1. Key Insights
The City of Meadow Lake recognized the need to transform its public works department in order to keep up with the demands of a growing community. Without a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), its public works department relied on excel and paper-based records to organize service requests and track information related to past work orders. Managing public works activities and locating records was a cumbersome process. By implementing a CMMS, Meadow Lake transformed the way it organizes its service requests and work orders. Utilizing a customizable work order system, the City’s Public Works Clerk labelled public works activity types according to terminology already used by the department, making the implementation of the system more seamless. Moreover, the ready-to-use format of the system allowed Meadow Lake to start using the CMMS immediately for activity-based work orders. Once the municipality updates its asset register with more detailed asset attribute data, it will be able to directly link work orders to assets in the system, but in the meantime, Meadow Lake has been able to gain enormous efficiencies through issuing activity-based work orders in its CMMS.
2. Meadow Lake’s Work Order Challenge
As Meadow Lake’s population grew and the town developed into a city, the municipality had to ensure that its organization grew with it. With a growing population comes more traffic and utility use, with more stressors on the City’s assets. Without a CMMS, the department of public works faced inefficiencies in carrying out its activities. Recognizing its organization’s shortcomings, the municipality set out to improve its asset management and service delivery efforts, making the implementation of a CMMS a top priority.
Like many other communities across Canada, the City of Meadow Lake’s asset management journey began in 2009 when the municipality was first required to report the value of its capital assets in accordance with PSAB 3150. At that time, asset management was primarily an accounting exercise for most local governments across Canada, but as it became apparent that asset data should be used to inform decision-making regarding preventative maintenance and infrastructure investments, municipalities looked for new tools and resources to help build asset management capacity. In 2013, the City of Meadow Lake purchased PSD’s CityWide Asset Manager (AM) – an asset management system designed for local governments. By June 30, 2018 all Saskatchewan municipalities were required to develop an asset register for all asset classes – in line with Federal Gas Tax requirements – meaning that Meadow Lake was well ahead of the curve.
With an asset register in place, Meadow Lake had a centralized system to store asset data, but it was still lacking the technology and processes to streamline its work order management. Prior to having a CMMS, the City of Meadow Lake did not have a deliberate way to organize service requests, and detailed records of previous work orders were nonexistent. Tracking service requests was a cumbersome process, bogging down the municipality’s Public Works Clerk, and getting service requests approved by the Public Works Manager was anything but streamlined. Without a detailed and automated process for approvals, work orders would be delayed, with many activities requiring a quick turnaround for the intervention to be most effective and efficient. It was apparent that Meadow Lake would need to transform its work order processes and equip its public works department with a CMMS in order to overcome these challenges. In 2015, Meadow Lake acquired PSD’s Works module – a CMMS. With Works fully integrated with its CityWide AM module, Meadow Lake was now supported by an enterprise asset management system.
Insight 1: Customizing a work order system builds buy-in and improves results
One of the main benefits of the CMMS for Meadow Lake is its customizability; during implementation, staff were able to decide how they wanted the system to function in a way that best suits their needs. Meadow Lake’s chosen application is an open-source, web-hosted, enterprise-wide system that requires no additional third-party licenses, no additional onsite equipment, space, electrical, or onsite technical support staff.
The City of Meadow Lake assigned its Public Works Clerk as the administrator of the CMMS module. Christie Wiggers, Senior Asset Management Consultant at PSD, notes the value of an organization beginning with just one system administrator for the CMMS, insofar that he or she learns and becomes familiar with how to configure the system. With implementation assistance and training, the system administrator should be able to customize the module in such a way that functions best for their community. In the case of the City of Meadow Lake, the CMMS module is configured so that all service requests are sent to the Public Works Clerk – a feature customized by the municipality.
Further, the module allows work order and service request types to be defined by the municipality. This allows for a more seamless transition from the old work order process by integrating existing terminology into the new CMMS module. The City of Meadow Lake categorized its work order types to include curb stops and waste collection, and its service request types to include snow removal and water issue, to name a few (see figure 1). The most common work order type for Meadow Lake in 2018 was “waste collection”, and the most common service request type was “water meters”. Having standardized terminology for work order and service request types not only allows for a more streamlined work order process, but it also provides municipalities like Meadow Lake with robust and accurate data to inform decisions related to service delivery and preventative maintenance.
Insight 2: Work order process improvements can begin before asset inventories are complete
Like many other municipalities in Saskatchewan and across Canada, the City of Meadow Lake continues to add data and information to its asset management register. Adequate, detailed, and up-to-date data is integral to the success of any community’s asset management program. The City of Meadow Lake began developing its asset management inventory when PSAB 3150 requirements were set forth. Despite the generation of a capital asset inventory, many assets were not included in the register and detailed asset attribute data was often missing, such as condition or material type. According to Federal Gas Tax requirements in Saskatchewan, municipalities with more than 5,000 people will have to add the current and desired condition of assets for four asset classes in their register by June 30, 2019. The City of Meadow Lake continues to enter assets and asset condition data into its asset register in hopes to have a complete and accurate inventory by year end.
Regardless of the state of a community’s asset management inventory, however, a CMMS should allow users to utilize the system quite robustly by way of activity-based work orders. Activity-based work orders are not connected to any specific asset, thereby allowing a community to still use the system – and more specifically, the service requests and work order functions – without a detailed asset inventory. Once the asset register is complete, the City of Meadow Lake will be able to take full advantage of all the functionality of the CMMS module, but in the meantime, Meadow Lake is improving work flow and realizing significant benefits. In 2018, Meadow Lake issued 882 work orders via its CMMS, compared to 193 in 2017, clearly demonstrating the municipality’s rapid adoption of the tool and the positive outcome of its work order process improvements.
Insight 3: Digitalizing service requests can streamline process and vastly improve record keeping
Centralizing service requests is one of the two areas of robust change that the City of Meadow Lake introduced. Prior to acquiring a CMMS module, according to the Public Works Manager, work was done “as it came up.” Today, service requests come from various departments in the organization. Through the CMMS module, an employee creates the service requests which are subsequently sent to the Public Works Clerk to be administrated to the Public Works Manager. The Clerk then receives the service request from within the record. From here, a new work order for the service request can also be created or it can be closed and dismissed. If approved by the Manager, the service request is processed as a new work order, which is subsequently sent to the Manager of Public Works for his team to begin work on. In 2018, Meadow Lake recorded 598 service requests in its CMMS with unprecedented detail, compared to 33 in 2017, demonstrating advancement in streamlining its service request process.
The Public Works Clerk notes that the process by which the CMMS module streamlines service requests into work orders has allowed for a much more organized public works department. The digitalization of service requests and work orders allows for enhanced organization and faster processing. For example, when service requests arise during the winter months on work that cannot be done until the spring, the work order is given the status of, “Waiting for Spring Thaw”, categorizing all similar work orders in the same way. By organizing these work orders in such a way, come May, the Public Works Manager can export a list of all work orders that are awaiting work to be done.
Even more, the digitalization of service requests and work orders allow for better record keeping for future work and projects. Prior to utilizing a CMMS, there was no method of record keeping in place and in turn, there was no detailed record of previous work done on an asset. Now, important details surrounding the work order are documented, including which employees were present, the date and time of the work order, and the results of the work order. The module also permits for attachments to be included to all individual work orders. Keeping detailed records of previous work orders allows for more informed decision making and as the Public Works Clerk remarked, “things won’t be missed as often, if at all.”
Overall, the digitalization of work order management in Meadow Lake has transformed the efficiency of public works activities two-fold. First, all service requests are centralized to the Public Works Clerk, allowing for a more coordinated and efficient approach to organizing and creating work orders. Second, by way of generating work orders through a CMMS, the City of Meadow Lake has enhanced its record keeping capability, allowing for more informed decision-making related to ongoing and future public works activities. With plans to continue building its asset management register and internal capacity in 2019, Meadow Lake will derive even greater efficiency and informed decision-making from the use of its work order system.
Kathleen Charlton has worked in the Department of Public Works at the City of Meadow Lake since August 2017. At the time, the City was underutilizing its CMMS. Since Kathleen was new and had not been trained in the old way of doing things, it was easier for her to start working with CityWide. As part of her duties as Public Works Clerk, Kathleen is responsible for managing the Works system and overseeing work order management. She especially appreciates the organization CityWide gives her as well as quick access to information on previous work.