Facility Maintenance: What FMs Need To Keep In Mind

When making maintenance decisions, facility managers need to consider more than just the price of repairing versus replacing aging assets.

facility maintenance
Adobe Stock / murattellioglu

By Ryan Crowe

Every day, facility managers make decisions on maintenance and repairs versus new property investments. The question is, “How do I best maintain the assets in my facility?”

When you make these decisions, there are many factors to consider. One of the most important is the price to repair versus the price to replace aging assets.

Often, the answer is not determined by an obvious dollar amount. You can come up with a reasonable estimate, but you must also consider subliminal benefits; what we know to be true but can never accurately measure. First impression, multiple exposure, and staff confidence are three of these subliminal benefits, and this is where things get interesting.

A secondary, and very good question to ask regarding repairing or replacing would be, “Will the new purchase reduce my ongoing maintenance costs going forward?” We’ll address these questions here.

First Impression

A clean presentation of a retail, restaurant, office, or warehouse space is typically more welcoming than one that is dirty or unkempt. Even if the location looks clean on the tables, desks, or shelves, if the floor is ugly, it creates a negative impression. That bad first impression can turn away a customer the next time when he or she has an optional location to shop, dine, or visit.

The floors in the bathrooms are very important too. Cleanliness is a critical visual sense to every customer that walks in the door. Whether concrete, vinyl composition tile (VCT), stone or epoxy, all floors tend to show wear, which can look unclean.

Multiple Exposure

Customers will spend more time in a well-maintained business. More time inside a business location can mean more sales! Clients will typically tell others about their positive experiences but may not know why. The subliminal effects of cleanliness are felt by the client as well. It is difficult to quantify, but from empirical evidence, we know this to be a fact. A study from the International Journal of Marketing Studies found that the cleanliness of a retail store improves the atmosphere which affects the customer’s feeling towards it. The positive image created makes clients stay longer in the location and increases their comfort to make more purchases.

Staff Confidence

Staff performance and retention is critical to the success of a business. It is reasonable that staff will be much happier working in a well-maintained store over the alternative. This mimics the customer impression of a clean store. Happier staff means happier customers, which can increase sales. It is also reasonable to presume that happier staff means less turnover.

Maintenance Costs – Labor

Surfaces that are much easier to keep clean benefit not only the appearance of the space, but also offers time savings. The time saved will give cleaning crews more time to work on other areas. If you can cut out the jobs that everyone hates doing, this will help improve staff morale and reduce staff turnover.

In addition, cleaning surfaces that look old and tired even after cleaning for hours can be demoralizing. Stained and scratched concrete floors and worn-out vinyl tile are tough to make look good.

For VCT or luxury vinyl tile (LVT) maintenance, a facility manager hires and trains employees to strip and wax the floor, or a janitorial services firm must manage it, at intervals. During the time between intervals the floors continually degrade. When next service interval occurs, the floors are typically not attractive for several days or weeks. Stripping and waxing require hours of labor using expensive equipment and chemicals that are not environmentally safe. The work is highly undesirable, causing high maintenance employee turnover.

When a floor or other surface looks great after it is restored and then is easily cleaned, it can be extremely rewarding for the cleaning employee and the facility manager.

Maintenance Cost – Financial

Many facility managers may not have realized expensive maintenance would be required when choosing to install inexpensive VCT. Schools, for instance, spend a fortune on electricity, labor, and chemicals to clean VCT, which is, on average, $.40 to $1.10 cost per square foot of tile annually. For a 20,000 sq.-ft. facility, that’s $8,000-$22,000 per year.

Deciding how to best maintain a facility and reduce maintenance costs are incredibly important questions. Unfortunately, the answers are impossible to give a dollar value to and are often overlooked. The next time you are making one of those investment versus repair decisions, don’t forget there is more to look at than a spreadsheet with numbers.

Crowe is the Director of Coval Technologies. The company produces long lasting coatings that are easy to apply and provide a robust barrier to chemicals and corrosion.

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