Jonathan Thomas, PE, CEM, CRL is President at Building Maintenance Optimization Consultants, Inc. where he is focused on solving widespread problems with CMMS applications in institutional environments. Mike Petrusky asks Jon to describe his philosophy of asset management and how BMOC helps their clients build their asset registry through efficient inventory and data collection processes. Jon shares his experiences as an FM consultant and offers a unique perspective to help asset leaders manage the built environment more effectively with data-driven decisions.
Full Podcast Transcript
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Mike Petrusky: This is the Asset Champion Podcast, where we talk with facilities maintenance and asset management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by the iOFFICE Asset Division, delivering easy-to-use maintenance management software tools to help you drive powerful asset performance. Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Asset Champion Podcast.
I’m your host, Mike Petrusky. It’s great to have you back for another episode of the show, and this week, I am thrilled to welcome another very interesting guest, someone who has experience in our world of asset management. From Atlanta, Georgia, please welcome John Thomas. Hey, John.
John Thomas: Hey, Mike. Thanks so much for having me.
Mike Petrusky: John is President at Building Maintenance Optimization Consultants, or BMOC. So John, I imagine you’re often told you’re the big man on campus.
John Thomas: Yeah. Oddly enough, I thought I would get it more than I do. Most people pronounce the name of our company BMOC, which is something I never even had thought of, so it works for me. But interestingly, the big man on campus thing was the double entendre I was going for, so I’m glad you picked up on it.
Mike Petrusky: Yeah, first thing I thought of when I saw that, so that’s fantastic.
John Thomas: Well, I think that dates us. That puts us both as growing up in the’80s.
Mike Petrusky: I think you’re right; I think you’re right, which may make for some great synergy when we talk about music in a second. But before we get there, let me hear a little bit more of your story. How did you end up where you are today, and what is BMOC all about?
John Thomas: Sure. Just to set me up a little bit, the story I like to… or I’ve been telling recently, as it’s summertime right now, when I think back to summertime when I was a kid, my idea of fun was sitting down and auditing my baseball card collection and sitting down with a Beckett Baseball Card Monthly, and getting all my baseball cards, and sitting there with a pad and paper, and writing them down, and assessing the value of my collection, and that was the most funthing in the world to me.
I think that concept in and of itself led into BMOC. So, combine that with where I got my start in my career, which was facilities management consulting, my job in my initial company, being low person on the totem pole, was to do equipment inventory work. And on the surface, it was physically grueling, but it was very rewarding because I saw a lot of value and believed in the concept of identifying these pieces of equipment that me as… or my client as the facility manager needed to maintain. So that’s, in a very simplistic sense, what became BMOC.
Mike Petrusky: Very cool. So, who knew that collecting baseball cards could lead into the world of FM and asset management? That’s awesome. Well, I look forward to hearing more about your experiences working with your clients and some of the things that my audience wants to hear about. But John, before we go there, I like to get a quick understanding of the personality of my guests, and I do this by asking about music. We’ve already identified the fact that we’re both from the same era, we’re both children of the’80s, so I got to think we’re going to like some of the same bands. What artists or songs get you inspired?
John Thomas: Sure. So, I am drawn to prog rock, so if we’re going to go’80s, I’d probably say Rush and Talking heads a little bit.
Mike Petrusky: Oh, love it, love it. Do you have a favorite song from David Byrne and the gang?
John Thomas: Great Curve, I would say, off Remain in Light.
Mike Petrusky: Really? I’m not sure I know that one. That’s a deep track.
John Thomas: Yeah. I mean, I typically am drawn to the less known songs. I guess I’m a little bit of an inside joke kind of guy, I guess.
Mike Petrusky: Cool, so you’re not going to give me a same as it ever was, same as it ever was, once in a lifetime?
John Thomas: Now, I will tell you, Burning Down the House. I’m a huge fan of Burning Down the House, and when that’s on… The studio recording of that doesn’t really do it justice. If you hear it live, it burns down the house. I mean, it’s rocking.
Mike Petrusky: (singing). Love David Byrne. Hey, well, good stuff, great music. Do you have a business book or a leader that has influenced your career?
John Thomas: Oh, absolutely, yeah. So, I know everybody has read it, it’s the top book, but the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” I mean, it’s amazing how frequently I return to that. And then, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I mean, that’s not just a book for leadership, that’s just how to respect people and actually be a good person, I-
Mike Petrusky: Yeah, and-
John Thomas: …think.
Mike Petrusky: …life skills, absolutely.
John Thomas: But in very practical terms, right, so valuing people, valuing employees.
Mike Petrusky: Yeah, great stuff, John, and wisdom that’s timeless, as far as, it applies today as much as it did back when those books were written. So great recommendations across the board. Thanks for those. Well, let’s talk more about the subject at hand today, which is asset management. First, let’s define it from your perspective. How do you focus on things? What is your company doing in the world of asset management today?
John Thomas: Well, I think it’s important to start by giving some context. I think the baseball card story works well because when I was a kid, those were my assets, and I valued them and I wanted to take care of them. If I wanted to buy a card, I wanted to make sure I was paying a good price for it, and then, when I sold a card, I wanted to make sure it was a reasonable sale. And then, when I understood those concepts, what followed was that I wanted to take care of the card, and so I put them in sleeves, I would put them in cases, what have you. It’s kind of the same concept here. And just keep in mind that I got my start in what would be considered an asset- light industry, which is facilities management, so it’s not like I’m working in transportation or oil and gas
. And transportation, oil and gas, and manufacturing, these industries understand asset management so much better because they don’t buy an asset unless they have a financial strategy for it, so they’re always keeping in mind, salvage value. They want to get X number of years out of it. They want to put so much money worth of maintenance into it. And if they go out of bounds on this, it’s an inherently crucial issue or vital issue to the business plan for that asset. In facilities management, it’s completely different because nobody ever says,” Okay, we’re about to build a building.
Let’s assess the value of installing an air handling unit.” You’re getting a building, and you get the assets, and it gets dumped on you, and you’ve got a big portfolio of buildings and you have a staff. Nobody’s increasing your staff for you. You’re just getting a whole building full of assets now, and you already had trouble maintaining your other assets because you’re not necessarily valued by the organization.
You’re kind of looked at as overhead or as an inevitable sort of operation. And so, in many cases, those assets, just because everybody’s hair is on fire already, they just get missed. And if an asset fails, sure, it’s a nuisance, but it doesn’t shut down academic operations, per se. But now, what happens is, on the longer term, you get a big, giant deferred maintenance bubble if you don’t manage the assets, and then everything just gets to be a problem. So that’s my context in asset management.
So, what I try to do is bring the importance of the asset registry to the less asset- intensive market and emphasize that there’s tons of value that can be gained from this process. You save more on energy, or you consume energy optimally, you can be more efficient with scheduling your staff, you can understand more what you have the capacity to maintain and when you’re going to need incremental staff to hire. And furthermore, assets do fail. Just because it’s less intensive, assets do still have problems. And you want to give your technical staff some valuable information to help them with maintaining the assets, so good asset histories and good documentation on the unit, parts lists and all of these things.
Oh, and by the way, this whole time, you have a computerized maintenance management system, CMMS, that you’re using to maintain the assets, and that has value too. And in the marketplace, you see, very widely, that CMMS applications are utilized to a 30% proportion of their potential capacity or potential value, and that’s value that’s left on the table if you don’t have an asset inventory. Our hypothesis at BMOC is that if you… CMMS utilization starts with having a good asset registry, so you want work orders closed out with assets and materials and labor assigned. And if you’re not doing that, then you’re just not getting the value out of the CMMS and you’re not getting the value out of your assets or your workforce.
Mike Petrusky: Yeah, so you’ve laid out a number of different challenges that the asset management professional or the facility manager must face. Is it something that’s changing? Is the marketplace different? Have we accelerated or added to some of these challenges coming out of a pandemic here in the middle of 2021, and if so, how do you help your clients manage these challenges?
John Thomas: Sure, that’s a great question. So, one of the ways that BMOC is responding and has responded is, we’re moving more into providing program management for getting that asset registry populated where there’s always been this idea that, hey, asset inventory is easy, let me get my staff to do it. But it’s not easy, and you have to have training and you have to have a good starting point.
You have to have good data structure, you have to know what you’re going to collect, how you’re going to collect it, and then you need to know what you’re going to collect on each asset. And if you don’t have that in advance, then you’re going to have to use your own staff to get into a conference room and come to some sort of an agreement on it. And that takes a lot of time, and for large organizations, that can be a year before you even step foot in the field to collect data.
So, during this time, during COVID, many buildings were occupied at a lower level, so it was a good time. And obviously, assets were being run less and they were deteriorating less and there were less trouble calls, so staff had more time to inventory assets. So we’ve been offering to do program management, and with the staff surplus time, get them in the field to be more efficient, quicker, by training them on this structure and then overseeing the data collection process.
Mike Petrusky: So again, you’ve mentioned that software is a tool. There are others in the industry, trends related to technology advancement, and tools that can help an asset management professional manage things better. So what other technology tools are available that you see having a big impact on the world of asset management?
John Thomas: So, I think OCR technology is one thing that helps out greatly, and it’s improving, where it’s able to pull information from photos. The application can pull information from photos. I think that’s a technology that can be leveraged to support this process. And one of the concepts we’re always keeping our eye on is a global asset inventory, or asset management system, where everything in the world that’s manufactured has a unique ID of some sort, and at the point of manufacture, it can be… Data on that asset can be captured and then made available just through a common system. That’s, obviously, a complex problem to solve, but I think that’s something that we’re going to see in the not-too-distant future. And that information, for new assets, will be very helpful to doing asset investiture in the future. Now, you’re always going to have the problem of the old assets that were manufactured prior to that technology becoming widely available, but still, I think it’ll be a tremendous help.
Mike Petrusky: Excellent, very good. Well, as it always happens, John, we’re almost out of time. And so, as I think about my audience trying to take away some tips from this conversation, what advice do you have to offer my audience of asset management leaders as we head into the future together?
John Thomas: And again, focusing on buildings, I think it starts with understanding that you need the executive sponsorship. Next, I would say understand that it takes time, and it is a skillset, in and of itself. You can’t take an electrician and say,” Go inventory your assets that you maintain,” and expect them to do a very thorough job. It’s not that they are unskilled or incompetent. It’s completely that it’s just a different skill set that they didn’t learn necessarily in trade school.
And finding the employee who understands the physical assets and the need to repair them and the need to sustain their reliability and someone who understands software systems and how they can support is not something that’s very easy to find. We often find ourselves calling them a unicorn in our circles because it’s just a rare skill set to find that union between an understanding the physical and the software. So just understand that it’s a specialized skill, and I think that’ll go a long way.
And then, another thing I would say is, don’t send your staff out and have them do the inventory in the field. The top thing for me would be, you got to think about it this way, isn’t it easier and less expensive and safer to type in a model and serial number in the comfort of a desk versus in a hot mechanical room or up on a ladder?
So, when doing the inventory process, think about the process that’s required and maybe try to break it up amongst skill sets. So maybe you have your trades go out and support the finding of the asset, but then leave the data entry to data entry personnel who can type quickly and can do it safely.
That would be another bit of advice I would give. And one of the reasons why that advice is precipitated is because even CMMS vendors don’t understand data collection. Some of the data collection applications I’ve seen from CMMS vendors are horrifying. They’re not much more than just using a legal pad in the field. I mean, if they’re having you fat finger model and serial number in the field, that’s not a good process, and it’s expensive and it’s not as safe as you might think.
Mike Petrusky: Wow, really good stuff. Thank you, John, for sharing your insight and your experience with us, and thanks for taking time to be on the Asset Champion Podcast.
John Thomas: Thank you, Mike. It was wonderful. Really hope we get a chance to do it again sometime, and it’s just a pleasure.
Mike Petrusky: And there you have it, folks, Jonathan Thomas of Building Maintenance Optimization Consultants sharing just a little bit of his insight and experience around the world of asset management in the built environment. Great stuff. Always good to talk with someone with a focus on facility management, and if you’d like to learn more about John and his company, please check the show notes. You’ll find a link to connect with him, and please tell him you heard him here on the Asset Champion Podcast. And join us again next time as we continue on our journey to encourage and inspire each other to be an asset champion. Peace out. You’ve been listening to the Asset Champion Podcast. We hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to elevate asset management success by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and building best practices. For more information about how the iOFFICE Asset Division can boost the performance of your physical assets by providing comprehensive enterprise asset management software solutions, please visit assetchampion.com.
Connect with Jon on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathancthomaspe/
Learn more about BMOC: http://www.buildingmoc.com/
Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/
Learn more about the iOFFICE Asset Division and explore more interviews at: https://www.assetchampion.com/
Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com