By Bryan Christiansen
A big expansion of your facility is a good sign — it’s usually an indication of business success and company growth. An expansion project is an ideal option when an organization requires more space to function properly due to its growing activities, but would prefer to remain in the same location.
Yet, such growth can become a challenge. For a facility manager, the challenges that come with a major expansion revolve around issues associated with organizing larger spaces, the additional workforce, equipment, and maintenance involved.
Although these challenges may be considered “good” problems, they still demand a proactive step-by-step approach to make them manageable. If not, you could quickly lose control of the situation — and nobody wants to see this exciting period ruined by constant technical issues.
To be prepared is to know what to expect so here are some challenges you are likely to face after big expansion, and how to tackle them.
Maintaining Daily Operations
No matter how large your expansion, your customers and clients will not be impressed if they do not get the products or services they need on time. It’s therefore paramount that regardless of whichever internal activities are going on, all systems that directly impact service delivery must remain functional.
But, a big expansion will likely require extensive reorganization or restructuring of the existing workspace, so it’s important to think the process through thoroughly to avoid disrupting any particular unit. For example, in a building with a lot of computers and other office machines, overlooking a little detail like having enough electrical outlets or internet ports could cause a lot of inconvenience.
Therefore, in the first few days following the expansion, one of your main concerns will be how to maintain daily operations with minimal disruption. Note that despite your best efforts, you may not be totally free of little interruptions at first.
Identify potential problem areas beforehand and have a plan on how to solve them if they do come to mess with you.
Managing More Assets
A larger facility implies that your maintenance team will be responsible for the upkeep of more equipment. To avoid a chaotic situation, you’ll need a proactive and effective approach to keep track of both old and new physical assets.
To make room for more equipment, consider the following:
- Adjusting your maintenance plan and schedule: As new assets arrive at the facility and are installed, it’s essential to include them in your existing maintenance plan right away (even if you do not plan to run proactive maintenance on some of those assets, having all of their data in a CMMS you might be using is never a bad idea). Doing this reduces the risk of forgetting to include a particular machine.If you are currently using a CMMS, ensure that all data (special conditions, warranties, manufacturer’s instructions, safety instructions, etc.) for the new assets are captured in the system from day one. A proactive maintenance plan coupled with a CMMS is your best defense against unplanned downtime, excessive reactive maintenance, growing deferred maintenance backlog, and other system interruptions later on.
- Controlling costs: There’s usually so much activity in the maintenance unit in the first few days after an expansion — new equipment is coming in and tasks are being added, etc. You’ll need to be particularly careful about controlling costs at this time. For instance, don’t go overboard with the ordering of spare parts to the extent that you now have excess inventory and tied-up capital. Again, a CMMS is beneficial here as it will help you optimize inventory management and maintain optimal stock levels.
- Logistics issues: In some cases, the expansion may require that the facility expands its operations to cover additional locations. For this kind of scenario, you can expect a different set of challenges in addition to the ones already mentioned. Moving part of your operations to a different location requires careful planning and being mindful of some of the issues this kind of move causes.You’ll need a clear strategy for handling inevitable delays and unexpected issues, especially logistics and maintenance-related issues and delays in the first few days and weeks. For example, if you intend to move some equipment from the old facility to the new location, a problem that often occurs when moving assets across a considerable distance is that equipment that was working perfectly in its former location may malfunction at the new facility (this can happen due to poor handling during the move or reassembly mistakes). It’s advisable to prepare for this and have backups, spare parts, alternatives, etc. readily available, especially for mission-critical equipment.Managing multiple locations can be a challenge in itself. If you want to have a quick overview of multiple locations and do head-to head performance level comparisons, there are CMMS solutions out there that can help you do just that.
Servicing A Larger Workforce
After expansion, there may be a lot of new faces in the building. Your facility needs to be conducive for all stakeholders, whether that’s senior management, office administrators, the facility maintenance team, or visitors. As a result, more employees coming in will translate to more attention from the maintenance team compared to a smaller workforce.
From cooling and heating to space utilization, cleanliness and orderliness, you can expect the volume of job requests for a building that accommodates 100 people to exceed the requests from a building with 30 people. And, everyone will have their individual preferences. Note that the state of the working environment has a direct influence on productivity, so your team will need to provide a reasonable level of comfort for all the building’s occupants. The safety of everyone is also part of your team’s responsibilities.
In addition, having more people in the building increases the rate of wear and tear on the structure and systems which often means that your preventive maintenance checks need to be performed more often to keep everything running smoothly.
Managing A Larger Team
Typically, a larger facility would require you to manage a larger maintenance team. Although building automation helps to reduce your hiring needs to an extent, you’ll still need more staff on the premises for tasks like cleaning and gardening, and more technicians for executing preventive maintenance tasks. You may also need to collaborate with more suppliers and oversee more third-party contractors.
Managing a larger team comes with its challenges — you now have more people to supervise. It helps if you can adopt an interactive and open relationship with your team members, and delegate as much as possible. Trying to do so much all by yourself will hinder progress give room for inefficiencies.
One area that you’ll need to streamline well in advance of expansion is your maintenance workflow. Do you have a clear and well-defined process to guide your team from work order generation to planning, execution, reporting, and close-out at the end of the job? If you don’t have a standard process for getting things done, the situation will multiply and manifest in the form of serious inefficiencies after expansion.
The Bottom Line
One thing you should be wary of are small problems you never give proper attention to and always postpone solving.
You have some communication issues and slow information flow? This could be a big problem if your team suddenly expands. There is always something on the deferred maintenance backlog? The number of delayed tasks could skyrocket when a bunch of new assets come in. You have problems with shift scheduling and overtime work? Things are surely not going to get better when the scope of operation expands.
Do yourself a favor and try to optimize as many internal processes as you can before you scale.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.
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