The management of maintenance schedules, warranty conditions and regulatory compliance of plant and equipment is an area of operations where all facilities management teams can continually find productivity improvements.
Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) is one of Victoria’s leading clinical and teaching hospitals. RMH’s clinical engineering department (CED) is trusted with ensuring that all clinical equipment located at its two city campuses, plus dispersed satellite clinics and aged care facilities, is maintained, tested and in a reliable working condition at all times.
CED has an inventory of over 10,000 individual assets spread across dispersed facilities, including everything from residual current devices protecting electric power outlets, through to patient monitoring systems in critical care environments.
In search of automation
According to Nicola Donaldson, CED’s deputy and quality manager, one of the biggest challenges it faces in managing clinical equipment in its facilities is to be more efficient in how they manage maintenance and compliance.
“Our previous system was unable to support department objectives to increase automation of work orders for scheduled maintenance and to eliminate legacy paper-based systems,” Donaldson says. “We wanted to be able to easily generate and manage planned preventative maintenance work orders, as well as allowing our customers to easily raise job requests when unscheduled incidents lead to the need for repairs.”
Deficiencies in the old system had started to create unacceptable risks for RMH in governance, regulatory compliance and cost efficiency.
“Our priority had often been to repair equipment and then to worry about the paperwork afterwards,” Donaldson says. “As a result, non-critical equipment risked being left inactive for lack of identifiable prioritisation of work orders.”
Integrated modular solution
RMH was looking for an integrated fixed asset management system that generated a single holistic, full lifecycle view of each individual asset. It needed to show a clearly defined audit trail of all activities, including personnel involvement to ensure equipment was managed and maintained to regulatory and/or warranty requirements and in accordance with adopted international standards.
CED selected a range of ISO 9001-accredited Hardcat tools to support the upgrade of its asset management processes. This included the core asset register, as well as Hardcat’s preventative maintenance and help desk modules.
Catscan licenses were also included to provide in-field Work order management via handheld devices and it subsequently plugged in Hardcat’s stock management module.
The benefits of better asset management
According to CED director, Jack Davie, there has been a range of benefits to his operations and the whole RMH organisation from the implementation of the Hardcat asset management system.
“We are better able to account for the large number of assets under management and can directly email reports, generate work orders for programmed preventive maintenance and prioritise how our resources are allocated,” Davie says. “All of which has contributed to making the department much more productive.”
RMH now has an easy-to-use, intuitive solution which allows any authorised person within the department to identify any given asset’s location and repair status at any time. Supporting a proactive management culture, CED’s Hardcat solution has the ability to automatically generate work orders when scheduled maintenance is due and to notify customers when contracts are due for renewal.
These functions help to minimise equipment downtime which, in turn, improves patient care outcomes.
In addition to significant productivity gains generated by the use of handheld devices which facilitate repair procedures to be checked off in real time, there has also been a marked reduction in paperwork.
Other features, such as prioritisation of work and specific process controls, are embedded in the system to ensure that engineers complete tasks in the right order and to the required specifications that support the organisation’s quality control expectations.
Meanwhile, there have been efficiency gains through the enhanced visibility of equipment replacement cycles which has led to more accurate cost forecasting.
Improved control of spare parts
Hardcat’s plug-in stock management module has also enabled a transformation within RMH CED in the way it procures, manages and stores spare parts used in the maintenance and repair of clinical equipment, as well as setting up alerts when minimum stock thresholds are breached.
“Implementing the stock management module has allowed us to better manage the spare parts we keep on hand and to monitor our usage of these parts,” Lakshmi Thiru, a biomedical engineer in the CED team, says. “Through use of the image upload feature, we are now easily able to identify and locate the relevant spare parts we keep on hand when we need them.”
“When the inventory of spares of a particular part held in stock drops below a certain number, we are automatically notified,” Thiru says. “We then use this function to generate a weekly stock re-order report to assist in placing orders and maintaining our stock of parts at a serviceable level.
“We are now able to better analyse our usage of spare parts by creating customised reports from the data to highlight the most frequently used spare parts and strategically adjust our maximum and minimum levels for the part accordingly.”