5 Things that Effective Facility Managers Do Differently

Every manager has a slightly different approach to how they run the operations in their facility. Those who are most effective tend to follow certain best practices that help them maximize productivity, safety, and profit. Here are a few tips that everyone can learn from.

1. Collect and analyze data to proactively make informed decisions

First and foremost, the best facility managers are proactive rather than reactive. They closely monitor their facility at all times, looking to catch accidents before they happen and identifying where corrective action is needed. When smart equipment is available, the proactive manager works to implement it wherever possible. This enables management to collect and analyze data from the smart equipment and controls throughout the plant. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms like Rite-Hite’s Opti-Vu® allow facility managers to make informed, data-driven decisions on operations from places like the loading dock to facility intersections and even interior door openings. Capturing data is great, but taking action is critical. Make sure the platform provides analytics that correlate current and historical data to identify developing trends that can help predict potential problems and proactively identify training needs. Some platforms also provide real-time alerts (like Opti-Vu) that let the manager know something is wrong with a piece of equipment. Monthly alerts can be set within the platform to remind managers to check on potential problem areas and ensure that everything has been resolved appropriately.

2. Automate safety procedures using interlocks

Since human error can never completely be eliminated, accidents will happen in even the safest facilities. In the loading dock area, interlocking equipment can “automate safety” and help take human error out of the equation. Rite-Hite’s Dok-Commander® controls – which interlock the vehicle restraint, dock safety barrier, dock leveler, and overhead doors – can be programmed to operate only when a safe sequence of operations is performed.

For example, controls can be set to disable the use of a hydraulic leveler or overhead door until the vehicle restraint has achieved a safe engagement; require the overhead door to be opened prior to leveler operation; or ensure the leveler is stored safely before the restraint can be disengaged. The Dok-Commander can also be linked with an active building security system, which notifies that system (and activates facility response protocol) if an engaged vehicle restraint is tampered with.

3. Take advantage of third-party energy/safety assessments to identify facility upgrades/justify equipment investments

Great facility managers never stop assessing their equipment and operations. They constantly monitor their workflow and make upgrades proactively, preventing breakdowns before they happen. Third-party safety and energy assessments are another tool by which to do this. Trained dock specialists (Rite-Hite’s Representative Network provides local experts) can help with this by visiting and evaluating facilities, often seeing inefficiencies or potential problem areas that people who work there day-to-day wouldn’t notice. They can analyze operations and equipment from the loading dock to cooler/freezer areas. They can recommend effective locations to place fans for optimum cooling/heating benefits. The trained expert can create site-specific recommendations and cost-savings/ROI projections for facility managers to use with upper management for future planning and budgeting purposes.

4. Implement Planned Maintenance Programs

A proactive approach to facilities management should also include regularly scheduled maintenance by OEM technicians, such as planned maintenance programs (PMP). These regular maintenance checks help facilities save money by making incremental, ongoing adjustments and tune-ups, instead of expensive, ad hoc repairs and unplanned downtime when something unexpectedly breaks. Whether the visits are monthly, quarterly, or annually, the technicians will come to know the facility’s equipment and will be able to help monitor problem areas. They are experts in material handling equipment and are knowledgeable about the types of problems that can occur, so they become one of the best tools in a great facility manager’s toolbox.

5. Be Proactive and address common/known problem areas

There are parts of a facility, such as blind intersections and high speed doors that are known safety concerns. In addition, automated stretch wrap machinery and robotic processes are dangers that also require special attention. Luckily, there are easily installed equipment solutions that can address these issues. For blind corners, Rite-Hite’s Safe-T Signal® and Safe-T-Vu™ essentially operate like stop lights at the ends of aisles or aisle intersections, telling workers when there is traffic coming or if it’s safe to continue. For safety at door openings, Rite-Hite has engineered Graphic User Interface (GUI) door controls, which allow users to program the door without requiring the PPE that is often required to work on live electrical panels. Rite-Hite doors also offer LED Virtual Vision, which alerts workers (or forklifts) approaching the door that workers, forklifts, or AGVs are on the other side. Automated barrier doors, such as Rite-Hite’s Defender™, help contain fumes, sparks, and flying debris while separating machine operators from processes such as robotic welding, automated assembly, or palletizing/packaging machinery. The Rite-Hite Defender™ Cell applies this technology to automated stretch wrap operations.

In any industrial facility, operational challenges abound. Employees may make mistakes, equipment may wear out, and unexpected circumstances (like a global pandemic) may dictate operational changes. Facility managers have a daily challenge to stay on top of and even ahead of these things. Learning from others in the business is a good way to identify best practices that can help their facility be safer and more productive.

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