What makes a city great? For the City of Atlanta, GA, the answers are abundant: greenery and parks throughout the city, vibrant cultural institutions, a commitment to sustainable development, a thriving economy and beautiful neighborhoods steeped in history.
But none of these characteristics are possible without a healthy, well-maintained underlying infrastructure. The city’s Department of Enterprise Assets Management (DEAM) plays a pivotal role in keeping that infrastructure running smoothly.
The department handles physical assets that fall under the general fund for the city, such as city hall, the municipal court, community centers, fire stations and police precincts. All told, the division maintains 51 facilities. In addition, it manages the capital programs for new city building projects.
Commitment to citizens and city workers alike is fundamental to the DEAM mission. “The backbone of facilities maintenance is its customer service,” says Remy Saintil, Commissioner of DEAM. “The firefighters living in fire stations, for example, need an environment in which they can be productive and ready to go out and fight fires. They can’t be worried about the roof leaking or the HVAC not working.”
When Saintil joined DEAM in 2020, the department’s asset management system had become antiquated. “We needed a system that would enable us to create maintenance programs, take work order requests and then communicate continuously with requestors,” says Saintil. “Enterprise asset management is our department’s name. We wanted to be the subject matter experts in that area and to earn our ISO 55001 certification.”
Certification brings with it many advantages for a city. By driving asset management governance, it helps ensure facilities are well-maintained and taxpayer dollars are well-spent. And by improving bond and insurance ratings, it can save a city money.
The certification process is rigorous, involving numerous audits over several years. Only eight entities in the US are currently certified, two of which are in the Atlanta area: the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and the Atlanta airport. Saintil and his team wanted to make it an Atlanta trifecta, with DEAM as the third.
Saintil was part of the team that led the certification initiative at MARTA and headed up a separate proof-of-concept project using IBM predictive maintenance capabilities. He was deeply knowledgeable of the solution’s strengths, especially related to certification requirements, which are rigorous and take years to complete. “I needed a robust enterprise management system with the latest features,” he says. “I knew those capabilities were available with IBM and IBM® Maximo® Application Suite, so that’s the path we took.”
Establishes a new system to manage assets for 51 city facilities, covering 2M gross square feet, in a cloud-based, managed services environment
Sets the foundation DEAM needs to become 1 of 3 Atlanta-based entities with ISO 55001 certification
Fortunately, the city already had a contract in place to use the IBM Maximo Application Suite for asset management, with highly successful on-premises deployments within several departments. The solution provides a single, integrated platform with access to comprehensive monitoring, maintenance and reliability applications across the respective departments. Those departments can use the platform to plan and schedule maintenance, track work orders and manage maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) inventory levels within a single platform.
But Saintil wanted to take even further advantage of the solution’s capabilities. He was particularly interested in using it as a cloud-based managed service, with IBM hosting and managing the platform on the IBM Cloud®, and in its predictive maintenance features that utilize IBM Watson® Machine Learning.
Preparation was key to the project’s success. The DEAM team worked with IBM Expert Labs to set a plan in place. The first step was to educate employees on what enterprise asset management was and how it would help them do their jobs. In addition to providing asset management training, Saintil worked with his team so they could become certified in Maximo.
Since the city’s previous IBM Maximo implementations had run solely on premises, the team needed to update the IBM contract so it could run the solution on IBM Cloud as a managed service. It took time to work out the details with the city legislature, but the efforts paid off and the contract was approved in 2021.
With the updated contract in place, the project team came into play. The IBM team brought in IBM Business Partner Aquitas Solutions to help with the implementation. “Aquitas reviewed the process plan, the type of information relative to our assets we would need to gather and the way we would gather that information and input it into Maximo,” says Saintil. “We decided to take advantage of synergy and gather information relative to equipment condition assessments at the same time.”
Throughout the planning and implementation phases, IBM Customer Success was behind the scenes, continuously collaborating with the DEAM and Aquitas teams, conducting monthly reviews, and providing insights and input along the way.
Gathering the data took time and effort. “It was a grueling task, requiring many hours of work,” says Tiffany Burden, Director of Administration at DEAM. “But once we’d gathered the information, we worked with Aquitas to move it into the system. And we’re still moving it. It’s not a process that stops—it’s ongoing. The system is only as good as the information you put into it, so we also have a team of people verifying the data for accuracy.”
The process for uploading the information into Maximo started in mid-2022 and in March 2023, DEAM launched its new asset management system.
The new asset management system establishes the strong foundation DEAM needs to achieve ISO 55001 certification and makes it possible for the department to do things it has never done before.
“This system allows users—whether you’re a director, commissioner, supervisor or facilities maintenance mechanic—to access a dashboard for quick reference,” says Burden. “Our mechanics can immediately see their tickets or supervisors can see the location and status of all open and closed tickets. We can also gather performance metrics and run reports.”
Data lies at the heart of that innovation. “You can’t run reports with no history,” says Saintil. “With the information we’re collecting now, we’re creating that history. That’s where the gold is: having data that’s actionable, that we can do things with. So we’re excited about having that capability—collecting, formatting and storing data properly in one asset management system—all those things that didn’t exist before. Now that we have that capability it’s just great. It’s wonderful.”
In the meantime, reaction from city workers has been highly positive, according to Saintil. “What’s most exciting is seeing the enthusiasm from employees in the firehouses and police precincts in knowing if they have an issue, they now have a way to communicate it.”
The solution also will ultimately contribute to the city’s sustainability initiatives. Not only will it help DEAM maintain and preserve the city’s assets, but it also will help facilities run more efficiently and technicians save time and the city money by reducing the need to travel to check on and fix broken equipment.
The team plans to continue expanding upon Maximo’s capabilities, particularly in the area of AI. “Using IBM Watson is going to be major for us,” says Saintil. “For example, the ability to upload an asset’s manual into Maximo, then submit queries and get an answer for what’s wrong based on your questions and input. Having a system to guide us through a root-cause problem is going to help us tremendously.”
The layering of predictive maintenance can also provide invaluable information, such as when a technician needs more training, how a piece of equipment operates on a particular day in particular weather conditions and how it will perform based on information collected.
“Once that comes into place, we’ll have a system that’s really robust, in which we won’t be as affected by the conditions of the environment anymore,” says Saintil. “That’s really going to be the proof in the pudding.”
The foundation for future success is strong, fortified by the spirit of teamwork between DEAM and IBM. “IBM is our best friend right now,” says Saintil. “The relationship has been fantastic. It hasn’t always been easy working through municipality regulations. But even from my MARTA days, the relationship with IBM has been phenomenal.”
DEAM (link resides outside of ibm.com) is a branch of the city of Atlanta government that is responsible for enterprise asset management for 51 city facilities, including Atlanta City Hall, Atlanta Municipal Court, Public Safety Headquarters, fire stations and precincts, among others. The department also oversees new city building projects and maintains the city’s inventory of owned and leased properties.
Based in Atlanta, GA, IBM Business Partner Aquitas Solutions (link resides outside of ibm.com) is a provider of enterprise asset management and IoT solutions. The company was founded in 2006.
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