Sarah Banick is a freelance writer and editor based in Atlanta, Georgia; she can be reached at This is her first feature article for Facilities Manager.

New technology offers the facilities arena a wealth of opportunities, and APPA's member schools are responding in exciting and inventive ways. Nearly every facilities department can sympathize with the challenges addressed by the winners of APPA's 2002 Effective & Innovative Practices Award. In this, the award's first year, we recognized five institutions. Each received a cash award of $4,000, sponsored by the Sodexho Corporation.

The Effective & Innovative Practices award recognizes programs and processes that enhance service delivery, lower costs, increase productivity, improve customer service, generate revenue, or otherwise benefit the educational institution. Entries may highlight either a new program or significant restructuring of an existing program or process. The criteria for winning entries are based on the institutional benefit of the program; its innovation and creativity; portability and sustainability; management commitment and employee involvement; and documentation, analysis, and customer feedback within the program. Text of the winning 2002 submissions is available on APPA's website at membership/awards/effectinnovate.html.

FSU: Facilities Maintenance Storefront Partnership
At Florida State University, Assistant Vice President Mike Faires was fed up with the challenges of the university's MRO supply needs. It took 11 staff members to handle 2,300 items, an inventory worth about $200,000. Despite that effort, analysis showed that FSU could only satisfy customer needs about 50 percent of the time. Obsolete or duplicate items made up a considerable percentage of the inventory, and customers often had to go off-campus to make "spot buys" to meet emergencies.

FSU officials decided what the university really needed was its own store-one with a large inventory, constantly updated to reflect new trends, and in synch with its customer's needs. They approached Grainger, a leading provider of MRO supplies, in search of a solution. In January 2001, Grainger opened a fully operational storefront branch on the FSU campus. It is staffed, equipped, stocked, and operated by Grainger, and dedicated solely to fulfilling the university's MRO supply needs. Grainger's inventory management system is tailored to the FSU "market." Using a multi-channel approach, Grainger offers its clients fast and convenient service. Facilities personnel can place orders by phone, fax, website, and in person. The website offers 24/7 access to supplies, with next-day availability.

In the first year of operation, FSU took a 35-percent reduction in budget and head count. The university realized a 69-percent reduction in time and cost associated with procurement. The inventory has doubled in value, to $500,000, with a wider range of up-to-date products. FSU is no longer responsible for keeping the inventory on its books, and most importantly, the customers are happier. Mike Faires is very happy with the results. "We had some struggles at first, being new, but the system is doing really well," he said. "There are still a few things Grainger can't supply for us, but we're working with local vendors to add these to the list of offerings. Then Grainger will handle all of those, as well."

CSU-Long Beach: Mobile/Integrated Facility Information System
At California State University-Long Beach (CSULB), Director of Facilities Management Rob Quirk, with the help of supervisor Randy Walsh, was looking for a more effective way to capture work order cost data, labor, and material costs. The answer: IFIS Mobile (Integrated Facility Information System), a Web-enabled Nextel digital phone/radio with wireless interface to CSULB's asset management program. The program relies on a rugged device that is a cell phone, digital two-way radio, two-way pager, and a live, real-time interface to the asset database.

It allows field workers to access their current work schedule, view the work order details, view equipment details, sort/search work orders by facility identification, enter time against jobs, enter cost-tracking time, and enter truck/bench material. The technology is open platform, thus widely available. Those less-populated areas not supported by wireless technology can work with their cellular provider to specify services.

Management made a $30,000 commitment to purchase the devices and the results are overwhelming. "There was a learning curve," said Quirk, "but everyone knows how to use a telephone." Most importantly, the staff like using the device, and ask for new features and information. Employees with the devices now account for 99 percent of available hours. Supervisors like the fact that they can keep better track of employees, based on real-time work logs. Customers have access as well, so they can review work orders and get real-time costs for budgeting. The solution has empowered workers, increased productivity, reduced overhead, and lowered markups, at the same time eliminating time cards, work order tickets, part request tickets, and material issue tickets. Quirk said that CSULB is already expanding the program, adding functions to utilize inventory and order parts.

Miami: Using a Formal Facilities Asset Management Program to Maximize the Value of Renovation and Improvement Projects
The University of Miami, with nearly $800 million in physical assets, was searching for a "best practice" to emulate, when Associate Vice President Victor Atherton and Physical Plant Director Michael White decided there was not a suitable model. They set out to create their own, requiring three criteria:

  1. a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of building conditions;
  2. a spending plan based upon most-urgent needs; and
  3. a comprehensive facilities maintenance program, developed in-house and tailored to each individual building and its components.

The first step required a thorough assessment of every university building, inside and out, to be performed by university staff (utilizing specialists when needed). "When outsiders come in, you get a report," said Atherton. "We use our own managers to assess on an annual basis. These are their buildings. It took three years, but when we got the data, it was phenomenal." The campus is now divided into four zones, with approximately one million square feet in each zone; the data collected were the basis for a five-year plan to eliminate high priority needs. The assessment and annual reviews make it simple to prioritize limited funds to the most urgent needs. Finally, each campus building and component has its own Facilities Coordination Committee. Facilities staff meets on a regular schedule with deans and other administrators, and information is distributed to the Board of Trustees, deans, vice president, and various other campus stakeholders. Academic staff review impending maintenance and renovations and offer feedback regarding their own expectations and needs. The system helps avoid unnecessary projects and the enhanced communication builds a bridge between academic departments and facilities planning and construction.

The savings from this program fund a large amount of deferred maintenance-$57.2 million in 12 years. Operating and maintenance costs are more efficient, and have increased by less than one percent each year for the last decade. "It's incredible," said Atherton, "We pinch ourselves sometimes. Through attrition we've gone from more than 100 to 58 people. We've got better quality with half the people."

Mizzou: Volume Purchases of Bid Document Reproductions and Distributions
The paperwork was getting to Donald Guckert, director of facilities management at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Specifically, the cost of producing and distributing the documents necessary to support the traditional bid process. Like many universities and colleges, Mizzou's bid materials were produced by a number of design firms across the state. Each design firm utilized its own printers, submitting receipts for reimbursement. Once completed, the documents were then shipped to Columbia from St. Louis, Kansas City, or wherever they originated-often a two-hour trip. Then Mizzou staff assembled and mailed the final package. Over the years, bidder interest and the number of drawings per project grew, until one project crossed the line. Strong interest in the new business school building drove budget figures significantly higher than expected. The Facilities' department of Planning, Design, and Construction (PD&C) challenged itself to find a better way. The average 5-year square-foot-cost was approximately 15 cents, rapidly moving toward 20 cents.

"We recognized that there was emerging technology we could take advantage of to centralize all bid document reproductions," said Guckert. State-of-the-art printing equipment, not the norm at most print shops, permits high-speed, electronic reproduction of electronic files. Thus the issue became: "Could PD&C utilize this technology, consolidate bid-document reproduction orders, and funnel them to a single source under university direction-and still cut costs?" The task force discovered the answer was yes, at substantial savings of 10 cents per square-foot (roughly $500,000 in a two-year period). The changes are seamless in Columbia, and through electronic file transfer, the bid sets are actually available quicker in St. Louis and the other sites. As fewer personnel are needed for package assembly, these employees now staff a center for archiving and managing project documents.

Mizzou still works with more than 30 statewide design firms, but with a fixed, competitive rate for reproduction, project design managers are better able to estimate reproduction costs for budgeting purposes. The audit trail is clearer. It's so successful, in fact, that Guckert says the State of the Missouri has joined the university on its contract. The task force is now examining new ways digital technology can make the process even easier, including website or CD distribution.

Oklahoma: Physical Plant Evaluation System
At the University of Oklahoma's Norman campus, Physical Plant Director Gary Ward found himself facing multiple issues related to performance evaluation. Although the university had a six-point evaluation system, it left much to be desired. Manager's rankings could be subjective (what separates a loyal, very good worker from an exceptional one?). "We needed a fair and systematic way to attach meaning to the evaluations," said Ward. In addition, job descriptions and hiring criteria offered no consistency, making it impossible to assure equitable salaries for equal work. Employees had limited access to outside training, and managers had no way of actively monitoring employees' proficiencies and progress.

Ward designed EVAL 2000, a Microsoft Access-based application that answered all these of these challenges in one fell swoop. He used business interns from the university to put his plan in place. Now, supervisors perform evaluations by scoring each employee on weighted categories with a standard measure of performance. The software computes overall numerical ratings based upon the competency ratings and their assigned weights. Merit-based pay raises are based upon employees' numerical scores, relative to other scores given by the same supervisor. Built-in decision support allows administrators to change a variety of parameters. There is support for both annual and interim evaluations, and supervisors can view a history of employees' previous evaluations. By keeping track of performance data, it is easy to see where staff needs to seek professional development.

"It's data driven, and we also produce a Top 5 list, which allows employees to know exactly which steps to take to improve their performance and salary," said Ward. Now in its third year, Oklahoma's employees have all but quit griping about salary inequities, and supervisors feel that training and hiring are much easier to document. It is simple to add new competencies, and employees seeking promotions have solid data for their cause, including specific steps toward improvement. The actual evaluation takes less time. Ward says turnover has decreased, "because good hiring criteria allows you to make better hiring decisions."

Has technology, or any other process, enhanced your facilities department for the better this year? If so, you may qualify for the 2003 Effective & Innovative Practices Award. Applications are due January 31, 2003. See membership/awards/effectinnovate.cfm for full rules and submission information. Awards will be presented at the APPA Educational Facilities Forum in Nashville, Tennessee, July 27-29, 2003.