Companies of all stripes are rushing into digital transformation efforts in order to take advantage of all kinds of benefits, including streamlining processes to save time and money. The data center industry is no different, and an analysis of data centers that Schneider Electric’s Critical Facility Operations team manages for two different companies shows moving to a digitized data center operations platform resulted in hundreds of hours of labor savings and a 17% reduction in costs.
The savings came after each company’s data center operations team transitioned from paper-based systems to a fully digital facility operations platform that provided numerous benefits, including:
- Reducing the time it takes to complete tasks
- Increasing consistency in operations
- Reducing the potential for human error
- Improving the quality of data
The setup: data center configuration
While we can’t name the companies in question, the first company’s data centers include one 6,000 square-foot production data center along with a 14,000-square foot research and development facility that includes IT space, both housed within a 100,000 square foot recently constructed building. This site utilizes a 12-hour x 6 day on-call coverage model with a mixture of senior and mid-level personnel.
The second company’s site is a 20-year-old, 20,000-square foot data center, also housed within a larger building of more than 100,000 square feet. It uses a 24×7 coverage model with a mix of senior, mid-level and junior personnel.
Benefits of the digitized operations platform begin with a 30% reduction in the time to prepare and execute walkthrough inspections, equating to 492 hours in savings per year. The digital platform eliminated the administrative time required to print checklists, scan them to digital formats, file the results, and log time. Automated timestamping and gated checklists reduced the likelihood of human error and the possibility that inspections can be checked off without actually being performed.
The digitized operations platform also saved an hour per day, every day, in data entry. Technicians previously gathered environmental and power statistics from equipment on paper and manually entered it into a third-party application for data trending. This effectively means they entered data twice, a process prone to error. The digitized platform merges the two actions into a single process, saving 365 hours of labor per year.
The legacy process to create, approve, and execute a method of procedure (MOP) was also significantly streamlined by the digital operations platform by automating many of the legacy steps. For example, the digital platform allows for pre-approved, site-specific tasks to be added to the MOP as “blocks,” which speeds the creation and approval process. In all, the platform saved 80 procedure hours per year, a reduction of 16% vs. the legacy process.
Perhaps the biggest potential area of improvement is the elimination of manual data mining. All third-party vendor service visits, engineering studies, financial audits. and forensic evaluations require large volumes of data to be manually mined and organized. It’s estimated that up to a third of data recorded in a year by critical facility professionals will have to one day be mined again for a different purpose. The digital operations platform captures data directly into a database when it’s originated, so the time it takes to again mine that one-third of existing data is eliminated, saving 1,217 hours per year. What’s more, the data can also be used for predictive analytics and condition-based maintenance functions, potentially adding more savings in reduced maintenance costs and downtime reduction.
Adding up the gains from a digital operations platform
Overall, the two data centers employ six technicians and managers. Let’s assume, for example, their average hourly rate in the U.S. market is $53. The digital platform freed up 2,156 person-hours, for a cost savings of $114,000 when that time is re-allocated to other projects (potentially with added earning potential) or the team is right-sized. That represents a savings of 17%.
Schneider Electric developed the digital platform they used to make these improvements, which we call Critical Facility Professional. It’s now an essential part of the Enhanced Critical Facility Operations for Gray Space service that we launched in July of 2019. That means any company can take advantage of it for their own data center(s). To learn more and see if this is a fit for your business, check out our Critical Facility Operations site.