Understanding your property and assets

Paul Marshall, Chief Executive of Assure Advisory, reflects on how understanding your property is the foundation of good facilities management.

How well do you know your property? You might think this is a strange question, but it’s something I ask people all the time.

If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you have a property, with walls and a roof, doors and windows. You may know what heating system it has, the number of rooms, where the electrical distribution boards are. But do you know how many thermostatic mixing valves you have , and exactly where they are? When your boilers were installed, and when they will likely need replacing? How many fire extinguishers there are in the building, and whether they are they the right types?

No one is expected to know all of this instantly, but we have audited buildings and identified critical pieces of kit such as boilers that our client didn’t know existed, causing gaps in their compliance and maintenance. So if you want to manage your building effectively, you need to have and be able to filter this information quickly and easily. That’s where your asset register is invaluable.

Most of our clients would recognise the term ‘asset register’, but you may call it something else – property or asset records, building inventory or schedule. Whatever you do call it, having a central place where all your building information is stored is vital. If your organisation doesn’t have one, it’s likely there are problems developing that you aren’t aware of.

For example, we once visited a client who was having problems with their electrical system. It turned out that they had a sophisticated piece of equipment installed that they weren’t aware of, so it had never been inspected or maintained. When it failed, issues in the system arose, causing power failures and asset damage. If an asset register had been available, their FM company would have regularly inspected the component, noticed any faults, and repaired it, preventing the problem.

For most organisations, putting together an asset register won’t always be an exciting job, or bring about any huge surprises like this. But it can provide major benefits.

Stay safe and legal
If you know what assets you have you can ensure that nothing is missed from your maintenance schedules, and by tracking their last service dates you can ensure you stay compliant with statutory and regulatory requirements all of the time.

Minimise downtime
By recording the condition and maintenance records of your assets, you can start to understand which items are coming to the end of their life, and identify the potential high risk items, helping you to mitigate any unforeseen downtime within your building.

Planning and budgeting
When you’re on top of your assets, it’s so much easier to plan for the future. You can create better visibility of, and budget for replacing high value items coming to the end of their life, and minimise disruption to building users if planned accordingly..

Save money
We all know that the bottom line is important, and budgets are tight. An asset register can help you to communicate asset and servicing requirements to maintenance and FM service providers more comprehensively, ensuring best value for money is obtained, and help to avoid additional surprise costs in the future.

Once you’ve got your asset register, it’s not the end of the story. You should ensure it’s always accurate, up to date and easy to use. You can have all the data in the world, but if it’s not in a format people can easily access, you might as well not have one as it will become out of date very quickly.

On the other hand, you don’t want to collect data for data’s sake. Think about what you want to do with the information first, and whether you have any obligations to hold asset information, and to what level. As a good rule of thumb, I tell my clients that they should include assets on their register if they meet any of the following criteria: it needs servicing, it’s high value, it’s high risk, or it may need replacing regularly. For example your mechanical and electrical appliances should always be recorded, but there’s less need to include every single socket front – they’re unlikely to need replacing unless damaged, and are relatively low cost and risk.

There are exceptions to this. PFI contracts that I’ve worked on need to record everything, right down to the smallest item, then keep it up to date for the full 25-30 years of their contract. It’s an extreme example, but not uncommon.

So what’s the takeaway from this? It’s that your asset register is a fundamental building block for effectively managing your property. It provides a foundation on which you can build everything you need to keep your building operational, from maintenance schedules to lifecycle forecasting and budgeting. So if you don’t have one, or it’s not in a useable condition, think about making it a priority – it’ll transform the way you manage your estate.

Assure Advisory is a specialist consultancy focused on property maintenance and compliance. If you need advice on creating, updating or developing an asset register, they’re happy to help – just get in touch.