CAFM the first year Part 4

Part 4 of 5, my walk down memory lane, surviving my first year as an Archibus Administrator.

Space Management 
Ah, space management. Kind of the backbone of the asset and maintenance management infrastructure. I can't say this is 100% complete, because there are many future plans involving this module.

But, for my purposes of checking off the to-do list, integrating new features into the workflow and migrating away from the thick client, I will proceed anyway.

The major task, faced by me and our business partners, was ensuring that every function available in the desktop client was duplicated in WebCentral. Followed by the introduction of the new Space Console.
After poring through and cross-referencing, we created a new process, which encompassed all of the required tasks, and adjusted some report output files to match more closely with how our office works.

The corporate facilities manager is in charge of planning moves, getting all new employee information into Archibus, and about 50,000 other things. 
Full scale data audits can be time-consuming, though she does them on a somewhat regular basis, to ensure our occupancy plans are up to date. That is one great thing about the space console, instant and visual verification of slices of data.
While I was demonstrating the features for her, we did notice on the occupancy highlights of a floor, that a cube was double-booked. Closer examination revealed that the new employee had been assigned to a cube which was known to be vacant, but, the usual notification of an employee departing had not occurred as it should have. There are half a dozen different data points whose consistency is easily observable on a floor plan as a pattern aberration. I am happy this will make tracking down these rare system hiccups so much more intuitive.

As for my part, I noted soon after I began, only the rooms have been 'polylined' and tracked in the system, but, not the circulation space. In order to realize every vision, we must accurately capture all of the spaces. I am just beginning the process, which actually shouldn't take too long, it's just been tough to find the time to get started.

This is really the most well-documented and talked about feature of an IWMS, so, I won't prattle on.

To be continued... my first year concludes with goal-setting for the coming annual cycle, primarily driven by data auditing and developing a roadmap of my own, after having tried to bring to life the visions of my coworkers.


CAFM: The first year Part 3

My last two posts have been reminiscing over my first year in my new role. Upgrading our IWMS, creating new roles, and supporting our lease management team. That took me about halfway through.

The first big task for the maintenance module was adding our branches to the system. Our seven corporate buildings have been utilizing the CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) for years, but our hundreds of branch offices around the country haven't been tracked as formally.

Importing new employee records (assigned to the respective branch buildings) and users (work requestors) into the system is a pretty simple matter. However, we have an additional level of security, being an access portal hosted by our Archibus business partner. We could not create the linked accounts en masse there. However, I used excel to populate the necessary data, which I cut and pasted during account creation. Woof.

I worked with the specialist in charge of taking the branches' trouble tickets, to lay out a basic workflow and sync it up with the new Archibus Operations SLA I created.
Once she was comfortable with the process, I pushed it into our production environment, along with the new Operations Console. I really enjoy the consoles in the newer release, they combine steps which used to reside on half a dozen different tasks.
I put together a tutorial for the potential new branch users, just to make getting them up to speed quick and easy.
And, as an editor, I always recommend having a second set of eyes look over your documentation. My Manager has been working with these users for years and was able to provide feedback on where I might want to provide clarification or remove unnecessary detail.

Now, the next roadblock is actually still on my to-do list. Our corporate operations folks are still using the old forms. They don't see work requests in the console yet, I need to replace the old existing SLA's. There is actually so much custom code on the old views that we can't quite figure out the process, so I need to schedule some interviews with the mechanics and ask them as much as I can about their current workflows.

But, along the lines with this, and a bit of a preview of my Part 5 post... Our managers have reports (KPI, key performance indicators) to produce for leadership on a regular basis. As I smooth out the other bumps, I'll be taking over some of these reporting tasks. The first one I've taken on is presentation slides on how many and what types of work orders are completed at corporate and the man-hours dedicated to each.
These orders are entered in by one team, and I noticed that 30% of the requests were entered as "general" (unclassified).

So, I analyzed all of the detailed descriptions in these random requests, and noticed many of them could have been placed under existing categories, if those categories had been named a bit more clearly. I also detected a few common themes and easy groupings for new classifications.
Archibus work requests have a basic work type, but, can also be given subtypes. These are more important when you've got a larger staff and specific workers assigned to them, but, if you want to track time and costs easily and accurately, even those with small staffs can utilize the subtypes.

From a software UI (user interface) perspective, I need to shorten the list of options and ensure the language is understandable to the end user. 
For example, we have a category called Mechanical, which someone with my engineering background knows refers to HVAC issues. However, that is not common knowledge to the dozen or so people outside of Facilities who enter these in for our building occupants. If I rename that category Heating/Cooling, they'll understand the category without throwing off our maintenance technicians. Reducing the 'probtype' choices in our request form from 32 to 15 will make it a quicker proposition.

Now, the sub tasks are something I could suggest based upon analysis of the user data, but, they could be influenced by how work is performed, or billed, or otherwise categorized.

I got clearance from the AVP over maintenance, but, I'm circling back around with all of the maintenance technicians to ensure that we capture as many ideas as possible on the first pass, so we're not making repeated changes, which could be a pain point for our end users.

Now, one super obvious thing I haven't covered here yet is Preventative Maintenance, and PM checklists, and inventory, etc. That will be a future topic, you know, once I tackle it. It's in baby stages right now.

To be continued... up next is space management, followed by data auditing and developing a roadmap of my own, after trying to bring to life the visions I'd been handed.

CAFM: The first year Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about easing into my new role supporting Facilities with Archibus. Getting started and surviving my first system upgrade.

Lease Module
The first task on my plate was pushing out some new features in the Lease module. I began with reviewing their current processes and some ideas they had for improvement. 

Bearing in mind that I know *nothing* about managing or reconciling or renewing leases. My FM experience has been in maintenance and engineering and only began to touch upon the space and occupancy management aspects a few times, when I became involved peripherally with the departments who handled our Medicare reimbursements.

Going from what I heard the Lease Manager and her staff discuss day to day, I examined the Processes available in WebCentral (a big reason for this upgrade was to get more users onto WebCentral and away from the desktop client, which we access via Citrix) with an eye toward removing unused entries and adding in new ones.

My consultant pointed out to me a new view that would eventually replace a totally custom view which my company had had built years ago. Rather than accessing data for leases in five or six different views, they were cobbled together and accessed through a single page. But, it was old technology and custom and didn't report in the LOG the way the standard forms did, when errors occurred. So, it had to go. With something closer to out-of-the-box, it would be more predictable, and would prove easier to upgrade the next time around. The new view would also provide direct access to the background data (buildings, cities, sites etc), which had only been accessible previously through yet more views, which many hadn't had been granted access to.

I relied heavily upon the Lease Manager at this point, explaining to me which data was most important to her team. The challenge to me, of course, was discovering which table each type of data resided in and how to display it. 
The challenge being, not the display of data, but, the creation of new records. For example, I could get a building's address table to display the necessary fields with existing lease records, but, if I were to create a new lease record, it would fail because the address field was technically blank until said record was saved. The challenges of accessing a transactional system (SQL) with a dynamic interface (html).

There are "panels" within this new view, which each basically point to a different database, and are all coordinated by the lease code, the only data point common to each database table.
She may not have been able to articulate how the data interacted behind the scenes, but, that's not remotely expected nor important. Far more valuable to me were her explanations of why they needed each piece and how it was used. I learned an unbelievable amount about the process from the handful of informal meetings we had, hashing this out.

The system, as it was being used, was so customized in the older version, in order to provide features which did not technically exist within Archibus at the time, that it was a little difficult to rework existing data to fit into the newer structure (which does possess most of the desired capabilities).
I had to rely heavily upon our business partner at that time, to make changes and track down bugs.

This is really when I would've benefitted from that System Integrator class I mentioned previously. The interplay between the numerous SQL data tables, the Archibus AXVW's, and the supporting JavaScript files is rather complex, and I've no shame in admitting I was sorely unprepared for the challenge. I assisted our consultant whenever I could, but, did a lot of observing, too.

Now, as a nice, cold-bath-style introduction to being a dedicated SysAdmin, we had a sporadic bug with one of the panels. It kept breaking the view. For months we tried to track it down; most days it worked, some days it didn't. Each of us involved tried various modifications to the view, from top to bottom, but, the error would eventually crop up again.

One of my strengths, and what eventually led me abandon my desire to complete a degree in mechanical engineering and switch to computer science, is troubleshooting. I fiddle with stuff until I discover what is broken, and I find a solution to resolve it or a way to work around it. It's kinda what I do, no matter what software or hardware I'm supporting at the time.

It was unbelievably frustrating for everyone involved. None of the other customers using this same view had experienced anything like this.
Keeping the data logger on all the time, to try to record evidence of the problem, slowed the whole system down for users of any module.

We tried various browsers, my boss and I had IT ensure we all had the same version of js installed. 
One suggestion that we never did try was to upgrade Tomcat, but, before doing that, we had the consultant's programmer recreate the offending panel from scratch, which finally worked.

It was then a challenge to get our very busy users back into the new form, when they'd gotten used to going back to the old one with which they were familiar, even with the other bugs it displayed (such as unexpectedly logging users out of the system).

I have been writing about CAFM/CMMS/IWMS systems for over a decade now, and one thing has always been clear... there is no out-of-the-box system in production. 
We all start out with the same pieces, but, we tailor it constantly to fit our needs. This can mean a very challenging support environment and I can't speak highly enough of those who are capable of working so capably with it.

It's important to build a good rapport and mutual respect between users and supporters of systems. So, when those with the extensive knowledge of the data within the system notice aberrations, they are reporting them immediately and clearly, and the supporters can gauge how serious those issues are, and become familiar enough with the workflow, so that a minor bug doesn't become a work stoppage issue.

It was a wild ride for all involved, I'll admit. But, every person in our process was keen to work hard to put it behind us. You need multiple SME's here, use them all.
And let's ignore the costs for now, because neither customization nor support are free, nor should they be. As the technical rep for the client, it's up to me to balance requests and needs and implementations.

My time spent managing technology projects also long ago proved to me the importance of pre-planning projects, knowing what is and isn't covered in your estimate and contract is vital to budgeting.

To be continued... maintenance is up next, then space management, followed by data auditing and developing a roadmap of my own, after trying to bring to life the visions I'd been handed.

CAFM: The first year Part 1

I recently (October) celebrated my first anniversary with my new company. While I do miss the unique puzzles faced in facilities engineering, there are plenty of riddles to occupy me in my current role.

I can't say I wasn't petrified to start over somewhere new, after over 13 years on my previous team, but, it is kind of exciting to begin again, this time with the benefit of experience, education and a modicum of confidence.

Slow Start
It has been a busy year, with the promise of much more in the pipeline.
But, the start was a bit slow for me, I'll admit. The SysAdmin training I was hoping to get in November was canceled and moved to February, and I couldn't do much until our upgrade from Archibus 18.1 to 21.1 was complete. Obviously, I've had similar training and experience with FMDesktop and IBM Maximo, but, each system is organized much differently on the back end and you don't want to start blindly tinkering.

Until the new system was installed and ready for me to start testing, I was assisting our corporate facilities manager with moves, renovations and new employee management. She didn't have too much downtime, but, when it was a little slower, she showed me some of our power-consumption data and talked about wanting to find the time to analyze it and propose energy-savings projects.
That allowed me to get used to our data, some employees and their departments and divisions.
I even got to save them a little time and money by laying out alternate plan ideas before formally requesting our architect to draw them up.

During this time, I also took any notes compiled by our consultant from interviews with our facilities department heads, expressing their pain points and goals for our IWMS. I formalized and organized the workflow portion into clear processes and procedures, filling in some holes as I walked through it. As I took on some tasks for accessing and managing the system, I documented that as well.
I believe my years as a technical editor really prepared me for capturing steps and providing clarity during projects like this.

Part of the benefit of very clear documentation is that I learn it more deeply, another benefit is that my company knows that if I ever leave, they won't have to start from scratch or recreate the wheel. My last few months at the hospital, I was constantly thinking of little details to write down for my eventual replacement, how things were set up and why. It had never occurred to me to explain those things to anyone, but, it would be helpful to someone coming in blind. Prior to my presence, the engineering team had had trouble keeping anyone on for long, and no wonder, the scope of work and the scale of the campus is enough to intimidate anyone. 
An unexpected bonus of this busy work? We were recently asked to compile a processes and procedures manual for our whole department. Easy peasy for me. Woohoo.

The Migration
The first stage of the upgrade for me was user experience testing. I logged into our Dev environment as each user role, to ensure the views showed and operated as expected. The next step was to recreate the user Roles. Many folks had random tasks assigned to them over time, which made duplicating permissions unnecessarily complex, and also enabled the possibility of pulling multiple licenses at a time by a single user (if the same process is assigned to a role and to an individual).

This is where the fun started. Processes weren't properly cascading from the roles to the users. I couldn't figure out why, and assumed it was nothing more than my inexperience to blame. Bumped it to my consultants and none of them could see a reason either. They bumped it to Archibus support and they couldn't figure out why either.

So, we upgraded from 21.1 to 21.2 and began testing again.

I was able to take the Archibus System Administrator training then. Though the winter trip to Boston did leave me with a cold and eventually bronchitis, it was worth it. The Archibus employees and instructors were all fantastic. I learned about setting up the system from scratch and the necessary tweaks there, then essentials of creating new tasks, processes, roles and reports. When I started asking questions, I even got a little preview of the topics covered in their System Integration course (which I still desperately want to take).

There were some bad hiccups when we flipped the switch, with some user accounts unable to log into WebCentral. That was a really great introduction to my new users, who hadn't gotten a chance to meet me yet. Most of the user accounts were back in business after clearing their cache (challenge number one, providing the correct instructions for cache-clearing when your part-time system users don't realize what a browser is, nor which one they're using. I settled for instructions marked with the browser logos.), but, some of the others... again, the problem couldn't be easily detected through the expected settings and permissions. Our business partner was able to rectify the remaining account problems for me.

Once the users had settled in and gotten used to the look of the newer version, they appreciated the autofill and search options when filling in forms.

To be continued... This post is getting a bit lengthy, so I will break it up over a few articles. Each of our user groups needed to have their modules and processes assessed. Lease, maintenance and space, primarily.


Archibus Task Highlighting Error

A few weeks ago, I posted a tip about using HTML in Archibus WebCentral order to highlight tasks in the Process Navigator.


I have been meaning to post a little caveat to that tip. I often encourage my users to add their most frequent views to the Favorites list. HOWEVER, I discovered that tasks which have additional code tags around them, cannot be added to the favorites list.

Please beware of this limitation when adding html to your tasks.


Hardware Review: Lenovo ThinkStation P300

This product review originally appeared on CADdigest: http://www.caddigest.com/exclusive/cad_hardware/110314_lenovo_thinkstation_p300_review_perry.htm

While I have used Lenovo workstations a few times in the past, unfortunately the only thing our campus' IT department ever granted me was the power to specify a graphics card. (At that, it took years of convincing to gain that concession for the Engineering department’s equipment.) While the computers we were provided with always performed reliably, I was pretty excited at the opportunity to review a proper workstation, and not just a stock office machine with a better graphics card.

In my case, the workstation was the ThinkStation P300 tower workstation from Lenovo (see figure 1). The company changed its naming scheme this year; no more C and S and D models: just P for performance. The number, such as 300, indicates the performance level, kind of like BMW's model numbering does. And so the P300 is their lower-end workstation. Just by being a workstation, however, it already is more powerful than most regular desktops.

Figure 1: The P300 tower workstation from Lenovo 

I have to compliment Lenovo on its packaging. The machine was easy to unbox, and it was simple to conserve the foam inserts and other materials for reuse when I send it back following my review, or if I had to have it transported across the campus to a user. (Some packing materials from other companies open up okay, but then trying to fit them back in as they came? Not quite so simple.) Everything arrived in good condition and functioned immediately upon startup. I have had workstations in the past that sounded like jet engines revving for takeoff, so it was a relief when firing up this powerful machine that it hummed along quietly.

The tower measures just under 7"x17"x17". In the box came the power cable, USB mouse, USB keyboard, setup guide (which includes safety and warranty information), and Windows Recovery Media discs. It is rare today to have recovery disks included; usually, we need to make our own after starting up the computer for the first time.


The ThinkStation P300 sent to me for testing was set up as follows:
CPU: 3.60GHz 4-core 8-thread Intel Xeon E3-1276v3
RAM: 8GB (Samsung 1600Mhz)
Graphics Card: NVIDIA Quadro K4000 (PCIe and SSE2)
Drives: 1TB hard drive
Power Supply: 450W
In addition to the specs you see listed here, there are multiple options available from Lenovo for individual configurations, from operating system to processors, and the tower has space to insert additional storage devices inside. Of the customization options, the most popular ones are likely to be monitors (choice of 22", 24" or 30" LED), hard drives (500GB, 1TB, or 2TB SATA HDD), and sets of memory (2GB, 4GB, or 8GB). The motherboard has four slots available for memory.

Regarding the power supply, if a significant hardware component upgrade will be in your future, you might find 450 watts to be lacking. Higher capacity power supplies are required to run newer, more energy hungry elements, such as very high end graphics boards. Granted, this is otherwise a good system, and for most users 450W will not be a limitation at all.

The P300 arrived with Windows 7 installed and with Windows 8 provided on a disc. While I really would have liked to have tried a touchscreen monitor with Windows 8, I ultimately decided to use the out-of-the-box setup, because I wanted the Lenovo configuration to match as closely as possible the machine to which I am comparing it.

For those who are looking for Autodesk approved workstations or graphics cards, be sure to check www.autodesk.com/graphics-hardware, which is the only justification my IT department would accept for springing for "nonstandard" (to them, anyhow) components. Autodesk has not yet completed evaluations for its 2015 line of software, and so the computer I am reviewing shows up as approved hardware for vanilla AutoCAD 2015, but not yet for the Design Suite. (The older ThinkStation E32 is supported for both.) The graphics card in the P300 is certified for AutoCAD, so no worries there.

The Workstation

My first, and only, disappointment came when I instinctively attempted to hook the tower up to my high-def television, using an HDMI cable which I keep handy for this purpose. Perhaps I have been a laptop worker at home for too long, because the lack of an HDMI port on the Lenovo box startled me. Instead, it has VGA and two DisplayPort ports. (There are two more DisplayPorts ports on the motherboard, as well as a punch out for an HDMI port, if you order it.)

To solve this, I had to go out and overpay for a DVI cable from a big box store, no matter how that made me shudder. The cable allowed me to attach the computer to a monitor I borrowed. Once I did get everything hooked up, I had no complaints at all about the picture; DisplayPort does a better job than HDMI, because it handles higher resolutions as well as more monitors than HDMI.

I considered critiquing the fact that one quarter of the USB ports are located at the rear of the machine. This is an issue, because most cube farms on my campus store the towers under the desk in order to maximize the work surface. But then I realized that most users who are aware only of the front-facing ports, would not be the type of user provided with a workstation like this, anyway.

At any rate, there are two USB 3.0 ports on the front, four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear (see figure 2). Audio inputs and outputs are available both front and back.

Figure 2: The back panel of the Lenovo tower

To get inside the case is very simple. There are two screws at the back of the left panel, large enough for most people to turn by hand. Once loosened and removed, the side of the panel slides opens at the push of the release button, to allow us easy access. It was obvious that the components are placed to allow maximum airflow (see figure 3).

Figure 3: Inside the Lenovo P300

Software OOTB

The preloaded software installed along with Windows 7 operating system consists of Adobe Acrobat Reader, CyberLink Power DVD, Cyberlink Create, Microsoft Office 2013 (trial only), Norton Internet Security 2014 (trial only), Skype, ThinkVantage System Update, Rescue and Recovery (ready to install), Lenovo Reach (only for those machines purchased in the US or Canada), Lenovo Solution Center, and PC Device Experience.

As I said, everything appeared to fire up just fine. Though, just to be on the safe side, I did start out by running the Lenovo Solution Center, because this software scans the hardware for problems. It took five minutes to complete this scan and all of the components checked out just fine.

In order to best emulate my experience, I installed the Autodesk Design Suite Premium 2014, with all software packages selected (including the programming tutorials, but, only the Imperial template files for each). It took me five minutes to walk through the installation configuration, and then another 44 minutes to install the 61 components.

I couldn't resist checking the boot time with all this Autodesk software in place. The computer's startup time increased from 24 seconds to 68 seconds.

The Numbers

I decided to compare this new workstation with my daily-use desktop computer, a Dell OptiPlex 790 that also run 64-bit Windows 7, but with 4GB RAM instead of the 8GB the Lenovo possesses. Both have AutoCAD 2014 installed with the same options. It is not an apples to apples comparison, but I wanted a starting point from which to provide some perspective.

The fastest way to compare systems is through the Windows Experience Index. When looking at WEI, it is important to keep in mind that the given number reflects the lowest scoring category, so be sure to click for more details. The scale runs from 1.0 to 7.9.

Workstation WEI
Dell 5.4 (see table 1)
Lenovo 5.9 (see table 2)

Table 1: Windows Experience Index for Dell Optiplex 790

Calculations Per Second  
Memory (RAM)  
Memory Operations Per Second  
Desktop Performance for Windows Aero  
Gaming graphics  
3D Business and Gaming Graphics Performance  
Primary hard disk  
Disk Data Transfer Rate  

Table 2: Windows Experience Index for Lenovo P300
Component Details Subscore
Processor   Calculations Per Second 7.8
Memory (RAM) Memory Operations Per Second 7.8
Graphics Desktop Performance for Windows Aero 7.6
Gaming graphics   3D Business and Gaming Graphics Performance 7.6
Primary hard disk   Disk Data Transfer Rate 5.9

The Lenovo clearly performs better, scoring near top marks every category, save for the disk data transfer rate. That is the same for both computers. In workstations these days, I do prefer to see solid state drives, even in mid to high range laptops. (If not a full SSD, then at least a hybrid drive, where a small-capacity SSD speeds up the operating system to improve startup performance, and then a standard "spinning" hard drive for the remainder of my storage needs.) Unfortunately, cost is usually a consideration, and some options translate into much higher price tags, so you'll have to balance your priorities against your budget.

As far as I know, Revit does not have any internal testing capabilities, so I was unable to test it. If you want to try a Revit benchmark yourself, there is one available for download on RevitForum.

AutoCAD, however, does have some internal testing capability.There is an undocumented application which accompanies the AutoCAD family of products, called GsTest.arx. Use the AppLoad command to load it, and then type GsTestBenchmark. It only takes a moment to run, then displays the results in the Command Line interface.

When compared to my desktop, the numbers speak for themselves. Lower milliseconds and higher frames-per-second indicate better results. The Lenovo won every benchmark, running about 7x faster than my machine.

Benchmark  Dell Optiplex 790 Lenovo P300
 3D Wireframe 919 milliseconds   125 ms
198 frames per second  
1,460 fps
Hidden Line Removal
934 ms  
126 ms
195 fps  
1,447 fps
Flat Shading
818 ms  
125 ms
223 fps  
1,462 fps
Gouraud Shading
859 ms  
116 ms
212 fps  
1,575 fps

For those folks in the audience who perform renderings and want some more assurance on the Lenovo's performance I also ran Maxon's Cinebench Version 15.0 benchmark.

Workstation CPU Score OpenGL (FPS)
Dell Optiplex 790 439   28.77
Lenovo P300 769   119.24

Again, the Lenovo clearly outperforms my daily machine.


While the lack of an HDMI port made me sad initially, and I would have preferred to see 16GB RAM and an SSD as the baseline for a workstation out of the gate, the solid configuration and ease of use make this sturdy machine quite suitable for the kinds of daily engineering tasks I would undertake with AutoCAD MEP and Revit MEP.

I like a tower that is easy to work with, is quiet, expandable and has accessible ports. The improvements I experienced and benchmarked over my existing workstation earn the ThinkStation P300 an endorsement from me.

Additional Information


About the Author

Melanie Perry is a freelance Technical Editor and an Archibus System Administrator for the Facilities group of a financial services firm. She also blogs about AutoCAD with Facility Management and conducts the Annual Salary Survey for AUGIWorld Magazine. She can be contacted via mistressofthedorkness@gmail.com or found on Twitter as @MistresDorkness