaihed explains, it's difficult to conceive of the sheer volume of work orders his department processes: "We generate almost 80,000 preventive maintenance work orders per year and 50,000 corrective maintenance work orders. And that's a huge number. So far we have entered about 18,000 equipments from all the facilities into the new system."

Previously, Al-Bulaihed - who won a Hariri Award for Operation & Maintenance in 2005 - used Benchmate as his CMMS, a system which the university first began using in the late 1980s.

Although satisfied with Benchmate's performance, he switched to eSolutions's Maximo five years ago on the basis of its greater flexibility and larger toolset. The availability of frequent updates from Maximo was another factor in the decision process.

When setting up the new system, Al-Bulaihed decided to begin with the newest campus buildings: "We have new facilities coming online almost every year. We started with the new buildings, for which naturally we have all the information concerning the electromechanical systems, installations, manuals, standard maintenance and operating procedures. We are still in the process with the old buildings, for which we haven't completed yet."

Al-Bulaihed estimates that - taking both hardware and software into account - the initial cost of the system was between US$400,000 and $550,000.
However, he refuses to use traditional metrics when discussing the value of the system to the university.

"The university is a government-funded facility so we don't work on a profit and loss parameter. We look at it in terms of reducing our breakdowns, in terms of building value for the users or customers who are basically the students, professors and staff that work for the campus. And it's also about protecting assets, which are a big investment - you're talking about almost $2.67 billion spent on these facilities, which are multipurpose classrooms and include an 800 bed hospital in the campus for the medical school," says Al-Bulaihed.

Al-Bulaihed first read about the Maximo CMMS in the late 1980s in an engineering newsletter. When he approached them five years ago to purchase the system, his main requirements were assistance in managing his considerable collection of assets and workforce management.

"In maintenance, we have huge manpower. Having the system issuing preventative maintenance, you keep your manpower working and as a result, you'll have fewer shutdowns and breakdowns," he states.

Though Maximo was implemented five years ago, the actual process began many years before, in 1991, when the first survey was completed.

"We surveyed all our facilities and started to put a coding system in place for all our equipment, either electrical or mechanical. There are also RFID tags in place in the HVAC and water plants. After we did the coding survey, we made a list of all our equipment.

"Then, based on recommendations from the equipment manufacturers, we followed our task library for preventive maintenance, either monthly, quarterly or annually. Finally, we input all this information into the Maximo system," says Al-Bulaihed.

He says that the only major issues during the implementation were to do with migrating data, and training the users: "With the coding on the previous systems and the migration of the information from the previous systems to Maximo, there were some issues because the standards were different. We had to re-input a lot of data, although it was for some of the equipment, not all of it.

"The other major issue was not with the program itself, but training the planners to understand the system, as it was new to the market. In this regard, we had continual support from Maximo to come and do training for our staff," he states.

Al-Bulaihed describes how the system has enhanced his management abilities: "Now, as a maintenance manager, with just a button-push or click, I can find out from all the facilities I'm running, how many work orders are completed and closed last week and how many are outstanding. I could go to any particular work order and find out its status, and what materials or labour could be missing."

Post-implementation, the system has seen continuous improvements, with plans to upgrade the latest sixth version of Maximo in the coming months. Al-Bulaihed also has his eye on other improvement areas, including integrating Maximo with the larger IT systems in the university.

"Another aspect is the languages - most of our vocational school graduates study in Arabic so it would be a plus, because the system is not in Arabic. This doesn't really cause problems, because we provide English language courses for our technicians," says Al-Bulaihed.

In closing, Al-Bulaihed emphasises the importance of having a CMMS system: "Maintenance needs engineering and management. CMMS is a revolution in this industry - without these tools, there's no way you can control, plan, execute and evaluate your asset management properly."

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