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A guide to maintenance software.

Work order and maintenance software gives property and facilities managers the high-tech tools to streamline both day-to-day and long-term building maintenance scheduling and record-keeping and to manage operating costs more efficiently.

This highly specialized software generates schedules, issues and tracks work orders, records all equipment breakdowns, organizes pertinent data in categories, and offers an easily accessible historical record for viewing on screen or in a variety of printed reports, The programs provide detailed information in highly useful and versatile formats that enable property managers to more easily perform objective analyses of maintenance policies and practices.

Most of the software packages include the capability to pull up inventories of all components and equipment that require maintenance or repair in individual units, buildings, or common areas of a property.

These programs generally offer several types of historical reports to expedite daily scheduling and the monitoring of expenditures, including:

* Work order by unit, which allows property managers to review accrued costs over time.

* Work order list by type, to determine the frequency and costs of recurring problems.

* Pending work orders, to help determine if staffing is adequate to complete work on time.

* Cost by assigned employee, to determine if costs associated with a specific maintenance worker fall within or exceed the average range.

Maintenance programs generally handle three types of work orders:

* Demand, covering both emergencies that require immediate attention (for instance, a broken water pipe or heating problem in winter) and unplanned (responsive) work, which can wait a bit to be fulfilled in the course of normal daily operations.

* Preventive (periodic) maintenance, performed in-house by the maintenance staff.

* Service contract maintenance, performed by outside vendors.

By classifying work and viewing tentative schedules of all assignments on screen or in printouts, you can practice "resource leveling," avoiding overscheduling of routine tasks on a daily basis so as to leave time for emergency maintenance. Resource leveling also enables management to anticipate required staff and supplies needed over a long term.

When work order and maintenance programs are used at field sites and are tied in with the central or home office, they can be powerful monitors for determining how well management at each site is handling the work orders and whether the incurred costs are in keeping with what is expected.

This communications link between property managers and employees responsible for daily operations at field sites facilitates the management's ability to assess situations and make decisions that maximize productivity.

Some software options

There are a great many similarities among available maintenance work order software programs. Most perform the same functions of tracking current and historical maintenance work and generating reports. Some programs are designed as modules of property management accounting programs, thus allowing for integrated exchange of cost conformation. A few programs are standalone modules. Most programs can be used equally well for all major property types.

Following are short descriptions of some of the maintenance work order software programs available to managers. Note that the particular features discussed are not necessarily unique to that program.

Work Order Gold, by Timberline Software, is a standalone program that can also be tied into other Timberline property management software. It stores estimated labor and supplies costs for each work order and tracks estimated as well as actual start and finish dates. When a job is completed, it calculates actual labor and supply costs and optional markups and sales tax so the tenant or property owner is billed accurately. Seventeen different reports are available.

David Maag, controller at VYZIS, commercial property developers and managers in Bellevue, Washington, converted to Timberline's Work Order Gold several months ago. Says Maag, "The biggest benefit from the software is that it allows us to bill our time more efficiently. It also gives us easier access to the information and, in conjunction with the report writer, allows us to extract any information out of the total system and incorporate it into various reports."

Maintenance Supervisor II, by MicroMain, can be used to manage work orders in multifamily housing, retail properties, retirement communities, and office buildings. A standalone program, it offers 22 preformatted categories of reports, which analyze virtually every aspect of a maintenance program. Users can track up to 12 categories of general maintenance and six categories of scheduled maintenance tasks for each unit.

The software performs two-way, maintenance-cost analysis by building, unit, property, or piece of equipment, as well as by category of maintenance (plumbing, painting, electrical). By tallying all work orders, a user can build maintenance histories by category associated with time, labor, and materials costs.

Through such detailed reports as unit maintenance analysis, building systems and equipment maintenance, and employee productivity and comparison reports, managers can review work orders to compare ratios of estimated to actual time and expenditures and determine variances. The program also can create custom reports and includes a contractor database and contractor work histories with cost and productivity analysis.

For Roy Chiavacci, director of facilities management at the Carol Lutheran Village, a continuing care retirement community in Westminster, Maryland, the motivating factor behind the purchase of Maintenance Supervisor II was "to obtain real time information on work-order status and enhance our ability to perform preventive maintenance as required."

To expedite management analysis of maintenance costs, the software includes inventory listings and installation and maintenance dates for six categories of appliances and items of equipment, for each space. By calling up various detailed reports, managers can keep close watch on what needs to be replaced or refurbished, in the short or long run.

Facilities, Analysis, Control, and Tracking System (FACTS), by Project Data Systems, is a standalone package intended expressly for the residential multifamily housing market. The program tracks daily operating costs and can be used to analyze short- and long-term financial and physical needs of properties.

The software offers highly particularized inventory tracking, preventive and routine maintenance scheduling; regular and turnover-related inspections; nine types of reports; tracking of costs, material, labor, and time; and repair histories for units, common areas, and equipment.

FACTS subdivides inventory items so users can enter specific data for each individual item, including item cost, purchase order number, purchase, installation, warranty start and expiration dates, condition of items, and the date of the most recent inspection.

The program also allows for an Inventory Description Entry category, which tells the program whether an item will be replaced as a single item (e.g., a refrigerator) or as a unit of measurement (e.g., number of yards of carpeting), what the cost will be, and the inflation factor to apply to replacement cost.

John Moseman, regional maintenance supervisor at Multiple Property Management, Clifton, Colorado, uses FACTS in the central office to help manage seven multifamily properties encompassing some 600 units. A lecturer on building maintenance and its automation for state chapters of the Association for Assisted Housing Management, he appreciates access to hard data, which eliminates guesswork and allows a manager to optimize scheduling assignments.

"The program's ability to track the length of time each work order takes to complete, and by whom, lets you automatically identify the worker best suited to perform each task," he explains. "The main thing I like is having total control of the fixed assets of the properties by having all the data at my fingertips."

By purchasing an add-in communications option, managers can use FACTS at remote field offices and transmit data files to a central management office for monitoring.

All of Moseman's staff have been trained to operate the software, including service technicians who can quickly and easily price out inventory and even change prices when called for. Moseman has installed the software on a computer essentially dedicated just for that purpose.

"We have it set up so that really sensitive material (such as salaries) just isn't available in the program or elsewhere on the maintenance PC," he says.

Computerized Maintenance Management, by American Computer Software, is a standalone program that can be used on a single computer or on a network for management of a single property or for management of many projects for several investors.

Labor and pay reports are available by employee, unit, building, or project and may be totaled for all employees within a given time period. (Employee listings contain "regular" and "overtime" rates.) You can even track mileage costs for each work order.

Gary Emerson, CPM |R~, president of Preferred Management Services, Inc., in Madison, Wisconsin, a fee management company running several large apartment communities each with its own maintenance staffs and payroll, uses the software daily.

"We have a good-sized maintenance department, including radio-dispatched maintenance technicians, who we send to our properties, later billing owners through the work-order system," he explains. "Before we computerized, all the input, calculations, and bill-backs had to be done manually. Now we have a computerized basis for generating a payroll report so we can input that into our |separate~ computerized payroll system."

For the larger communities, the data is entered into on-site computers by employees at the communities' central offices. "We have developed a task coding system with a few hundred different codes to identify specific small tasks," he details.

"For example, a garbage disposal unit may need to be unplugged, restarted, or replaced, and each of these tasks is assigned a different code. We can go in, given whatever parameters we want to call up, and run a report by task orientation or by apartment unit. We can pull out which staff member did what work for how long, when it was started and completed, and whether to bill at regular rate or as overtime, all done chronologically.

"As a result, I can see that if our workers have been in two or three times to repeatedly unjam the garbage disposal, next year, when I do replacements, I'll know what needs replacement."

From a time-studies point of view, Emerson, who is a past president of the Madison Chapter of IREM, finds the large database of up-to-date information extremely useful. For example, he points out, "If you are accused of not doing any maintenance, you can give a judge or an owner the computerized information showing your work." Documentation is a strong ally and can even become the swaying factor where otherwise only verbal testimony is given.

Emerson also points out another value of detailed software records: "I once checked on a painter who I felt was inefficient. Through the data stored on the computer I was able to show him he was 25 to 30 percent less productive than our other workers. Once I brought this to his attention, his output immediately increased to equal the other painters."

CAM II Maintenance Module, by CAM Systems, is the work order and maintenance module of CAM II The Management System, an integrated management system that includes rent roll, billing, receipts, and accounting, along with maintenance. The module can also be purchased and used as a standalone program.

The software can handle remote modem access for combining on-site and home office needs. In addition to tracking commonly used maintenance parts, it can be used to manage information for each unit for up to 15 major systems, including any appliance or other high-cost item with a limited life span.

At HSI Management Inc., in Atlanta, which manages 40 properties (both subsidized and conventional) throughout the Southeast, data processing coordinator Jocelyn Neeley has used CAM II's program as part of an overall system for the past four or five years. It is used separately at each of the 40 sites to generate work orders given to the maintenance workers.

After completing the work, employees fill out the work order forms and hand them back to the resident managers, who then update the computer. The system is also used for writing purchase orders, receipting rents, and maintaining listings of appliances by serial numbers.

Property Maintenance, a new module from Prentice Hall, was designed to integrate with its multifamily Residential Site Management software so on-site managers can instantly assess the maintenance status of their entire property.

The work-order module ties in with the primary on-site program and utilizes up to 20 work codes to describe the type of maintenance work performed and 20 unit inventory codes, each with an optional short description of the appliance, to create and track work orders.

The program generates 10 types of reports and, upon request, will automatically create a ledger transaction in the Residential Site Management system for bill-backs to residents. According to the company, most of the customers purchase the system for use at individual properties as a decentralized solution.

Maintenance and Work Order System, by AMSI, complements the firm's residential and commercial management programs but may also be used independently. Users may create the information directly within the maintenance and work order application or may transfer existing information automatically from the main system. Most of the integrated programs have this capability, which ensures that property management information is current and consistent throughout the organization.

Pam Newland, of Henderson, Webb in Cockeysville, Maryland, says her firm selected AMSI last year because the company has a centralized secretarial pool and needed a system that would communicate from the centralized area to individual on-site maintenance locations. Since the program was installed, says Newland, "It has already improved our efficiency."


Systematic and thorough computerized maintenance management enables property managers to keep accurate tabs on all expenditures and productivity (without labor-intensive manual paperwork), implement modifications where necessary, and improve effectiveness of service and maintenance practices.

For managers working to keep property values (and rents) up and tenants and property owners happy, work order software offers optimal efficiency, nineties-style.

Patti and William Feldman, of Chappaqua, N.Y., edit the Construction & Computer Newsletter, which covers both industry-specific software and general business software for the construction professional. A general contractor for 20 years, Bill Feldman also runs Construction & Computer Consultants. Patti Feldman is a freelance writer specializing in business and computer topics.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Association of Realtors
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Computers; Software Review; includes directory of products and vendors
Author:Feldman, Patti; Feldman, William
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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