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Mastering facilites management at Edith Cowan University with Service Works' CMMS software

This article examines how Edith Cowan University manages the renewal and expansion of its estate. The University recognises the importance of maintaining its facilities in order to remain at the forefront of academic and research excellence. It uses QFM Software to manage its buildings and services and the product’s inbuilt reporting to identify trends and drive strategy.


November 2014


The image of Edith Cowan, the first woman to be elected to the Australian Parliament, is a familiar sight in the wallets of Australians, gracing the front of the $50 note. But the politician and campaigner also has a university named after her, in recognition of her tireless work to raise funds for students to attend further education.

Located across three campuses in Perth, Western Australia, Edith Cowan University covers 110 hectares and is home to around 23,000 students – with notable alumni including Oscar-nominated actor Hugh Jackman, in addition to 1,800 staff members.

Students arriving for the first time at the university’s headquarters on the Joondalup Campus are struck by the battlement-style structures of the Chancellery Building which create an iconic and unforgettable skyline. The site includes a new engineering building, a multi-million dollar sport and fitness centre, an award-winning library and student hub, an outdoor cinema screening Perth International Arts Festival during the summer and on-campus student accommodation.

Close to Perth’s central business district is the university’s Mount Lawley Campus which includes Perth Graduate School of Business, a range of performing arts facilities, a sport and fitness centre and on-campus accommodation. Approximately 200km south of the city is the South West Campus which includes teaching facilities and student accommodation. The gross floor area across all the sites is 190,000sq m.

Offering more than 300 courses across four faculties, Edith Cowan University has built a reputation for research excellence and houses a number of research centres within its key academic disciplines, with further building expansion underway. More than $34m worth of major capital projects were in progress during 2013, with a further $54m happening this year.

Current developments under construction at Joondalup include, a new Student Services building covering 11,000sq m of gross floor area, which will provide much-needed space for a range of student amenities and free up space for research. Construction of the 5,500sq m ECU Health Centre commenced in January 2013, at a cost of $22m which includes the state-of-the-art Wanneroo GP Super Clinic. This major facility will play a key role in providing health care in Perth’s northern suburbs and is due for completion this summer. Other projects include construction of additional student housing which will be completed in January 2015 and a new 1,200 sq m engineering pavilion due to be completed before December 2014.

The Buildings and Services Maintenance team is an integral part of new building projects, and works closely with the Asset Delivery team to avoid potential management and maintenance problems down the line. “Our onsite technical staff within the Maintenance team work closely with the Asset Delivery Manager and engineering consultants through each construction project. This enables us to provide some significant input around the specification of the engineering plant and systems which enables the University to achieve a much more positive outcome. There was a particular focus in the Student Services Building on the Joondalup campus, around heating and cooling of the substantial internal atrium. “One of our engineers played a key role in working with the external consultants to address some of the operational challenges and I believe we have a good outcome as a result. Once construction is complete the same engineer will be responsible for running that building. Through the normal course of events, you wouldn’t have that engagement.”

But it wasn’t always like that, says Hall. “In the past the Maintenance team didn’t have much input into the design and build process. Then, the construction team would just hand the asset over to us post completion when it was ready. As a result, there have been operating issues because of lack of engagement through the projects. All that has changed. The Maintenance team has a key role in providing insight to the design team and contributing during the build. This has made a major difference into the on-going maintenance of the building as we have an in-depth understanding of plant, equipment and procedures.”

Hall, who has been with the university for more than two years, has a background in FM in financial services. He worked for KPMG in Perth, and was instrumental in the development of the eight-storey Bishops Garden building, Western Australia’s first five-star energy-rated office building where KPMG was the anchor tenant. But his background is in education, working in the schools sector in the UK. “I love the diversity within the education sector which includes facilities consisting of student accommodation and scientific laboratories, to sports facilities and the large green open spaces through to the seasonal nature of the work and the different types of customers: students, academics, support staff and consultants.”

Having an in-depth understanding of how the Univerity’s assets are used is Hall’s passion. “One of our challenges is obtaining reliable information around our utility use, for example.” Hall has a campus-by-campus picture but wants to understand the use of gas, electricity and water on a building-by-building basis so he can benchmark and therefore introduce a strategy to manage energy consumption. The university has introduced a programme to install individual meters in every building across the three campuses, over a period of time, with the aim of creating a league table of the buildings’ energy performance.

Hall is also introducing a solution to measure energy consumption in real-time through a dashboard which will reveal what is being used by which area at any one time. “We will use it to identify irregularities which might indicate a leak,” says Hall. “Once we understand who uses what and when, the next step is to share the information with each Faculty, demonstrate the cost per building, or per Faculty, and raise their awareness of the financial and environmental cost of that energy use.” He plans to put graphical illustrations in each building to demonstrate its performance and engage students to become more energy conscious. “I particularly want to build up a relationship with the faculty of engineering and science, where sustainability sits as a topic, and work with the students. They will be able to see from a practical perspective how the university can use energy more efficiently which will inform their studies.” The University already participates in annual benchmarking across Australasian universities through the Tertiary Education Facilities Management Association (TEFMA).
Day-to-day operations
In addition to providing valuable input into the new buildings programme, Hall, and his team of 30 staff which includes engineers and contractors, has responsibility for mechanical, electrical, buildings and grounds maintenance across the campuses. Soft services, such as security, commercial leases and cleaning are run by colleague John Hayes.

Most of the facilities services are outsourced under preferred supplier agreements and long-term contracts. The university is currently reviewing its supplier base through an open market review. It has a number of service providers but the aim is to rationalise them and create a more simplified operating model with greater consistency and quality across campuses.

Hall acknowledges that while total or integrated facilities management is the future for Edith Cowan University, and the university sector more generally, it is not happening yet. “I see a more integrated approach happening in other sectors in Australia such as mining, defence, government and health, but not yet in education, where we still typically split contracts between hard and soft services.” Hall talks about the benefits of working with a large integrated service provider – particularly around continuous improvement and quality systems, and it’s clear he is sold on the benefits. If Edith Cowan University does introduce a TFM model, it will be one of the first universities in the country to do so.

A long-term approach
Although Edith Cowan University is renewing and expanding its estate, Hall recognises the importance of maintaining existing facilities, in order to remain at the forefront of academic and research excellence. He is busy collecting information about how the assets perform and creating a 10-year maintenance plan to ensure funds are in place to keep the new builds well-maintained and bring older premises up to a better standard. “It’s very important to have a long-term approach when it comes to maintenance. There’s no point in thinking about what might happen in a year’s time, you need to think about 10 years’ out and secure the necessary funding to ensure the assets are well managed. We don’t want any surprises but at the same time we want to provide a safe and attractive environment for students.” Information is clearly one of Hall’s passions.

One of the primary challenges for the Buildings and Services team is the need to implement process improvements and ensure that, as well as completing tasks efficiently, building performance information is captured. As part of that drive, in December 2010, the University replaced a maintenance management system with limited functionality that had been installed 16 years earlier, with QFM facilities management software from Service Works Global. Information on over 6,200 assets is now contained within the software database and is used to manage reactive, planned and preventative maintenance as well as cleaning tasks from bases around the campus.

The team uses the QFM software to schedule and manage planned maintenance activities, such as condition audits, for Edith Cowan University’s $1 billion portfolio of assets. Reactive maintenance requests come into a centralised call centre, where the details are entered onto the system by the help desk operator, who then assigns it to the most appropriate person and applies response and rectification times appropriate to the criticality of the request, to improve facilities efficiency and minimise impact upon students.

The software also aids Hall and his team in controlling backlog maintenance. Although a number of the buildings are ultimately due to be demolished as part of the strategic asset management plan, while they are still in use they need to be maintained. The team uses the software to prioritise contractors’ workloads, identify duplicate jobs and therefore avoid wasted call-outs, and automates reminders to enable the effective management of repairs. Snapshot reporting of pending and overdue work orders allows managers to quickly assess the status and value of backlog maintenance.

Information is not just a key driver for Hall, but for the wider FM function. The software generates monthly operational reports for the Building and Services team across four priority ratings. Priority 1 requests require a one-hour response and a 24- hour fix, whereas a Priority 2 task has a 24-hour response time and a three-day fix. The team has a 100 per cent target for Priority 1 items. Should targets be missed, the QFM software allows the team to drill down into the details of the report to see why performance may have dipped for any particular service line or area. It provides Hall and his managers with insight into KPI performance and allows them to address operational issues, in order to optimise the efficiency of the Building and Services team.

“All of this information, combined with the data which will come out of the individual energy meters and energy dashboard, allows us to rapidly identify trends and patterns upon which we can make decisions and drive future strategy. The university is expanding and we need to meet the educational needs of our student community and reinforce Edith Cowan University’s reputation as a global academic and research leader, as well as an example of best practice facility management.”

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