How the University of Texas at Austin Optimizes Preventive Maintenance With CAFM Software

By: on March 2, 2016

The benefits of facilities management software for schools can be quite significant, especially when managing multiple, large properties.

Facilities management professionals at the University of Texas at Austin should know: they are responsible for more than 430 buildings and 60,000 pieces of equipment across 22 million square feet of property, and they needed a solution that would make the maintenance process more effective.

Daniel Clairmont is the associate director of UT’s Facilities Operations and Maintenance division. He tells us about a new maintenance improvement initiative that’s revamping the way his department handles daily tasks.

By using facilities management software for schools in more advanced ways, they’re boosting the reliability and efficiency of building systems.

In this report, we share UT’s steps to deliver world-class maintenance:

Add Maintenance Objectives to Extend Asset Life Span

Clairmont’s team had a few problems with their proprietary facilities management (CAFM) and maintenance management (CMMS) software. One was that technicians didn’t have specific maintenance objectives for each component in an asset. Instead, they were asked to determine on their own what maintenance tasks needed to be performed.

A pump, for example, is a component used in several types of machines. Workers need to know how a pump can fail in order to repair it quickly and accurately to extend the life of the asset, Clairmont explains.

“So, we think about what possible ways that pump can fail, and what can we reasonably do about it from a maintenance perspective to prevent or delay that failure?” he says. “What can we do that will have a positive benefit to that equipment?”


A University of Texas at Austin technician inspects a rooftop fan at the Union Building

The solution to this problem involves inspecting assets in every equipment category to determine two factors:

Failure mode: The specific way a failure occurs, such as broken heating elements in an electric furnace.

End effect: The overall result of a failure, such as heating capability is reduced or disabled.

With failure modes identified, Clairmont says his team can break down preventive maintenance tasks, or “PMs,” into three parts:

Equipment class Is it a fan, pump, filter or something else?
Objective Which PMs should be performed to prevent a failure?
Tasks What specifically needs to be done to complete the objective?
• Should I perform a visual inspection?
• Should I lubricate the bearings?

This process may take years for the department to achieve, because UT has many varied equipment categories, Clairmont says. But the benefit of this exercise is that it boosts the efficiency of PMs: It gives technicians clear instructions about how to approach a task and reveals the estimated time of completion.

“We want to [identify failure modes] at a high level so we can apply [them] to the vast majority of equipment, then we can put that in the hands of our techs,” says Clairmont.

For smaller schools or other types of companies, determining failure modes for each asset shouldn’t take as long. Once they’re found, managers can add maintenance objectives and tasks associated with that failure mode to each asset in a facilities management system.

An example of work order maintenance tasks (in red) in eMaint

When a work request is created, technicians can view the maintenance objective for the equipment associated with that task to ensure they’re performing the job correctly. And when assets are repaired correctly, they last longer.

Establish Priority and Cancellation Codes for Efficiency

Another challenge for Clairmont’s team: sorting through the 1,000-plus work requests they get each week and assigning technicians to the most pressing issues.

“Our preventive maintenance tasks were all the same priority,” he says. “They were essentially the lowest priority we had for work orders.”

This meant, as far as the software was concerned, a request to repair chemical safety equipment was as important as a recurring task to check the conditions of parts on an HVAC unit. To compound this problem, the system was set up so that PMs had to be closed whether they were done or not—which made it look like every task was completed.

In order for the facilities department to use its resources most effectively, Clairmont’s team assigned a priority code to PMs in their facilities management software. This way, labor hours are first used to perform critical jobs. “Priority one” jobs, for example, are the most critical, because they involve systems that keep students and faculty safe.


University of Texas at Austin’s preventive maintenance decision matrix
Additionally, his team established codes to explain reasons for task cancellations, such as lack of resources or labor hours. These codes allow cancelled work to be separated from completed tasks.

“Priority-one preventive maintenance will be life safety code issues; those we have to do,” he says. “We can now monitor the metrics and see what percentage of those are we completing versus what [percentage] are we cancelling for whatever reason.”

Work order priority settings (highlighted in red) in Hippo CMMS

Many facilities management systems and maintenance management systems offer the ability to set priority codes (e.g., high, medium or low). Tasks can be automatically sorted by these codes as they come into the system.

Just by using maintenance software to differentiate tasks, Clairmont says, he can:

  • Better estimate completion times for each category of work
  • Reduce the backlog of open work orders
  • Begin tracking various performance metrics

All of this, in turn, leads to smarter decision-making.

Report on Maintenance Costs to Help Justify Growth

Establishing clear objectives for each task and using priority and cancellation codes enriches the data stored inside UT’s maintenance system. This gives Clairmont and his department the ability to generate reports on work orders and costs.

“If you don’t have a maintenance system, you are never going to be able to capture [work order and cost] information. There is no spreadsheet that will be able to portion out those costs, and allow you to track and report on those costs.”

Daniel Clairmont, Associate Director of Facilities Operations and Maintenance at University of Texas

Each worker generates their own data as they perform and complete tasks. This data builds over time. With it, users can then create reports to determine the costs and amount of work completed for each employee in a given time period.


Using Maintenance Software to Improve Decision-Making


These reporting capabilities allow Clairmont to create, for example, maintenance cost-per-square-foot reports to ensure the team is meeting maintenance goals and reducing costs. Costs are especially important when university leaders decide to erect new facilities.

“We’ll need more people to maintain that, and the question is, how many more people?” Clairmont says. “Without tracking and without being able to show what the maintenance costs are, it’s very hard to justify those numbers as our footprint grows.”

A “Work Orders by Person” report generated in Bigfoot CMMS

This detailed level of reporting gives Clairmont the ability to accurately estimate how many more technicians would be needed to maintain a new facility on campus.

Use Mobile Capabilities to Save Time and Notify Clients

The final challenge for UT: taking advantage of the improvements brought by maintenance software while working in the field. For example, the Austin campus takes up several city blocks, and walking between the office and job site wastes a lot of time.

Clairmont says the UT facilities team plans to add mobile capabilities as part of their improvement initiative. This will help them achieve a few major benefits:

1. Mobile access gives technicians instructions, locations and other details associated with work orders on their smartphone or tablet, so they don’t have to carry around stacks of paper.

2. Technicians don’t always know what parts or materials they need until they inspect an asset, and mobile access allows them to order materials from the field with a few taps.

“They should be able to see what material is available on their device, and our warehouse folks should be able to deliver it to them like Amazon Now.”

Daniel Clairmont, Associate Director of UT’s Facilities Operations and Maintenance Division

3. Once a job is completed, technicians can simply close out a job on their device and notify the person or department that requested work. Or, if a reschedule is needed, the technician can communicate directly with the client through the mobile system.


Mobile access in ServiceChannel lets users manage work orders
and communicate with clients

“When [clients] call and don’t know when we’ll be there, that’s the part that causes a lot of frustration,” Clairmont says.

This problem can be solved with a modern CAFM and CMMS: These systems offer mobile applications that give users access to work orders, asset details and communication channels with clients.


UT’s maintenance program overhaul involves leveraging advanced facilities management software functionality. This is done by:

  • Adding maintenance objectives to work orders to extend asset life span
  • Establishing priority and cancellation codes to assign work efficiently
  • Reporting on maintenance costs to help justify growth
  • Using mobile capabilities to save time and notify clients

Clairmont says his department’s success is a result of support from the software: The sheer number of assets and buildings would be overwhelming without automation.

“Keeping track of all that without a maintenance or facilities system, I think, would be impossible,” he says.

Modern software can help push your maintenance program to University of Texas at Austin levels: Learn more about them on our facilities management software page, or call (855) 998-8505 for a free, 15-minute consultation with our team of Software Advisors.

The University of Texas at Austin does not endorse any products or services mentioned in this article.

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