Companies that use highly specialized facilities and equipment on a daily basis face the daunting task of continually managing these assets to ensure operations run smoothly. Coordinating and scheduling preventive maintenance (PM), processing employee work requests and managing facility repairs and modifications are just a few of the daily tasks that need to be completed. All of these tasks can be complex and time-consuming, and present challenges that require an efficient system in place to prevent productivity snags.

One company that faces these challenges is Caris Life Sciences, a bioscience firm that conducts molecular profiling and blood testing on patients with cancer. Oncologists send in patient tissue samples, which Caris’ scientists rigorously test and analyze using cancer profiling technologies to help physicians determine a treatment path forward. 

Headquartered in Irving, TX, Caris Life Sciences also operates in Phoenix, AZ and Basel, Switzerland. The three Phoenix facilities—two office buildings and laboratory—are managed by Mark Eichkorn, director of facilities and real estate, and Facilities Manager Stanley Bennett, who reports directly to Eichkorn. All three of these facilities require close monitoring and maintenance of everything from servicing high-tech lab equipment to inspecting light fixtures in order to operate effectively and remain in compliance with strict federal regulations.

Eichkorn previously spent 25 years working in the heavily regulated pharmaceutical industry before joining Caris in 2012. Upon arrival, he quickly realized the company required a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to enable a more systematic and proactive approach to maintenance. “I wanted something that would help guide us in our maintenance and help us with compliance. I wanted automated documentation versus the manual paper system to aid us in meeting our compliance requirements,” he says.

After evaluating several options, Caris implemented eMaint Web-based CMMS software in August 2012, and has since improved virtually all areas of facility maintenance.

Looking to Replace a Manual, Paper-Based System

The biggest challenges Bennett faces daily are scheduling and performing predictive and break-fix maintenance and processing work order requests submitted by the 200-plus scientists that work in the lab. Prior to eMaint, Caris didn’t have an automated system in place to manage all of these tasks in one location, and instead relied on inefficient manual processes to complete them.

To ensure that all equipment continues to function properly and downtime is kept to a minimum, Caris uses manufacturer recommendations to guide its predictive maintenance. These recommendations suggest things such as how many times per year to lubricate the bearings on a fan or replace the filters within an air intake system. 

Prior to eMaint, this data was tracked along with all other asset information (such as name and maintenance history) via paper records. Bennett consulted these records to determine what regular maintenance needed to be scheduled, then created paper work orders for all tasks requiring completion.

Mark Eichkorn, director of facilities and real estate at Caris Life Sciences

In the past, the provider sent in a technician who, after performing the assigned task, would leave a paper record of the completed work. Once filed away, these records were difficult to pull up when technicians returned for subsequent maintenance visits. This made it very labor intensive to determine what work had previously taken place on a certain asset—valuable information that can be used to make more informed decisions about the best way to resolve an issue.

Due to the intricate nature of the machines and equipment the company uses, virtually all work orders are outsourced to one of several third-party providers. “We insource very little,” Eichkorn says. “We outsource most of our maintenance to providers and technicians with the skill sets to look at complex things such as chillers, which are large pieces of equipment that provide cooling in an industrial environment such as our laboratory.”

In Need of Maintenance-Specific Work Order Requests

Another concern was that the customer work order request system Caris used previously wasn’t specifically designed to handle maintenance requests. Scientists submitted maintenance or modification requests through a help desk software system that was structured off the company’s IT help desk system. 

While this system alerted Caris to maintenance problems in need of attention, it didn’t prompt users to enter additional details about the request, such as the urgency level or asset ID number. These details help technicians better understand the work that needs to be done before they arrive, and can reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a job.

Stanley Bennett, facilities manager at Caris Life Sciences

“It was basically a ‘request system’ that notified the Facilities Department of maintenance problems,” Bennett explains. “It did not generate work orders, manage assets, schedule PMs or run reports.” As a result, Bennett had to perform all of these tasks manually. This meant Caris essentially relied on his memory to ensure all required tasks were completed, as opposed to having a process in place that would guarantee they were automatically executed. 

When it came time to search for a CMMS system, both Eichkorn and Bennett knew they wanted software that would enable repeatable, automated processes to take the manual labor and guesswork out of things. They also wanted all data to be easily and electronically organized to provide a clear picture of what was going on with all equipment at any given time. eMaint offered all of these features and more at an affordable price, which made the system an easy choice.

A Quick and Easy Transition to eMaint

Caris began implementing eMaint in August 2012. Basic functions, such as the work order request feature, were “up and running in no time,” according to Bennett. Employees were comfortably using the software within a week, and found it easy to quickly familiarize themselves with the system. By October, all equipment data and maintenance processes had been fully loaded into the system, and the company was fully functional on the software by the first quarter of 2013. 

Bennett credits eMaint’s excellent customer service for a smooth transition process, which is a significant challenge in complex procedural environments like those at Caris. “Not everyone is software savvy and understands by reading the instructions or even has the time to do so,” he says. “It’s great that you can call eMaint customer service and talk to a person who can walk you through a process or do the process for you without being intimidated.”

Automated Work Order Requests Simplify the Process

With eMaint, creating work orders for either predictive or break-fix maintenance is an easy, automated process that no longer requires unwieldy, hard-to-track paper files to be kept. Manufacturer maintenance information for all assets is stored within the system, allowing Bennett to easily view what type of regular predictive maintenance needs to be performed and schedule it accordingly. 

eMaint's predictive maintenance feature

This information is used to create an electronic work order, which is then sent to a third-party vendor to complete the job. These orders can be “simple,” listing just the basic description of the work that needs to be done, or “detailed,” which can include information such as the priority level of the job, asset-specific failure and remedy codes, asset location and estimated time required for completion. All work orders can also be customized in terms of the desired layout and information fields to be included.

An example of eMaint's detailed work order form

For break-fix maintenance and lab modifications, scientists can now easily submit their own work order and service requests by clicking on an eMaint icon on the desktop of their computer that takes them to a customized request form. This form prompts them to enter certain information about the request, including the specific asset that needs attention, its location and a description of the issue, e.g. “I have a new centrifuge coming in and the lab benches need to be modified to accommodate it.”

All requests are automatically sent to Bennett, who can can customize the system to parse them according to severity or which department submitted the work. He reviews the request before accepting or rejecting it, then creates a work order, which is sent to a third-party vendor to carry out. All users are automatically kept up to date on the progress of their requests and receive an alert upon completion.  

A sample work order request within eMaint

Electronic History Identifies Equipment in Need of Replacement

eMaint’s ability to store all maintenance history for a particular asset allows Bennett and Eichkorn to view what issues a piece of equipment has experienced in the past and helps provide a picture of the asset’s overall health.

“Technicians record whatever they did—how they found the equipment, how they left the equipment, items they changed—and we scan this and tie it to an electronic work order,” Eichkorn explains. “So now whenever someone comes in and says, ‘We want to see all the work you’ve done on that fan,’ we have an electronic history showing scheduled maintenance, that the maintenance was completed, what we did, and if it was left in the proper working order.”

eMaint's asset work order history feature

All of the paper records created by technicians are scanned into Microsoft SharePoint, an electronic document repository that eMaint seamlessly integrates with. These records are then automatically migrated into and stored within eMaint’s system. 

“This allows me to look up equipment history very easily,” Eichkorn says. “In the long run, I want to know how many times we had to do break-fix maintenance on something like a fan so I know if it’s time to get a new piece of equipment.”

Easily Accessible Data Helps Ensure Regulatory Compliance

Due to the high-level nature of the work Caris performs in its facilities, the company must meet strict requirements to comply with certain regulating bodies, which conduct unannounced audits. This includes the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), a program run by the Office of Clinical Standards and Quality (OCSQ) that ensures quality lab testing.

In the case of an audit by these regulating bodies, companies like Caris must be able to provide extensive documentation to prove that all facilities are being properly maintained and any modifications made were done according to regulation. The inefficient manual, paper-based system Caris used in the past made this challenging, as it was labor intensive to access and present data, if needed.

Eichkorn’s pharmaceutical expertise taught him about the importance of being able to provide comprehensive data. “You have to show you have control over your maintenance,” he explains. “You have to be able to say what you’re going to do, document what you’re going to do, and prove that it was completed. That’s what eMaint helps us get done.”

The ability to quickly access all records is especially important as Caris looks to implement a new type of blood testing. This will require certification by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means Caris will have to be ready to provide a detailed history of maintenance records, if requested. 

Scheduling Tool Facilitates Improved Communication 

eMaint’s scheduling tool enables Bennett to easily enter and view all work order requests to be completed and preventative maintenance tasks that need to be performed. It also allows him to easily add, change or delete work orders and assign them to individual employees or segment them according to group, e.g. “Building 156,” “Monthly Building Pest Control” or “Emergency Lighting Inspections.”

The scheduling tool also helps Caris keep scientists in the loop about the status of their submitted requests. “A big daily challenge for me is letting people know where we are with their requests,” Eichkorn says. “eMaint allows us to schedule these requested items and provide feedback on when this work will be done. This system helps us keep requesters in-tune with what our schedule is and, if the schedule changes, it lets them know.”

eMaint's scheduling tool

Fewer Errors Lead to Greater Confidence

eMaint also helps Caris eliminate errors that are inevitable with paper documents and manual data entry. “It’s a much better-managed approach to maintenance versus relying on one person and their memory.” says Eichkorn. “Once you have all data loaded correctly, it takes the manual error out of things, so from a managerial perspective I have a greater degree of confidence in the system, and I have a lot of confidence in what [Bennett] is doing and that we’re doing it in a compliant fashion.”

The new software is also helping Caris move towards a more efficient and cost-effective maintenance model, as asset details can now be tracked far more easily and comprehensively. These details allow Bennett and Eichkorn to regularly assess the health of a particular asset to determine if the predictive maintenance schedule currently in place can be adjusted to improve performance. 

“What we’re just starting to embark on since implementing eMaint is reliability-based maintenance,” Eichkorn explains. “What this means is if a manufacturer tells us to change the filters every 90 days, let’s take a look and find out, are the filters are actually dirty after 90 days? Are they restricting airflow? Can we reduce this frequency so we can reduce our costs while remaining compliant?” 

eMaint Drives Smart Financial Decisions and Facilitates Growth

Even in this early stage of implementation, the system has “noticeably improved the ability to manage our facilities department, which makes us more efficient,” Bennett says. “Efficient translates to less time and money spent.”

While Caris hasn’t seen large financial gains as a result of the new software thus far, this is only due to how recently eMaint was implemented. Eichkorn expects to see considerable savings over the next year, as Caris can now use the wealth of data stored in eMaint to make intuitive decisions that will help cut costs. 

“My goal was to drive costs down, and the way you do that is to look at improvements to maintenance processes,” he says. “eMaint helps us take a look at what’s going on with equipment to help identify problems, determine more cost-effective maintenance practices and drive good financial decisions.”

Finally, eMaint’s ability to easily handle facility maintenance for multiple locations will be a considerable benefit as Caris Life Sciences opens more locations. “We’re a small company right now, but as we look to build other offices and laboratories in the U.S. and around the globe, we’ll expand eMaint to do the same thing there as in Phoenix,” Eichkorn explains. 

In short, eMaint has done exactly what Caris Life Science needed the system to do. Caris now effectively controls their facilities maintenance and, using the data the system enables them to record and track, can begin to make more intelligent financial decisions. This, in turn, will support any expansion and growth in an organized and systematic fashion, allowing the company continue to develop revolutionary cancer screening and profiling technologies to help achieve the goal of relieving the suffering of as many people as possible.

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