FSP0011 – QR Codes For Facility Management – Facility Science Podcast #11

By | July 9, 2019
This is a quality of life improvement that is really simple to implement as long as you have access to the Internet,  basic office equipment, and a smartphone.
What is a QR code?

Scan This QR code to send me some feedback email.

  • A QR code (QR = Quick Response) is a 2 dimensional barcode originally designed for use in automotive industry in Japan. Designed to have a higher data density than regular 1 dimensional bar code and also to be easily readable by a computer.
  • It’s a square of little black and white checkerboard looking squares. You’ve probably seen them before on advertisements or signs or products.
  • These can encode letters and numbers that can then be read and acted on very quickly by some computerized device
  • Pretty much all modern smartphones have the capability to read these (iOS/Apple or Android…does Microsoft still make phones? if they do they can probably read QR codes too).
  • For our purposes, we can use the QR code to encode a URL (basically a website address) and take advantage of the capability of the smartphone to read the URL from the QR code and direct the phone to the website or other resource indicated by the URL.
What can we use QR codes for in facility management?  – The basic idea is that we can put the QR codes in various places and have the QR code send our mobile device to whatever information would be most useful in the context of that place.
  • We can print the QR code onto labels to tag our various devices and equipment to provide context-relevant information for maintenance personnel (CMMS pages, manuals, drawings/diagrams). The maintenance personnel could have easy access not only to the documentation needed to do their work, but also potentially the work orders and history associated with the piece of equipment.
  • We can print the QR code onto signs or labels and put them in places where we want building occupants to have access to information or take some action
    • Maybe we can put the QR code on a sign in a restroom or meeting room or something. The QR code could take the user to a maintenance request page or some type of feedback portal.  If you are a property manager, you can do the same thing in leased buildings or in rented residential units. Basically you do this anywhere someone is likely to want to make a maintenance request or give feedback and you want them to do so in a certain way. If, for whatever reason, you collect your maintenance requests or other feedback via email or phone call, you can set up the QR code with an email link or phone number. Modern smartphones will open the email application or allow the user to dial the phone number.
    • Maybe there is some context where the user of the facilities might need some instructions or other documentation. A QR code could link to instructions for AV equipment in the meeting room or how to use the swimming pool area or whatever.
  • Add QR codes to documents to allow easy access to additional copies or the most recent version.
    • forms, checklists, log sheets
    • floor plans, other drawings
  • Also a good idea, where practical, to include the URL or email address or whatever that the QR code points to on the sign or label (possibly under the QR code) so people without a mobile device or don’t know how to or for whatever reason can’t or don’t want to scan the QR code can still access the resource.
How to do it
  • It’s possible your CMMS provider has QR code capability built in, and if they don’t they might be able set it up for you.
  • If your organization has an IT staff that does any kind of coding or development or an operations team that does some kind of product or parts or inventory tracking they can probably help you make QR codes.
  • If you don’t have a CMMS provider that can help you with this, and nobody inside your business does this kind of thing, you can, pretty simply, make your own QR code labels or signs. Just search online for “QR code generator.” There are a lot of them out there.
    • They’ll have a place to enter your url (the link to your resource). They will then generate a QR code image you can download and print on a label or add to a document or sign.
    • I would recommend you don’t use the “dynamic” QR code capability many of the QR code generator sites have (at least without really checking them out first). The main issue I would have with them is if we can’t guarantee they’ll continue to provide the service later. Also, for some of them it might be hard to tell if they are going to use your data appropriately.
Redirecting service and URL shorteners
  • But wait, there’s more…
  • An extra bonus step I like to add is to use a redirection service or a URL shortener.
  • The idea is that instead of making your QR code with the URL of the destination you want to actually reach, you put the URL of a service that will then redirect the phone to the proper URL.
  • The main benefit of this is that, if you want to change the resource pointed to by the QR code, you don’t have to replace the QR code label or sign or whatever. You just reconfigure the redirection for that QR code at the redirection service.
  • Another benefit is that you can have utilization analytics for each different QR code sign or label (even if they link to the same place).
  • In many (maybe most) cases, a redirecting service also acts as a shortening service, some with the intent to make the URL as short as possible. A shorter URL means a smaller QR code which can be useful if you want to place the QR code on a small object (on a tool or mobile device, or in the white space on the corner of a document) and/or have it readable from a longer distance (because with a smaller QR code, each individual feature (the little squares) will be larger at a given print size (say in inches or centimeters).
  • There are commercial link redirection and url shortening services that you can use for this, but it’s pretty easy to set one up in house. If you have a person or team in your business that maintains web sites, it would be easy for them to set up such a mechanism.
  • I use a package called “yourls” (https://yourls.org/) for this and it works great.
What if I don’t have a fancy CMMS or maybe you’re just getting started and you don’t have any type of maintenance management or contact management or organized work reception.
  • First of all, you should make setting that up a very high priority.
  • You can still gain the benefits of QR codes.
  • Start collecting your maintenance information/documentation in something like Evernote or Google docs and point your QR codes at that.
  • You can start organizing your work reception by posting QR codes with email or phone number links in them and directing people to use those rather than telling you or others in your maintenance staff verbally.