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Why Religious Institutions are Implementing a Facility Management System

By Jonathan Davis | February 18, 2019

Not every church can be the Sistine Chapel. But even modest houses of worship benefit from a properly implemented facility management system.

Unlike many commercial enterprises, religious organizations often have to deal with increased financial uncertainty and a workforce made up of enthusiastic but transitory volunteers. In each case, facility management software helps you get on the right path.

Save money

When people sit down to plan out a household budget, the first thing they do is add up all the money that comes in each month. Then they divide that sum among their various expenses, with anything left over going into savings. But the average house of worship often does not have the luxury of knowing how much money there will be month to month. There's always a different amount in the donation box. Sometimes the bake sale is a big success. Other times, turnout is less than expected. Families in the congregation may suddenly require financial assistance. Alternatively, a member may enjoy an unexpected windfall and decide to make a large donation.

Because their financial picture can quickly change, houses of worship always need to be frugal, saving today against the uncertainty of tomorrow. Places of worship save money with a facility management system by:

  • Increasing asset life through preventive maintenance
  • Cutting costs with inventory tracking
  • Budgeting in advance for repairs and replacements

Increase asset life 

One of the great strength of a full-featured facility management system is that it allows you to schedule preventive maintenance work orders (PMs). Instead of waiting for things to break, the preventive maintenance model has you staying one step ahead, allowing you to find and fix small issues before they become large, costly problems. It's the same idea behind checking the oil and rotating the tires on your car.

A good example is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in your building. They require periodic inspections and, in most cases, seasonal cleaning. You can set PMs which will then remind you with email alerts that work is due. The software can also send PMs to third-party vendors.

Cut costs with inventory tracking

Replacing even a small, cheap part can become expensive when you have to have it shipped overnight. Inventory tracking helps you avoid this problem by making sure you have what you need when you need it. When you first set up your facility management system, you'll do an audit of your inventory of parts and materials and then load those numbers into the software. Every time you generate a work order, you can list what you plan to use. When the work order is closed out, the parts and materials are automatically subtracted from your totals. Here's the best part: You can set thresholds for each one. As soon as inventory dips below the set point, you get an email alert. In a full-featured facility management system, you can set the software to automatically order more supplies from vendors.

A facility management software also makes sure you don't have more than you need. It's easy to forget that having too much inventory can be just as costly as having too little. Take vacuum bags, for example. You never want to be caught without enough bags, so you order as many as your budget will allow. You've solved one problem but created two more. First, you now how to find a place to keep all those bags. The technical term for this is carrying costs. Second, you're running the risk of your old vacuum cleaner getting replaced before you're all the way through your supply. And remember, those bags only fit that one model. Once you've replaced the old machine with something newer and nicer, the bags become useless.

But with an automated system in place, you can see how many bags you've been using on average (and how much life there's likely left in that old vacuum), and order accordingly. With some luck, you fill your last bag just as the vacuum coughs its final breath.

Budget in advance for repairs and replacements

At the heart of a facility management system is work orders, which include a description of the problem and any additional information required to make the repair or complete the replacement. Because the system keeps a record of all the work that's been done, it's much easier to look at any one asset and predict when it's going to need to be replaced.

Take the public address system. Looking at the work orders for that asset, you can see a clear trend. For the first three years, all you had to do was replace a bit of frayed cable here and there. But over the last six months, you've had trouble with the microphone and one of the speakers cuts in and out during services. With the work order history laid out in front of you, you can predict it's going to need to be replaced soon and start saving. Instead of getting hit with an unexpected bill you might have to cover with a loan or by making cuts somewhere else in the budget, you'll be financially prepared.

Organize volunteers

The average for-profit company enjoys a stable workforce that allows them to establish and maintain consistent workflows. Houses of worship, however, often rely heavily on volunteers. These organizations need simple processes in place that provide a lot of guidance to their transitory workforce.

Facility management software helps places of worship get work done by managing work orders consistently and safeguarding institutional memory.

Manage work orders consistently

When a member of the congregation notices a burnt-out light bulb by the back door, is there a simple and consistent way for them to let you know? Or, will they mention it to the head of the women's auxiliary, who'll promise to mention it to her husband, the head of the youth ministry, who will promptly forget all about it?

Facility management software solves this problem by creating a simple, reliable system for reporting problems. Using an open web portal accessible through the organization's website, members of the congregation can submit a ticket, which is just a short description of the problem and its location. Alternatively, tickets can be created by whichever staff member first hears about the problem. Once the ticket has been submitted, it is automatically forwarded to whoever is in charge of maintenance. It can then be built into a complete work order, with additional information, including interactive floor plans, checklists, and required materials and parts. The work order is ready to be assigned, accepted, and once the work is completed, closed out.

Safeguard institutional memory

With so many volunteers coming and going, it's easy for an organization to collectively forget how to do certain tasks. But because you can pack so much information into work orders, facility management software creates enduring collective know-how.

We can go back to that burnt-out light bulb by the back door for an example. When a volunteer looks at the work order, they can see the specific steps they'll need to take, all laid out in a checklist. There's information about the location of the dead bulb, but also about where to find the spares. If there are two ladders in the building and only the smaller one fits in the back hall, that information can be in the work order as well.

Next steps

Implementing facility management software may seem daunting at first, but there are clear benefits. Your efforts are rewarded and it gives you more time to focus on the parts of your organization's mission you care about most.

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Topics: Preventive Maintenance work order management facility managers cmms software facilities maintenance tracking work orders Preventive Maintenance Plan Facility Management Church Church Maintenance


Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis started out writing for textbooks before branching out to video games and marketing collateral. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in technical writing.


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