What is CAFM? Application, Benefits, Adoption & More

Managing property operations can be a nightmare. The idea of doing it efficiently and accurately is even more challenging.

But what if someone told you that these are easily achievable?

Enter computer-aided facilities management (CAFM) tools. And at the most fundamental level, such systems involve automated processes that help you plan a facility's or building's day-to-day operational activities.

What is CAFM?

CAFM uses tools to effectively leverage, organize and optimize facility-related operations.

Here's an example to help you understand all of this better:

Picture yourself sitting in front of a screen that displays the visual model of a building. You also have a physical dashboard under that screen with several tiny buttons. Pressing any button allows you to track specific details about the building, such as on-site energy consumption, project schedules, and equipment maintenance records.

Now, that screen is your property asset, while the dashboard is figurative for CAFM tools. Essentially, these platforms streamline operations by blending space management and maintenance with data analysis and administrative systems.

The inclusion of the terms data analysis and administrative systems is central to understanding CAFM software. As such, information technology (IT) is at the core of this concept and also what separates it from previous iterations of facility management.

For instance, these systems rely heavily on business intelligence tools, computer-aided design (CAD) elements, and data collection software to help with organizational activities.

Consequently, the insights from such applications allow companies to align aspects of facility management with internal company goals.

These help with the execution of data-driven business decisions to improve operational efficiency.

If you're confused, here's a simple way of remembering everything: CAFM systems are for building/facility management, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms are for business organizations.

Features of CAFM software

An interesting case study of how computer-aided facility management software streamlines organizational workflow will help you understand how the tool works.

The Etisalat Group, a prominent global telecom operator, initially struggled to process vendors' payments. The redundancies in their methods led to internal teams manually analyzing over 5000 invoices from 6000 separate sites and six different utility providers.

To solve this, the company turned to a CAFM vendor who helped them establish a centralized avenue for resolving bill inaccuracies, artificial intelligence (AI) data extraction, and alerting stakeholders to discrepancies.

Now, consolidating payment channels isn't the only thing that CAFM software helps with.

The best management solutions have the following features:

  • Project lifecycle management
  • Facility layouts
  • Space planning
  • Real estate and lease agreements tracking
  • Scheduling maintenance projects
  • Site energy consumption analysis
  • Space allocation and planning
  • Vendor tracking
  • Asset and equipment maintenance
  • Capital project management
  • Building administration
  • Event & incident tracking

Applications of CAFM software

Once you go through the key features mentioned previously, you'll notice they are directly related to managing facility resources and organizing personnel activity across a given space.

This particular focus on optimizing facility operations has significantly increased the demand for these tools.

The global CAFM market size will hit $1443 million by 2026.

So, regarding the application or real-life use cases, implementing these systems work for anyone who needs to track, monitor, and organize operations in a physical location.

It could be to optimize floor plans in a mall, workspace, school campus, medical institution, or even a resort.

Simply put, these tools can streamline all organizational activity in a facility and help with data-driven decision-making.

Understanding the difference between CAFM, CMMS, and IWMS

People still confuse CAFM software solutions with computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) or integrated workplace management systems (IWMS).

Yes, the terms are similar to each other. Yet, there are distinctive differences between them.

Here's how you can understand this better:

CMMS vs CAFM

CMMS software explicitly focuses on asset management while decreasing costs and extending equipment lifecycles. They do it by holding directories on elements such as:

  • Work orders
  • Maintenance schedules
  • Lease management
  • Profitability
  • Equipment and asset logs
  • Inventory parts
  • Purchase orders

Now, the best variants of such systems will automate all aspects of your physical asset or equipment administration. From holding the right team accountable and lowering expenses to providing actionable reports and reducing manual personnel involvement, these tools ensure that your operators are working on the right project at the right time.

Due to these tools' specialization, CMMS works best when trying to maintain records or manage contractor or inventory data.

On the other hand, CAFM will bring you all of those while facilitating an examination of asset movement speed and better space utilization.

IWMS vs CAFM

IWMS deals with space and project maintenance while catering to environmental sustainability. In short, these platforms give facility managers oversight on:

  • Energy consumption
  • Capital project administration
  • Site utilization and planning
  • Real estate lease tracking and management

Typically deployed through a module-to-module structure, IWMS helps building administrators create a better experience for their team or tenants. For example, integrated analytics will reveal details on energy usage to help managers conceptualize plans to reduce costs.

That reduction may be passed down to another department, improving their operations.

CAFM can help with the same, albeit to a lesser degree. But, again, the primary difference lies in an IWMS tool's ability to provide insight beyond a single location.

For example, if you manage one site, say a tenant building, CAFM software will work perfectly for you. However, if you need oversight on multiple portfolios, IWMS is the way to go.

A simple way to distinguish between the two is to remember this: CAFM focuses on administrative tools, while IWMS gives you access to deployable resources.

Settling the debate between CAFM, IWMS, and CMMS

Understandably, all the listed functions of CMMS and IWMS appear very similar to what CAFM tools help with. And they are. The only difference is that CMMS and IWMS are specialized systems offering more robust capabilities in their designated fields—asset and space.

Still, that doesn't necessarily imply that one is better than the other.

CAFM software consists of various technologies that integrate with the other mentioned platforms and includes sub-systems such as:

  • Asset-oriented databases
  • Computer-aided Design (CAD) systems
  • Building Information Models (BIM)

In addition, the current iteration of CAFM accommodates data collection from disparate sources while integrating with existing CMMS and IWMS platforms to offer a single repository.

Ultimately, it would be best if you used CAFM software, depending on what your requirements are at the moment.

Benefits of CAFM software

The general benefits of CAFM technology are reduced expenses, enhanced personnel productivity, and centralized data sets for improved communication.

While those advantages are significant on their own, it's vital to examine the specific ways this tool helps you:

Reactive and preventive maintenance

Automated facility management systems equip service personnel, facility managers, and tenants with the power of data. Organizations can create and effectively track work orders and maintenance projects by leveraging such applications.

Additionally, the integrated features alert administrators about unforeseen project complications, enabling them to act when necessary. Finally, this focus on preventive maintenance allows your facility's service teams to work effectively, prolonging equipment lifecycles.

Enhanced contractual management and reporting

Third-party sub-contractual agreements can be challenging, if not downright painful, to track. Incorporating these systems into your existing infrastructure allows you to seamlessly share asset documents, monitor service-level agreements (SLAs), and even store ratings. In addition, these tools provide your contractors access to a consolidated portal to update the status of their digital tasks and work orders.

In other words, you always receive updated information while benefitting from streamlined performance insights on your contractors.

Real-time visual data sets through the Internet of things (IoT) integration

CAFM systems have successfully integrated the IoT concept into their features.

For instance, smart sensors can track near-field communication (NFC) or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags across a building. That gives you a precise idea about what your service personnel is working on. Then, that data is fed to the base system and relayed through visual reports and customizable filters. Everything goes here, from annual reports to inventory summaries to repair logs.

The best bit? All of this occurs in real-time.

Seamless portfolio management

The most prominent benefit of a CAFM system is how it lets you manage multiple portfolios simultaneously.

By relying on the integrated platform, site operators and managers can:

  • Gather tenant feedback
  • Track asset life cycles
  • Evaluate relevant work order data
  • Create project benchmarks for each facility
  • Collect and store information on a building's maintenance history

CAFM tools allow you to perform the listed functions universally across all the hosted sites in your portfolio. In short, these applications eliminate disparate property management.

What should you consider when opting for CAFM systems?

It's not feasible to list each element you need to consider when opting for such tools. So instead, the basic rule is to assess your management needs first.

Besides that, here are a few other factors you should examine before buying such systems:

Cloud vs. on-premise

Deciding between an on-premise and a cloud-based solution is the first choice you have to make here. Now both versions have something going for themselves. For example, cloud-based applications will typically come with a lower up-front fee. Yet, the operational costs average out later when compared to on-site systems.

The primary consideration isn't the monetary element, though. Instead, it's the ease of access. If you opt for a cloud-based CAFM software, you can access your portal from anywhere, including your mobile devices.

Besides, with Gartner expounding a powerful argument in favor of cloud solutions, it can be challenging to ignore such variants. According to the report, over 85% of organizations will take a 'cloud-first' approach by 2025 when adopting new IT infrastructure.

Customization and other relevant features

Your facility management requirements would be different from another organization. So, looking for CAFM vendors who configure the software according to your needs is best.

Whether that comes in the form of allocating custom administrator profiles or designing unique workflows is entirely up to you. What truly matters is if the application meets your demands.

Backend compatibility

It'll be surprising if you aren't already relying on software applications for your daily operations. What'll be genuinely challenging, though, is if your existing systems aren't compatible with your preferred CAFM solution.

Remember, any reputable vendor will offer pre-built integrations alongside the ability to create custom or new integrations.

Software support matters here as well. Ensure that you thoroughly verify any possible doubts you may have in this context. In addition, pose this question to the vendor you are considering: Will they provide you with a dedicated account handler?

Scaling operational management through CAFM systems

It's not always immediately apparent when you must make deliberate improvements to your organizational workflows. Even worse, existing systems and the restrictions they impose upon you may prevent you from doing so. This is why an objective examination of your current operation standards is vital.

If you do it correctly, you'll notice several different areas where a CAFM tool can make a world of difference for your organization. Facilio enables you to seamlessly strategize data-driven portfolio operations while giving you access to comprehensive asset lifecycle management.

The best bit? Our solutions offer unparalleled scalability. In other words, the more you grow and expand, the more you get out of our systems.

If you are curious how Facilio can help you, you can visit the official website to browse through all we offer.