New Technologies Advance Operations and Maintenance into the Digital Workplace World

Nancy Johnson Sanquist's picture

John Sterling, as pictured here, is not your average Operations and Maintenance Technician.  He is not holding plans, nor is he using a tablet or smartphone for his work today in the field. He is working in San Diego with the architectural design team in Boston on the new building being constructed on his SoCal campus.  His technology of choice is a new one he just learned to use that day. It is the Microsoft Hololens which is a wearable, self-contained holographic computer integrated with a Trimble 3-D SketchUp model. 

John is visualizing some construction details and trying to determine some better alternative safety and maintenance points needed to be able to access equipment in the walls of the building he is working on. From the hologram, he can access maintenance records and call up the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance for that equipment accessed from the Manhattan IWMS system John implemented two years ago. 

John has entered the world of mixed reality, where the blur between the physical and the digital has never been greater. He is an ardent player of the video games and is no stranger to virtual reality.  Whoever said 70% of the workforce is unengaged has not seen the excitement John and his team bring to each new project on this higher education campus.  The same sense of adventure is found whether it is during design, or a project like this in the early construction phase, or when they again are inspecting the actual work, or post-commissioning when they can use the data they collected from the digital building information model (BIM) during the previous stages of the building’s life-cycle.

Okay, this is not a true story, but one that is based in reality with a bit of a futuristic edge to it. Trimble partnered with Microsoft using Hololens technology, to deliver substantial value to the market with our SketchUp product, as well as Manhattan IWMS and Trimble Connect, the collaborative platform for life-cycle planning, design, construction, operations, management and optimization of a building portfolio.  However, this futuristic scenario provides a glimpse into just one of the possible ways that traditional operations and maintenance processes can be enhanced as we move toward mixed reality (MR) environments.

The definition of MR (sometimes also called hybrid reality including both augmented reality and augmented virtuality) is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Now we no longer have to depend on a person’s particular spatial understanding where interpretation errors often occur.  

For example, instead of basing decisions about repairs, following condition assessments of building components, on the experience of the engineer or architect, the 3D model within Trimble Connect allows a collaborative virtual environment which can be accessed and manipulated by all of the people involved in the project in order to make more scientifically based decisions[1].  Images can be captured on the state of deterioration and information regarding causes and repairs for that particular type of building component can be called up to support any deferred maintenance decision. This same information is valuable for the Project Management team when they plan the project for rehabilitation.

This new futuristic world is very exciting and alluring, but we cannot forget that today we still need to implement and keep accurate operations and maintenance information in both IWMS and CAFM solutions. This is the source of 95-97% of the problems faced by workplace managers and account for over 50% of the total cost of occupancy (TCO) for a building, according to IFMA.  Particularly for existing buildings, there are many opportunities for cost, operational and sustainability efficiencies in automating O&M processes.  When last surveyed in 2012 (Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey), 44% of all commercial building space in the US is over 23 years old meaning we have lots of existing building stock to create more efficient and effective O&M programs for cost savings, customer satisfaction and more sustainable environments, for both interiors and exteriors.

In fact, what we have found through our years of implementing these systems, facility managers are often only using a small amount of the application for reactive maintenance, work orders or help desk functionality ignoring other important O&M applications.  By properly deploying O&M functionality the following benefits can be attained:

  • Staff productivity can be improved by having a standardized work flow process in place and with the use of mobile devices for in-the-field work
  • FM can move to, not only reacting to customer problems, but being proactive with a preventive maintenance program to optimize the life-cycle of building components
  • Your customers can check the status of their requests or other facility information without interrupting staff and for an immediate response
  • Service managers can easily determine backlogged work orders and estimated hours and costs
  • Executive management can determine the total cost of occupancy for each building in the portfolio, particularly energy expenses and utilization (integrated with space management functionality) through Manhattan Analytics application.
  • Strategic maintenance programs can be created for documenting and trending building system performance

Before we can realize the vision that John has set out for us in the beginning of this blog, we can begin by taking advantage of 3D modeling by bringingwith the BIM data in to IWMS interface which is soon to be released for lifecycle operations and maintenance.  As RICs has stated in their new report (June 2015), BIM and the Value Dimension:

The value dimension of BIM is therefore defined by the information or data required during the assessment of the risk, growth and depreciation status of a property and provides a description of its performance through life.  This lifecycle perspective includes its original commissioning, project execution, operations and maintenance, and recommissioning/disposal.

And we believe that value is enhanced when most of the data resides in IWMS or CAFM and flows back and forth between systems as we move into the 3D realm and eventually, the mixed reality worlds of the real estate digital workplace.  Stay tuned for more exciting announcements from the Trimble Real Estate &Workplace Solutions team dedicated to transforming the way we work in real estate and workplace management.


[1] See any of the work of Alcinia Zita Sampaio and Augusto Gomes from the Technical University of Lisbon on this topic, but the best research publication is from the International Journal of Emerging Technology and Advanced Engineering, Volume 4, Issue 4, entitled “Maintenance of Building Components Supported on Virtual Realty Technology” (April 2014).  It describes in detail how VR applications support the condition assessment of roofs, facades and painted interior walls.


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