Over the last couple of years IWMS vendors have extended their customer horizon from local region / country specific customers to the large Fortune 500 multinationals.
When IWMS vendors are crossing borders, they have to face all kinds of internationalization (i18n) challenges. In this week’s post about I18n challenges of IWMS’s, multi-measurement will be discussed.
Cooperation between local subsidiaries of a company is extremely important for all businesses which have activities in more than one country. High quality communication is imperative for making cross-border communication a success. Although most organizations acknowledge this still many mistakes are made.
When communicating with your colleagues it’s important to speak the same language in terms of measurement otherwise costly faults and errors could potentially harm your organization severely. Due to the different measurement systems mistakes between the US and the rest of the world are easily made.
One of the worst examples of a costly mistake is the loss of a $125 million NASA Mars orbiter in 1999 because one engineering team used metric units while another used US customary units for a calculation.
Imperial versus Metric
“Imperial units or the imperial system is a system of units, first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, later refined (until 1959) and reduced. Systems of imperial units are sometimes referred to as foot-pound-second. “ (Wikipedia)
“The metric system is an international decimalized system of measurement, first adopted by France in 1791, that is the common system of measuring units used by most of the world. Metric units are widely used around the world for personal, commercial and scientific purposes. A standard set of prefixes in powers of ten may be used to derive larger and smaller units from the base units.” (Wikipedia)
As of 2008, all countries that used the imperial system have become officially metric, except for the United States, Burma and Liberia implicating that especially between the United States and the rest of the world problems could arise when measurements are involved.
Measurement within the IWMS domain
Although the official measurement units are far more complex than length and weight (and their variations) these are most common in the IWMS domain.
- AutoCAD drawings per measurement unit (ft. vs. meters)
- Space Allocation per measurement unit (Sq ft. vs. M²)
- Costs Chargeback per measurement unit (Sq ft. vs. M²)
- Lease Costs per measurement unit (Sq ft. vs. M²)
- Carbon Emissions per measurement unit (imperial tons vs. metric tons)
- Reporting per measurement unit
Guidelines for multi-measurement
When your organization is present both in the United States and the rest of the world you will face multi-measurement issues within Facilities Management and Corporate Real Estate without doubt. Therefore iwmsnews.com is providing a number of guidelines for coping with these issues.
1. Pick one leading system
Most organizations have formalized the corporate language usage and the same should apply for the measurement system. Just as you do for your company language it should be clear for everyone which system is the primary system.
2. Think global, act local
Although you have picked the global leading measurement system, facilities management and operations are primarily locally oriented. Therefore you have to ensure that local employees can still use their measurement system. Otherwise even more costly mistakes will be made. This automatically leads to guideline 3.
3. Measurement system preference at user level
When a user from the United States opens the Integrated Workplace Management Solution all measurements should be imperial. (CAD Drawings in ft.) whereas the same drawing is viewed by an user from Europe all measurements should be in meters. This implicates that measurement information should be stored at the user level.
Especially for reporting users should be able to choose their measurement system. E.g. the costs per square meter is not relevant for a United States employee. This employee needs the costs per square foot to evaluate the quality of a lease contract. However, if you need cross-border reports it’s imperative that you can choose the measurement system. E.g. compare lease contracts from the United States with lease contracts from Europe in one single report.