Among the many new forms of enterprise software making their way onto the market, computer-aided facility management (CAFM), managed through CAFM software, is one of the most mysterious and complex — but it doesn’t have to be.
What Does CAFM Stand For?
For some who wonder, “Which acronym are we talking about again?” — it can be confusing to try to figure out what CAFM is and what separates it from the other types of maintenance and management systems. This isn’t exactly helped by the fact that CAFM technology also goes by the general terms “facilities management software,” “facility management systems” and “FM.”
It is also sometimes used interchangeably with computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) and enterprise asset management software (EAM). While it does have some functions in common with these other types of software, CAFM software has come to be its own niche of specialization and will offer slightly different features from CMMS, EAM or IWMS.
So let’s get a brief run-down of those differences between all these types of software before we dive into all the great things CAFM can do for your organization. CMMS is the core functionality of this software group. It focuses on scheduling and tracking maintenance on assets. EAM is a long-term planning system that tracks and monitors the condition and profitability of assets throughout their lifecycle. IWMS’s main concern is the people working inside the facility. Computer aided facilities management is mostly worried about the facility itself.
What is CAFM Software?
So what is CAFM anyway, and what does it do for businesses? On its most basic level, computer-aided facilities management software is designed to help plan everything for a building or facility, including almost every aspect of day-to-day operations. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) defines it as the practice of coordinating physical workplace and facilities with the people and the operations of that organization.
Basically, CAFM technology combines business administration, behavioral science, architecture and engineering concepts to optimize the functioning of your organization. It can be helpful to think of computer-aided facility management as a comprehensive commercial facility or building maintenance tool with many different facets and functions.
Information is the core of CAFM. The main function that separates it from earlier versions of facilities management is that it utilizes CAD (computer-aided design) elements and visuals in combination with alphanumeric data processing.
As in many other branches of software, business intelligence tools and features that utilize data collection and analysis are becoming very popular in CAFM. This data-centric approach to business assists managers with data-driven decision-making to improve every element of their business.
CAFM utilizes CAD technology for a variety of capabilities. For example, interactive floor plans for real estate organizations allow potential buyers to walk through homes that aren’t even built yet.
Similar to CMMS, CAFM offers maintenance management abilities. Routine repairs keep assets operating at peak efficiency, and doing preventive maintenance keeps costs much lower than emergency repairs or even replacements. In addition to maintenance scheduling and support, CAFM systems provide asset monitoring modules to help users keep a close eye on asset condition.
Other specific segments of CAFM tools utilize data — specifically real-time data — to aid in various types of maintenance. For example, it can promote comprehensive maintenance, such as engaging preventive maintenance, work orders and routine operational maintenance goals to optimize asset management. This is where computer-aided facilities management gets used in conjunction with CMMS, as CMMS systems are generally built for the evaluation of various maintenance needs.
Physical Building Administration
One of the most popular and impressive core features of a computer-aided facility management system is its resource for handling the actual infrastructure inside the facility. For example, many CAFM systems can be linked to HVAC equipment, lights and other infrastructure within the building.
Some of these features allow for remote management, where facility managers can set thermostats or turn window and door locks on and off remotely. Others offer automated meter reading and energy monitoring, so you know right away if something in your resource usage changes. This improves safety, saves money and helps the environment by saving unnecessary energy usage.
Although most CAFM systems will offer these popular features, many descriptions by the vendors themselves don’t specifically point out how these types of functionality can help a company. Too often, they hide these essential features in jargon like “property management services and energy consumption features.” They don’t always put in the extra effort of spelling out that CAFM solutions actually help with day-to-day planning in real and practical ways.
When customers figure out that CAFM systems can come with this type of functionality, it’s often adopted with enthusiasm for its labor-saving and time-saving potential. To get an in-depth comparison of each feature, check out our comparison report to break them down.
Floor Plans and Space Management
A definition of the function of CAFM from the Designing Buildings Wiki is to “support the operational and strategic parts of facilities management including technical, administrative and infrastructure tasks, as well as the strategic processes required for planning and management.” That may seem like a broad umbrella, but that’s intentional — CAFM can be utilized by a range of industries and organizations because it is so versatile.
Your CAFM functions as an organizational database to store information on your facilities. This information includes everything from energy consumption, construction data, a list of floorplans, pertinent contact details, equipment located within a specific facility, fire and safety information, etc. Instead of relying on paper files or Excel spreadsheets, users can organize this information neatly within the CAFM where it can be utilized as well as stored.
Many functions of CAFM tools are designed to help with space management and resource allocation. Some of these affect where various assets are placed in a facility. Other aspects look at how to utilize the space within each room, or how to lay out commercial or industrial processes within a facility. Some of these involve workforce management. Generally speaking, facility managers tag a space for a particular use and use the CAFM to orchestrate that use in detail.
Leasing and Real Estate Management
Other aspects of computer-aided facility management look at property management, including leasing, to optimize the business use of commercial real estate. From daily activities like room scheduling or conference booking to long-term lease management, the right CAFM software can offer industry-specialized property management tools.
CAFM isn’t entirely focused on the down-and-dirty physical facilities and assets either. Facilities management software offers a range of administrative support capabilities that can help streamline office staff as well.
Users can also utilize package and material tracking features to keep a close eye on anything going in or out of your facility. Whether that means purchasing and procurement, audit trails, hazardous materials transport, or shipments and deliveries, computer-aided facility management can help you manage it safely and seamlessly.
You can even use CAFM to manage your human resources as well. Many CAFM systems offer a traffic tracking feature to log visitors and create form templates for contractors to ensure everyone who’s inside your facility is supposed to be there! This has the added bonus of increasing security for your organization without additional cost.
A major goal of CAFM is to help managers ensure that their organization’s assets are being fully utilized in the most cost-effective way throughout the asset lifecycle.
Some features of CAFM systems help decision-makers consider long-term needs, for example, planning for capital improvements. The idea is that since the CAFM platform covers not only the building but everything in it, administrators can use it as a roadmap for all kinds of asset management and predictive planning. This can help save money, making facility operations happen more efficiently.
Computer-aided facility management software is used in a wide range of industries for many different purposes. Some of the specific tools and functionality depend on the client’s industry and what kinds of assets are working in the facility. Companies in many different fields use computer-aided facilities management systems to effectively control the overall use of a business facility and get serious about improving their asset management.
There are some other important elements of CAFM to understand before you begin the shortlisting process.
How a software is deployed has a significant impact on the organization implementing it, if not necessarily on the eventual end-user. Software can be deployed in three ways: on-premise, via the web or cloud, or as a hybrid of these.
On-premise software is hosted by hardware on your premises. This hardware usually requires an extensive IT team to maintain and troubleshoot, as well as the physical space to store it. On-premise software vendors typically charge a one-time fee per user license, which can be steep — but once it’s paid, you’re good to go and can switch out users if you so desire.
On-premise also offers more options for customization, as you have almost complete control over the program. This almost complete control means your data isn’t traveling back and forth to an off-site server, where it’s vulnerable to hacking — but it also means you’ll be responsible for your own cybersecurity.
Cloud-based deployment is typically cheaper than on-premise, as it charges a per user, per month fee, but costs can stack up quickly. Customization of a web-based system can become costly. But web-based is agile and accessible from any user portal with an internet connection, making it a lightweight and practical solution for many companies.
Because the onus of data security falls on the vendor for this deployment method, most offer some of the most comprehensive security options on the market for their customers’ data. That being said, 62 percent of IT professionals still say on-premise security is stronger than cloud security, so the argument stands for now.
Hybrid is, as the name suggests, a combination of the two formats. This can take many different forms and is unique to different industries. It usually includes the ability to switch from on-premise to cloud-based as the users’ needs change — for instance, an on-premise network supplemented by mobile apps for mobile technicians.
Computer-aided facilities management software offers all kinds of benefits for the forward-thinking organizations utilizing them. Hopefully, now you’ve got a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits and features of CAFM software. If you want to compare some vendors, don’t forget to check out our CAFM systems comparison to get started on the right track.
Does this article answer your questions about computer-aided facility management (CAFM)? If not, what questions do you still have? Let us know in the comments!