Beyond mapping: How GIS programs can deliver FM solutions

by FM Media
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Geographic information systems are usually associated with land-use planning and map-making, but TROY NORBERG of Tru-Serve Building Maintenance shares how these programs have moved indoors to help facilities managers run their buildings with ultimate efficiency.

Geographic information system (GIS) programs are used for spatial analysis. While they have traditionally been used outside of the building, today they have found their way indoors to help facilities managers manage their buildings from start to finish. Long used to help plan and design buildings, GIS for facilities gives managers a complete picture and overview of a site – inside and out. This can help maximise efficiency and minimise risks.
GIS allows facility managers to view, understand and interpret data in many formats such as maps, globes, charts, graphs and reports. This information can reveal trends and patterns that can help in making business decisions. GIS tools are being used in facilities to:

  • plan best use of space
  • identify maintenance and operational functions and needs
  • develop emergency response plans; and
  • create visuals from data.

GIS offers reliable, hard data that managers can use to make the most effective use of space. From determining occupancy capabilities and maintenance needs to identifying facilities by use, GIS programs make it easy to see at a glance the physical capabilities and needs of a building.

By analysing spatial data facilities managers can choose the best site for their needs. Once a site has been chosen, GIS programs are used to plan the design of the site for maximum efficiency and coordinate construction schedules. GIS programs can easily compare real-life construction progress against the original timeline.

GIS programs are capable of providing information on space usage and occupancy, asset location and condition assessments. The programs make it easy to update information about building or site conditions or changes. Visualising use on a map or 3D image helps managers identify inefficiencies in space usage much easier than analysing the data on a spreadsheet. The data can be used to group workers with similar functions together, design maintenance routes for improved efficiency, provide data for capital planning projects, provide compliance reports and more.

In large facilities work orders come in from all different directions. A GIS program can group the work orders by location or by need, allowing facilities managers to plan out the most effective routes and assignments for maintenance workers.

GIS supports safety and security by showing emergency personnel the layout of the building immediately. Safety personnel can quickly identify entry points and critical systems to plan their response. GIS helps first responders get an idea of what lies inside a building before entering it.
GIS programs make it possible to create a master emergency response plan by identifying areas of risk as well as security measures that are already in place. It is possible to run different emergency scenarios and develop response plans based on true and accurate data that can be shared across departments and agencies.

A GIS program can easily digest and translate tabular data into visual data. At a glance, managers will be able to see energy usage throughout the site and identify areas of heavy resource usage. This data can be used in capital planning or budgeting for energy efficient upgrades.

This just a sampling of what GIS can do when you bring it inside. I encourage anyone involved in facilities management to learn more about GIS programs and to see how they can make your job easier and help you run your sites more effectively.

Troy Norberg is vice president of operations for Tru-Serve, a maintenance and consulting services company located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul MN area.

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