Getting Started With Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is an important subject in our business. With shrinking budgets we are often put in a position of deferring maintenance and pushing the cost down the road. This is not a preferred method, but it is often the option we choose due to lost budget dollars. We are caught in this vicious circle and have a hard time of getting off the proverbial merry-go-round. Preventive maintenance will help with the life-cycle cost of your equipment.

We find ourselves putting off preventive maintenance because of the large amount of data required to input in the database to make record keeping effective. has a great online program for tracking preventive maintenance but many people buy PMDirect and get caught up in the details of information gathering and never roll out the product. I ran into this problem myself several years ago.

What to Do
Let me make an observation here that revolutionized my thought process. We decided to start small. In putting things that could be done right away, such as change filters on all air handlers, lubricate all moving parts and change belts where needed in a building. This at least created a PM work order that my maintenance staff could complete. It was simple but effective.

As time permitted, we were able to break out specific detail to each PM work order for each unit vent, air handler and other HVAC devices, giving better data for future reporting and proving needed budget changes as we moved from year to year. Budget increases seldom came, but we were able to see where to better allocate the funds that were available.

Throughout the years we added to our list of PM work orders, better defining the work that needed to be done on all our building assets. From roof top inspections to playground equipment, we have systematically added work orders to the list with greater detail.

Doing nothing really is not an option. With the rising cost of our assets, we had to make sure that there was an effective program in place to keep the equipment working and getting top performance at all times.

Lower Cost
A good PM program will lower your operating cost by allowing your equipment to meet its maximum life expectancy. Every day, you put it off will likely increase your future cost of operation from early loss of equipment, due to lack of proper maintenance. This is unacceptable in today’s ever increasing cost of operation combined with reductions in operating budgets.

Good data on the life cycle cost of your equipment will also allow you to present to your business office and board of education an informed and documented need to fund the operations department adequately. At the very least, it will show that you are being diligent in protecting the district assets with the operating funds that you are allocated. Without this data, you will be guessing at the real cost and needs of your department. Well-documented proposals always receive better consideration than those that are not.

Do Not Put It Off
It is easy to say, “I will start this tomorrow;” the problem is tomorrow never comes. Days, months, then years pass and important information is lost that would have helped you better plan for the future. We also make the excuse that “I just do not have the time to get this done.” I would contend that you really do not have time to waste.

You will never be blamed for having too much information to back up your requests for funding. You will be challenged to prove your need for funding every year. With the rising cost of equipment replacement and the need to extend the life of the existing equipment in your buildings, waiting is not a good idea.

Wrap Up
Fraser Public Schools has been faced with budget cuts over the last several years just as most schools around the country. We have lost operational dollars and staffing to this budget crisis. Through all this we have been able to protect the life of our equipment through a vigorous PM program.

This last year we were awarded by the PM-Masters Certificate for being in the top 10 percent of the nation with preventive maintenance. We started out small, allowing the staff to get started with the process of PM and built from there a database that allowed us to effectively keep up with the preventive maintenance needs of our district.

John Thompson has been in public education for over 33 years. He is currently working as a consultant with his company SE Michigan Facilities Management, LLC in the public education sector for Fraser Public Schools.