AWS for Industries

CGL Facility Management’s Technicians Use an App from AWS Partner QModo AI to Fix Equipment Fast

Companies seeking to manage buildings successfully and safely for their customers face increasingly complex challenges. And the complexity of management and maintenance increases in buildings that are essential to society. Facilities for healthcare, manufacturing, and criminal justice, for example, can’t operate if their equipment is down. They must also meet strict regulations, compliance, and safety standards.

CGL Facility Management (CGL) knows just how difficult it is to achieve efficiency in building maintenance. Its over 400 maintenance technicians are responsible for helping more than 25 million square feet of facilities across the United States to operate well. However, technicians had limited access to the necessary information to repair equipment. Unless technicians had the institutional knowledge to fix something, they’d have to retreat to their offices to search for the solution in binders or on a computer, wasting precious time.

Jeff Twardzik, a former hospital facilities manager, was well aware of the challenges in finding the information needed to keep essential infrastructure operating smoothly. That’s why he and his business partner, Mark Morel, approached CGL with an idea for a solution that would streamline facility management. They planned to build it on serverless and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions from Amazon Web Services (AWS). In November 2019, Twardzik and Morel incorporated AWS Software Partner QModo AI (QModo). CGL began collaborating with the company to build a user-friendly application on AWS that instantly connects technicians with the knowledge they need to maintain facilities and quickly address emergencies.

Using AI to Solve Facility Management Challenges

Facility management companies face a myriad of challenges in delivering efficient service to customers. CGL technicians, for example, aim to spend 90–95 percent of their total working hours fixing equipment and performing regular maintenance such as daily checklists and monthly tests. But they also cover buildings that range from 19,000 to 1 million square feet and campuses that reach 250 to 300 acres. If technicians have to diagnose and fix the equipment, they might waste up to an hour tracking down the right information recorded in various locations and systems.

What’s more, the existing population of maintenance technicians is aging. A large percentage of facility management is nearing retirement. When these technicians leave, they’ll take their know-how with them. Facility management companies like CGL need a way to transfer that priceless knowledge to junior staff and new hires.

By taking advantage of AI, QModo could build a solution on AWS that was not only extremely simple to use, even for technicians without a computer background, but also highly accurate in delivering the right information straight to technicians’ phones—without their ever having to leave the site of the equipment. To quickly become an AWS expert, QModo’s chief technology officer Amir Karuppaiah took many AWS courses, including Introduction to AWS Media Services by Use Case. This course uses representative real-world examples to introduce Media Services on AWS (which can help you create digital content), explain what they do, and demonstrate which ones would work best for specific business needs.

Building a User-Friendly Knowledge Management Solution on AWS

QModo launched its solution in October 2020. It ingests customers’ content—including unstructured data such as building design files and heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning; plumbing; and electrical schematics. Next, the solution uses AI on the backend of a simple interface to deliver relevant videos and documentation to maintenance technicians in the field. Technicians access the solution through an app on their smartphones or on the web. The app helps train staff and supports them in emergencies, like a water pipe break, when they need to access information quickly.

AI is the key to making QModo’s app user friendly for all levels of technology users. “I’ve seen our technicians embrace the QModo app because it gives them the ability to share knowledge,” says Russell Rieske, director of facility management operations and engineering at CGL. “It’s simple enough for the older generation to pick up, but also it’s become the go-to resource for the younger generation.”

The QModo app helps even new hires navigate repairs seamlessly. “They go to a piece of equipment without ever having worked on it and quickly look at a note from an older technician or watch a video that takes them step by step through a fix,” says Rieske. “If they have questions, they click on the operator’s manual in the app and use the search function.” QModo facilitates that search function by using Amazon Lex, a fully managed AI service with advanced natural language models to design, build, test, and deploy conversational interfaces in applications. Rather than typing, technicians can speak a question into their smartphones, helping them find answers quickly.

QModo’s solution gives users access to all the information they need in one place by taking advantage of Amazon Kendra, an intelligent enterprise search service that helps you search across different content repositories with built-in connectors. For example, at prisons maintained by CGL, corrections officers have to guide detainees through complex post orders. Instead of looking through a binder to learn what they’re supposed to do, corrections officers can consult the app on their smartphones.

QModo expects to handle petabytes of data by 2026. As the number of customers and users grows, the company will be able to scale to meet that demand by relying on a serverless architecture. It uses AWS Lambda, a serverless, event-driven compute service, to run code for virtually any type of application or backend service without provisioning or managing servers. The company also uses AWS Amplify, which front-end web and mobile developers use to easily build, ship, and host full-stack applications on AWS, and AWS AppSync to create serverless GraphQL and Pub/Sub APIs that simplify application development through a single endpoint to securely query, update, or publish data.

Adding Features That Further Help Technicians

Using AWS, QModo estimates it responds to new feature requests up to three times faster than it would have taken the company to develop an equivalent feature on its own. The company plans to use Amazon Chime—a communications service that lets users meet, chat, and place business calls inside and outside the organization, all using a single application—for video collaboration so that technicians can call each other for assistance and then record it, making it possible for other technicians to reference it later. “Our first version was just about getting the product out the door quickly so customers could start using it,” says Greg Cory, chief product officer at QModo. “Now, we’re adding depth to the app with features. Because we’re on AWS, we can plug in other components quickly.”

Terry Healy

Terry Healy

Terry Healy is a Senior Account Manager at AWS. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia, and has 10 years of experience in IT. Since 2019, he’s been helping SMB customers in the Southeast US to migrate and modernize on the AWS platform. Outside of work, Terry likes to explore different neighborhoods in New York City, where lives with his wife, Lindsay.