Less Reactive, More Proactive Facility Maintenance

Here are six strategies that help facility management teams establish a framework towards proactive maintenance.

By Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord

There’s no limit to the number of emergencies or overall general issues that must be addressed by facility management on a regular basis. No telling how many times facility maintenance staff likely needed to cut off the water supply during office hours, close a number of restrooms because of plumbing issues, put out literal fires, or even order maintenance for jammed windows that have recently been painted.

As much as facility management leaders would like to be proactive about such problems, sometimes it’s hard to do anything but react to them. There are a few strategies that might help you prevent some of these issues, reduce organizational costs, and improve the services you provide. Here are six such steps to help facility management departments switch from a reactive approach to more proactive facility maintenance.facility maintenance

As is likely obvious, most organizations employ a reactive strategy for managing property, machinery, and other organizational assets. Actions are taken based on registered complaints, troubles, and even malfunctions, as they occur. This is a destructive and expensive strategy that leads to higher costs over time, and if you only perform maintenance when something breaks down, your buildings, facilities, and assets are likely to be less safe and less reliable than if they receive regular maintenance.

Instead, you might want to switch to a more proactive maintenance policy where maintenance work is done according to a plan to prevent malfunctions, but you must establish a good framework, to help you define your vision and establish your plan.

1. Determine your vision. If you want to be a great property manager, you must set goals for what you expect property management and facility maintenance to be. If you plan to give up one of your organization’s buildings, you don’t need to invest much money in it in the short term. On the other hand, if you want your building to represent your organization better or last for the long term, you’ll need to invest resources into it. Creating a clear vision for each building or for your entire facility makes long-term property management much easier. You know what you want for your building in the future.

2. Create a vision plan of your property. Your vision outlines what you want your facilities must look like in the future. Achieving your vision means you must you’ll first need to know what state your facility is in regarding maintenance. During the outline, also remember to benchmark the current state of your property and any flaws it may have. This might come in handy as you move forward with your plans.

3. Create a long-term plan. Using a long-term plan helps you establish what needs to be done to get your property and facilities to the state you have as a goal. Investments for these actions can be spread evenly over a few years and by clustering similar jobs together to bundle costs. For example, postpone minor paint jobs until after major maintenance jobs on windowpanes. Likewise, try not to put too many details in the long-term plan as it may not be valuable for you to plan too far into the future. For example, attempting to create a very detailed plan for 10 years out is likely a pointless or fruitless task. Doing so can create a tremendous degree of uncertainty, but stick to big picture themes and go further into detail in the annual facility management plan.

4. Provide a plan for the year ahead. Organizations should focus on their long-term needs each year to examine which jobs can be finished within a specific timeline for the plan year and if others might come through that were unexpected. Some jobs and actions will simply follow from existing contracts with suppliers. Regular paint or other facility contract work are a good example of this. To avoid having to process these agreements manually in your operations list, you can have them planned automatically. If you’re doing this, it’s a good idea to have clear agreements with your suppliers beforehand. In those agreements you can establish a time frame during which the work has to be done.

5. Execute planned activities. When your annual plan is finalized, you will know what activities you can expect to accomplish, what the likely costs will be, and how you can communicate these efforts to your teams. Some of your plan will be established beforehand, like annual emergency equipment checks, but other projects — like one offs — can be tracked. For example, some projects means nothing more than following the quote with a contract that expires once the project is done. These are easily executable, and clearly fit into your annual plans.

6. Monitor and direct progress. To make sure a building get to the desired maintenance level, check its condition regularly. This is the most obvious of advice, of course. When doing so, you don’t need to document complete detail unless there’s a specific need to do so regarding an area of the your facilities – like checking faulty elevators, electrical components or some other systems designed to keep the building and your employees safe. Track and review the facility regularly to ensure that it is safe to work in and that your organization is protected from liability; any repairs, you must direct accordingly.

Predicting The Unpredictable

Even when you’ve switched to proactive facilities maintenance, malfunctions and emergency maintenance issues are simply a fact of life. You can minimize their frequency with proactive maintenance and through such an approach you’re better able to predict when certain systems, equipment, and parts have to be replaced. Doing so makes it easier to manage maintenance costs, and you’ll likely face fewer unexpected spikes in the facility workload.

facility maintenanceVan Elsacker Louisnord is the president of TOPdesk US, a company that develops, markets, implements, and supports standard user-friendly service management software for IT, facilities management, HR, maintenance, complaints registration and the service desk for all sized organizations. She is responsible for leading the division’s business development, client acquisition, and customer services efforts. Prior to launching TOPdesk’s North American division in 2015, Van Elsacker Louisnard led the organization’s expansion efforts in Belgium for eight years and was responsible for the startup and TOPdesk’s operations there.