The art of maintenance

King Abdul Aziz University explains how switching to an asset management system allowed it to both track its millions of dollars in assets and the maintenance crews who keep the university functional.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  March 22, 2008

King Abdul Aziz University explains how switching to an asset management system allowed it to both track its millions of dollars in assets and the maintenance crews who keep the university functional.

January's rain deluges in Dubai proved an unexpected showcase for the value of preventative maintenance.

Now, with just a button-push or click, I can find out from all the facilities I'm running, how many work orders are completed and how many are outstanding.

Many older office buildings across the country which had weathered previous storms experienced significant debilitating leaks. In some extreme cases, the leaks forced office workers to evacuate the premises while overstretched maintenance crews quickly went into action with buckets and plaster.

Unfortunately, the continuous rainfall meant that in many instances, work crews could not even reach the afflicted buildings, leaving managers with no choice but to send staff home - which cost enterprises even more in lost revenue and productivity.

While it's unlikely that anyone could have predicted the record downpour, it's precisely this sort of scenario that Engineer Farhan Al-Bulaihed, general manager for operations and maintenance at Saudi Arabia's King Abdul Aziz University, actively seeks to avoid. One of the key weapons in his preventative maintenance arsenal is the Maximo computerised management maintenance system (CMMS) he installed at the university to assist in managing his workforce and assets.

With 40 employees in his department and more than 600 contractors, Al-Bulaihed has his fair share of responsibility within the university, which has a student body of close to 40,000 students. At any given time, he explains, between 10,000 and 15,000 students will be staying on campus as well.

"I head the maintenance department which takes care of all the building, facility and utility maintenance in the campus. The campus is like a small city - it's about seven million square metres. We have our own treatment and central utility plant. We don't generate our own power, but we have our main substations from the utility company in our campus," he says.

As Al-Bulaihed explains, it's difficult to conceive of the sheer volume of work orders his department processes: "We generate almost 80,000 preventive maintenance work orders per year and 50,000 corrective maintenance work orders. And that's a huge number. So far we have entered about 18,000 equipments from all the facilities into the new system."

Previously, Al-Bulaihed - who won a Hariri Award for Operation & Maintenance in 2005 - used Benchmate as his CMMS, a system which the university first began using in the late 1980s.

Although satisfied with Benchmate's performance, he switched to eSolutions's Maximo five years ago on the basis of its greater flexibility and larger toolset. The availability of frequent updates from Maximo was another factor in the decision process.

When setting up the new system, Al-Bulaihed decided to begin with the newest campus buildings: "We have new facilities coming online almost every year. We started with the new buildings, for which naturally we have all the information concerning the electromechanical systems, installations, manuals, standard maintenance and operating procedures. We are still in the process with the old buildings, for which we haven't completed yet."

Al-Bulaihed estimates that - taking both hardware and software into account - the initial cost of the system was between US$400,000 and $550,000.

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