How Facilities Management Software Cuts Costs at Schools

by | May 10, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Schools need maintenance. Maintenance costs money. If not handled efficiently, maintenance will cost even more money. In Oregon’s Portland Public Schools (PPS) alone, more than eighty maintenance technicians handle roughly 2,500 work orders every month. Most of those work orders are driven by emergencies: If a pipe in a school facility breaks, for example, someone must be dispatched immediately to fix it.

That fever-pitch workload is one of the reasons why PPS, a longtime eCIFM client, first implemented IBM TRIRIGA®, an integrated workplace management system (IWMS). For PPS, IBM TRIRIGA’s Facilities Manager module has been particularly useful. For K-12 districts with 20,000 or more students, as well as for higher education institutions and systems with 5,000 or more students and multiple complex facilities such as dormitories and restaurants, an IWMS is a great way to get complicated workflows under control. PPS and other districts use facilities management software to eliminate duplicate work orders, streamline the maintenance process, and, when used in combination with mobile apps, give technicians access to comprehensive information about the job at hand while they’re working onsite. It all adds up to reduced costs for the district.

Facilities Management Software Yields the Biggest Savings

Up to 30% of the average school district’s budget is devoted to operations and maintenance, which makes it the second-highest budget item after education. Maintenance is also one of the few areas of spending over which officials have a large amount of discretion, providing an opportunity for school districts to cut costs. When a district grows, more personnel must be added to accommodate that growth. Maintenance issues, on the other hand, can often be delayed, or inefficient appliances or assets can be replaced—if you have the data to justify the decision. Moreover, if you can increase efficiency enough, it takes fewer technicians to do the work, freeing up room in the budget through reduced hiring requirements. Some of that efficiency comes from eliminating bureaucracy, since requests can go straight to a maintenance foreman’s desk instead of having to work their way through multiple administrative stages. Work-level supervisors can then administer those tasks directly, moving tasks quickly from requesters to the workforce. These types of efficiency improvements make operations and maintenance the largest opportunity for savings in most school portfolios. But first you need to track your costs, and the board is going to want supporting documentation of need before granting its approval of cost-cutting measures.

That’s where facilities management software shines. With IBM TRIRIGA, you can point to work request backlogs that have been prioritized and addressed. School management software captures both the things that get done, and the things that don’t. If you need additional resources, you’ll have valuable data to show the school board in support of your case. Having access to comprehensive, specific, accurate data regarding facilities and maintenance efficiency will empower the board to make informed budget decisions.

Take the Mystery Out of Cost-Benefit Analyses

Obviously, every district and educational institution’s potential savings and return on investment (ROI) from using facilities management software will vary based on their specific facilities and asset portfolio. That said, users generally gain more value from the system over time, as their base of information on the specifications and history of every asset and facility grows from year to year. Over time, the average K-12 school district will see somewhere in the range of 15-20% savings on its operations and management costs through attrition and reduced hiring expenses.

In one example from the Portland Public Schools district’s experiences with IBM TRIRIGA, their Director of Operations wanted to know whether converting boilers from oil to gas throughout the entire school system would be worth the time, effort and money. Drawing from the vast body of accumulated data that had been gathered by IBM TRIRIGA’s Facility Manager over the years since implementation, the district was able to quickly assess the total number of boilers in the system, the number of schools that had already converted to gas, and the precise costs of running and maintaining both the gas and oil boilers. PPS was able to save a significant amount of time by not requiring walkthroughs to physically count and inspect each boiler, as all that information was already readily at hand in the system. It turned out that the operating costs of oil-burning boilers were triple those of gas-burning boilers; equipped with this information, PPS quickly made the cost-saving decision to switch all of the district’s 250 boilers to gas.

Cutting Costs with Facilities Management Software Mobile Apps

One of the biggest inefficiencies for school operations and maintenance workers is simply the nature of the job. Your maintenance technicians are usually dispatched to a location when things go wrong, often without all the information needed to do the job perfectly right off the bat. A lack of information often leads to the need to make additional trips for parts, or the need for overtime work hours to complete the task. All this results in wasted time and unnecessary costs.

Many schools have found a solution for these problems in Services On-The-Go. This mobile app from eCIFM extends IBM TRIRIGA functionality beyond the desktop, giving workers access to all the information necessary to do the job before they leave for the job site; it also allows them to update an asset’s service history from the field while the task is fresh in their minds. As with all IBM TRIRIGA modules and apps, Service On-The-Go is configurable based on your district, institution or educational system’s needs.

Where to Begin with Facilities Management Software

If you want the operations and maintenance within your school system to run more efficiently and cost less, the first step is to benchmark your current spending and efforts. If your schools already use IBM TRIRIGA, your maintenance team can also start using the Services On-The-Go mobile app in combination with it. The below webinar provides a comprehensive overview of the ways IBM TRIRIGA has maximized efficiency throughout Portland Public Schools, the largest school district in the Pacific Northwest:

eCIFM has decades of experience implementing IBM TRIRIGA for large organizations. If you already use any version of TRIRIGA 10.x, eCIFM will get mobile apps working for you, regardless of who installed it originally. Whether you’re interested in IWMS for desktop or mobile, we’re ready to help you start lowering costs today.   

This post is based in part on an interview with Andrew Fridley, an education expert and eCIFM program manager specializing in educational institutions. eCIFM’s global presence includes some of the world’s top IBM TRIRIGA developers. If you want to rein in operations and maintenance costs at your educational institutions, we’d like to hear from you.  


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