Work Flow 2.0: Staff Track Requests Electronically

Technology improves efficiency and service for Facilities Management

Kelvin Sanders, a general maintenance mechanic with Facilities Management, inspects lighting. A new online work order system is allowing Sanders and coworkers an easier time tracking and completing projects across campus. Photo by Bryan Roth.

In order to increase efficiency and improve customer service, Duke’s Facilities Management Department has gone digital.

The department has upgraded to a new state-of-the-art, computerized system that manages work requests, parts, labor costs and time spent across every division in order to provide better service for more than 70,000 work requests Facilities Management receives annually.

The new system includes the ability to submit a work order online, making it easier for faculty, staff and students to enter and follow requests to the Facilities Management Department (FMD) and provides FMD staff with the ability to report and communicate in real-time with supervisors and those that have submitted requests.

As part of the upgrade, 60 new iPads have been distributed to FMD employees across 10 shops to include general maintenance mechanics, locksmiths, plumbers and more. With the iPads in-tow, staff have instant access to online work orders, which saves time by letting FMD employees know in real-time what materials are needed, where to go and who to contact.

“I’ve been at Duke for 23 years and as much as I once wanted to buck technology, now I love it,” said Kelvin Sanders, a general maintenance mechanic who provides support to buildings throughout West Campus. “Over a 12-hour day, it’s saved me 60 to 90 minutes of down time that would’ve been spent waiting for orders or filling out paperwork.”

With extra time, Sanders said he completes upward of 10 work orders a day, one or two more than before.

The benefit of the new system is all in the technology. After a Duke community member fills out a work order request through the Facilities Management website, the request goes to FMD dispatchers. Previously, all requests were printed out and physically picked up by Facilities staff.

Now, requests are sent in real-time to the iPads, which shows a column of ongoing work orders, descriptions of the work order and allows for status updates to be sent to both the person who submitted the request and FMD supervisors. The system means FMD employees across campus can learn of new projects without returning to Smith Warehouse and picking up a new requests.  They’re also able to make sure they have all parts or materials they need for jobs before leaving in the morning.

work order
An example of what a screen of work orders looks like for Facilities Management employees. Click image to enlarge.

Sanders said his favorite part of carrying an iPad is its multimedia ability, which allows him to instantly send photos and video to other FMD staff to get input. If necessary, he can even utilize the tablet’s “FaceTime” function, which allows for live video chat.

“I responded to a water leak at the Teer Building that had calcium buildup, so I took a picture of it, attached it to an email and sent it to my supervisor,” Sanders said. “He saw the picture and knew right away we had to send someone from the plumbing shop to take care of that specific problem.”

Mark Browning, projects and building maintenance coordinator with Facilities Management, said use of the new work order system enhances efficiencies and communication.

“It’s changing the way Facilities Management does business,” he said. “Every piece of work we do will go through this system, which will help us do our jobs better.”