Maintenance Scheduling Automation with AI-Based Digital Solutions

Published on 17 Apr, 2024

The facility management (FM) and maintenance industry is on the cusp of a paradigm shift. For decades, FM professionals have relied on manual and reactive processes to run building operations and maintenance.

Now, with the rapid rise of data and technology-driven FM, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already started to automate repetitive and mundane maintenance tasks, freeing up time and effort that can be redirected toward more strategic, value-adding initiatives.

We believe this opens up the opportunity for scheduling and allocation of maintenance tasks to become automated, and possibly even unsupervised, to enhance team productivity, efficiency, and reliability. At Xempla, we've been thinking about the challenges this change could present and are working on pathways to help FM teams and companies make it a smooth transition.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • the current state of maintenance scheduling
  • the concept of automated maintenance scheduling and its benefits
  • how AI can further enhance automated maintenance scheduling
  • how you can build a strong foundation for AI success beyond maintenance automation

Let’s begin.

The Burden of Manual Maintenance Scheduling

Planned maintenance for many FM companies involves dedicated teams spending a lot of effort on repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Scheduling repairs, assigning technicians to maintenance requests, and optimizing resource utilization – these activities, while crucial, often leave them drained and with little time for more important work.

On top of that, FM companies today are dealing with workforce shortages, skill gaps, and increasing customer expectations and cost pressures, which can make optimal scheduling, resource utilization, and adherence to SOPs even more challenging. Increasing backlogs, waning service quality, and reactive maintenance responses often become a consequence of this manual approach.

What is Maintenance Scheduling Automation & Why Modern O&M Teams Need It

Maintenance scheduling automation refers to the use of technology, particularly software and artificial intelligence (AI), to automatically schedule and manage maintenance tasks for buildings, equipment, and other assets.

Here's a breakdown of the key aspects:

  • Automation: Repetitive tasks involved in scheduling maintenance are handled by the system, reducing manual effort and human error.
  • Technology: Software platforms or AI-powered systems are used to create and manage maintenance schedules. These systems can integrate with various data sources like building sensors, maintenance history logs, and work order systems.
  • Scheduling: The system automatically generates maintenance schedules based on pre-defined parameters like equipment type, manufacturer recommendations, historical data, and real-time sensor readings.

The benefits of maintenance scheduling automation for O&M teams include:

  • Improved Efficiency: Saves time and resources by automating repetitive tasks.
  • Optimized Schedules: Creates dynamic schedules based on real-time data, leading to more efficient allocation of maintenance personnel and resources.
  • Predictive Maintenance: Allows for preventive maintenance based on sensor data and equipment usage patterns, preventing unexpected breakdowns and downtime.
  • Reduced Costs: Saves money by optimizing maintenance activities and preventing costly equipment failures.
  • Improved Data Management: Provides a centralized platform for scheduling data, facilitating analysis and better decision-making.

Overall, maintenance scheduling automation is a valuable tool for facility managers and O&M teams, helping them improve maintenance efficiency, optimize resource allocation, and ultimately reduce costs and downtime.

Maintenance Automation with AI: Co-Pilots for Scheduling Teams

As facilities and building systems evolve further, it adds another layer of complexity to modern-day maintenance needs. Asset utilization and building occupancy levels are no longer static, increased collaboration necessitates flexible workspace arrangements. and conventional spaces have transformed into ‘smart’ ones constantly generating large volumes of data.

With numerous variables and constraints affecting the use of data for operations and maintenance, the entire idea of scheduling has to become more intelligent, dynamic, and on-demand.

The arrival of AI in FM offers a solution to this challenge. AI-powered assistants (we're calling them Co-Pilots) can revolutionize scheduling and allocation processes by leveraging data and machine learning algorithms. Here's how:

  • The Co-Pilot can ingest vast amounts of historical data, including maintenance schedules, technician availability, and asset utilization patterns that become the foundation for creating more dynamic and need-based schedules.
  • The Co-Pilot can factor in unexpected equipment issues on the spot and predict potential failures by analyzing real-time data. It can optimize maintenance calendars and site visits, ensuring a balance between asset performance, operational efficiency, and costs.
  • Managing work orders and maintenance tracking can also be automated with the Co-Pilot. Natural Language Processing (NLP) enables the interpretation of text-based work order submissions and autonomously creates work orders with proper categorization, location info, etc. It then tracks work order status and completion data to maintain digital maintenance records and history.

Important to note here that the Co-Pilot won't replace scheduling teams. Instead, it will augment their capabilities and reduce the time spent on scheduling by up to 75%, freeing them up to pursue higher-level functions.

Beyond Maintenance Scheduling Automation: How to Build a Strong Foundation for AI Success

The true power of AI in FM lies not just in automation, but in its ability to transform how teams utilize data. And its arrival doesn't mean the demise of the FM professional. Instead, it signals a fundamental shift in their role. While AI handles the routine and mundane, here are some areas where teams should spend more quality time:

  • Change Management & Support: Empowering Your Team

Transitioning from manual scheduling processes to automated systems can require a shift in mindset and workflow for FM O&M teams. Training on using the new systems and interpreting AI-generated recommendations is crucial for user adoption and successful implementation. This might include workshops and communication plans.

  • Data Quality: Tackling the Garbage In, Garbage Out Principle

AI systems will only be as good as the data they're fed. Inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent data can lead to suboptimal scheduling recommendations and skewed insights. FMs must develop robust data quality control procedures, train personnel on proper data entry, and implement standardized forms  Regular data quality audits will also be crucial to identify and address any discrepancies.

  • SOP Adherence: Ensuring AI Aligns with Established Protocols

AI can automate tasks, but ensuring adherence to established SOPs requires human oversight. FMs need to develop training, capacity-building programs, and monitoring procedures to guarantee that AI-powered systems function within defined protocols.

  • Knowledge Creation, Retention & Transfer: Your Competitive Advantage

Veteran FM personnel possess knowledge and experience that's often undocumented and at risk of disappearing when they leave the company. FMs can capture and retain this knowledge in a digital repository by training the Co-Pilot on team conversations and interactions with SMEs. By making this knowledge readily accessible through the chatbot's conversational interface, you can proactively combat brain drain, foster continuous learning, onboard new talent, and preserve your competitiveness for the future.

All these changes, challenges, and improvements can be enabled, simplified, and overcome by partnering with a technology provider like Xempla. Explore more about us here.

Are You Embracing the AI Revolution in FM?

In the eventual move to data-led O&M, maintenance scheduling has to keep pace and evolve much beyond what it is now. And with the AI revolution in FM, companies will open up opportunities big and small by embracing it the right way.

In a recent example, we started working on the first version of the Co-Pilot algorithm that helps schedulers and command center operators at FM companies fast-track allocations and scheduling of maintenance tasks.

We considered all factors in the business-as-usual scenario - a mix of tasks, SLAs, Ad-hoc Assessments, Escalations, Resource Constraints, etc.

We were up to the challenge and created an inventory of over 12000 tasks to be processed. It took under a minute to get the schedule out! While it’s still a work in progress, we can't wait for it to make its way onto our platform / mobile app, and perhaps become accessible as an API for others to use.

We would love to share the thesis of our algo, understand your perspective, and whether it’s an opportunity you want to seize sooner than later.

Book your call with us today.