Maintenance & Operations

Managing the Day-to-Day Operations of a Maintenance Department

Managing the day-to-day operations of a maintenance department can be very fluid if you have a solid plan that designates expectations. Most school divisions across the country have standard protocols for their employees through handbooks. These handbooks are designated for exempt and non-exempt staff, usually in the form of a professional handbook or classified handbook. These handbooks outlay the general responsibilities for jobs and serve as a reference for employment. Having a maintenance staff handbook can be beneficial in formalizing specific expectations of those that work in the trades or operations field.

Having a plan that exemplifies specific general outcomes in this area of work is very important. Having proper attire in the work place is not just for aesthetics. Uniforms promote unity, and certain trades require arc flash ratings to keep those that work on energized equipment safe in case of arc flash. Technicians should be dressed appropriately and look professional. Name badges and credentials are also important pieces to a uniform. Badges not only identify an employee, but some badges can be used as make shift swipe cards for door entry, as well as for swiping for payroll purposes. Safety shoes are another important component of the uniform, especially those technicians that have to work in an environment where they should wear steel toed shoes. The philosophy of looking like a professional and acting like a professional usually yields the result of being treated like a professional.

Having set expectations for the work day is also essential. Clocking in and out on time and being punctual for work is important. Employees should be prepared to come to work each day knowing the expectations for work orders, how to get parts, and how to manage and complete the necessary paperwork for travel logs and maintenance work orders. There should be some expectations of work completion. Employees should have their work materials ready to get jobs started at the beginning of the day. They should also know the expectations to turn in work orders and procedures for closing out business for the day. Work orders should be consistently monitored for efficiency and performance. Trade staff should know what these expectations are.

Many school divisions have a white fleet that allows maintenance crews to use a city or county vehicle for getting to and from schools and support sites. These vehicles are driving billboards. Maintenance staff should be cognizant that citizens are paying close attention to what their tax dollars are paying for. There should be specific guidelines for drivers to include maintaining proper speed, not using a cell phone while driving, wearing seat belts, and having the proper demeanor behind the wheel. It is also good practice to do background checks through your state’s department of motorized vehicles. This type of monitoring will allow a school division to have first-hand knowledge of those employees that have excessive points on their driving record. Using cones around trailers and vehicles is also essential for safety. Truck logs also help monitor where technicians are spending their time. Some school divisions even have advanced GPS tracking systems that can monitor idle time, location, speed, and start/stop times for their white fleet.

Inventory control and asset management of technicians is also an important part of the monitoring system that should be in place in a school division. Tools and equipment should be tagged and asset controlled. An inventory audit should be done yearly. This audit will allow technicians to demonstrate their ability to manage inventory and tools that may be in a white fleet vehicle. Each technician should be responsible for this. Proper paperwork should be completed when machinery and tools are to be transferred or taken out of service. Monitoring for accountability of resources makes technicians more responsible for them.

Having a plan of action and a handbook for maintenance departments is essential. Technicians should know their day to day responsibilities and be held accountable at the highest level. Having sound rules and procedures allows a school division’s maintenance department to flow more smoothly. Technicians are essential in maintaining a school building so the school building does not become a variable that influences the learning environment.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management January/February 2019 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

John A. Bailey, Ph.D. is the director of School Plants for Chesapeake Public Schools and a National School Plant Managers Association board member, representing Virginia, and a Virginia School Plant Managers Association board member, representing Region II, in Virginia.