Time for a Checkup

What are you doing with all the “spare” time you and your project managers now have? You know… since you’re not doing all those renovations and other capital projects? The theory is that there should be plenty of time for other things for your staff to do… that is, if your staff survived the cuts and right sizing over the past couple years.

Now is a great time to perform a facilities checkup. This is not so much a full facility audit per se, but more of a systems or functions check. The intended outcome here is exactly the same as when a person goes to the doctor for a physical to make sure the organs are functioning properly, that the bloodworm shows no anomalies, and if any issues are discovered to take the appropriate corrective action. And as with our own physicals, the point is to make them routine so nothing has a chance to get too far out of whack.

Where to Start
What are we really looking at here? You know your organization best so you’ll quickly have an idea where to start, but a good idea will be to start with a look at the organization as a whole: policy and procedures, systems (such as CMMS), building automation, and inventories. Finally, the follow-up and corrective action is critical to the whole process.

Simple things such as an up-to-date organizational chart will go a long way in beginning the checkup. Job descriptions will have changed due to the changes in and consolidation of workload. It is important for all positions to have these up-to-date and have the employees familiar with current expectations. When reviewing policy and procedure, ensure that these are up-to-date and address existing staffing. Policy and procedure do not make the organization successful, but merely provide operational parameters that help achieve the goals you’ve set.

Equipment and Systems Checks
Computer programs are extremely important to the operational success of any maintenance department. Within the CMMS (computerized maintenance management system), ensure that equipment information is updated as changes are made, whether it is new equipment installed, belt sizes changed, etc. Simple things, such as updating new motor information, can save a technician critical time when performing a repair, especially under emergency conditions. Don’t forget the big stuff too: we often forget to add chillers, boilers, and air handlers to the CMMS database when they are installed or replaced. Being current is critical, as supervisors and managers also rely on the CMMS for reports and work loading.

Review the function and efficiency of the inventory and its associated program. Review the parts on hand to ensure they match the current facilities’ requirements. Weed out the obsolete and unnecessary items, update the shelf stock, and make sure whatever system you use to track it all reflects all the changes made in the field.

Also remember the heart and soul of the building operations, the building automation system (BAS). Ensure that all areas and functions within the system are appropriately named and properly labeled, update software if necessary, and double-check the control functions and sequences. Do your fieldwork first, then ensure the control and operational logic is sound. Optimization is one of the primary reasons we have a BAS. Make sure the system is working for you the way it was designed. It will save you time and money!

Know the Plan
While not specifically maintenance-related, this lull in the action is also an excellent and opportune time to take a strong look at the campus master plan and current capital and deferred maintenance plans. The maintenance department will benefit by possibly having new equipment installed or areas renovated. The current economy has most everything on sale. Take advantage of this situation and invest in updates to your campus. Never has the education field been more competitive, and our current and prospective students are comparing us with other institutions. Do your part to be competitive from a facilities perspective!

Reviewing and updating your campus master plan is a perfect way to know exactly what your current and future needs are. Involve the entire campus community in this process and the facilities/plant services/maintenance departments will reap great rewards. Just be sure that if you undertake the process of master planning, don’t cubbyhole the thing after it is presented to you. Continue to work from it, remembering to include the appropriate constituency along the way.

As with any effective checkup, it is critical to the long-term success of your organization that preventive and corrective action is taken where necessary. Take the time to make permanent the changes you’ll be effecting. Also, remember to stay with the “new” program. Make these updates and routine checkups a regular part of your operational protocol. This will ensure that when things pick up and we get crazy busy again, that we’ll stay on top of these things just as we do when we regularly see our own physicians… it’s that important!

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at [email protected]