SmartParks

When Jim starts his workday at 6:00 a.m., he turns on his computer, and starts the SmartParks program. He scans the list of new and open work requests. He prioritizes and assigns work orders to specific crews, but the bulk of the routine work, such as the mowing and cleaning, are already in the hands of his crew chiefs.

He can look at what tasks were finished yesterday, and how many open work requests each crew has. When a new urgent request arrives he can open a map on his computer that pinpoints the location of the work, and decide which crew will be closest. Then, he can send the work request to the cell phone of the crew chief on the spot.

The crew chief can look on his cell phone display, open any assigned work request, assign workers to the job and keep track of start time and finish time. The cell phone updates the SmartParks program automatically every 5 minutes.

Jim is a very good park manager, one of the best in the Department. His area, which consists of more than 50 parks, including a significant regional park, several large sports complexes, and many community parks, is well run. His workers take pride in their parks. They have the best equipment, are well trained and do a wonderful job.

But work order management did not always work this well.

“I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.” Jim’s frustration exploded as he pounded his desk. “I hate computers, I hate this change, and I hate SmartParks. “This isn’t what they hired me to do, and I’m not good at it. I’m a park manager, not a computer person.”

It seemed as if the tremendous potential of this new work order management program — its sparkling technology, geography information system (GIS) integration, electronic work orders, instant inventory and more — was a burden, not a help to this Montgomery County Parks manager.

Montgomery County Department of Parks in Maryland is a component of the metropolitan Washington bi-county agency of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC). The Department, an award-winning, successful, and well-funded suburban park agency with authority over more than 32,600 acres of parkland, is in the process of implementing a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) called SmartParks. Even though we kicked off the work order management and facility inventory system over a year and a half ago, the implementation phase of the process continues.

Our new system consists of a Work Order Management System which functions in conjunction with a computerized inventory of all park properties, land records, and park facilities, such as trails, fields, buildings, and playgrounds, including their maintenance and repair records.

Why CMMS?

We turned to CMMS because when it was time to defend our budget requests before the budget-approving County Council, we could not answer some very basic questions: How much does it cost to maintain an athletic field? If we add a local park of X size, how much funding do we need to maintain it? How many acres do we mow? How many parks do we have? If the budget is cut, what won’t get done? Is it cheaper to contract the work out or do it in-house?

Without being able to answer the Council members’ questions quickly and with some assurance of accuracy, they began to lose confidence we were as efficient or effective as we claimed and perhaps did not need as much funding as we were requesting. We decided we needed the help of a CMMS to help track the costs of our maintenance activities and possibly streamline our delivery of service.

Project Implementation

We began by creating a Request For Proposals and selected Maximus, Inc. as the vendor for our new system. Maximus then developed the following implementation plan:

Define goals and deliverables

Create and empower a project team and manager

Review our business practices and improve them

Customize the software and screens to our needs

Train our users — managers and project staff

Goals and Deliverables

The major goals (and deliverables) for our implementation plan included: basic/effective cost accounting, the creation of logical and efficient work processes, park-wide access to centrally managed park inventories and, tying it all together, effective utilization of park resources.

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