Facilities (Campus Spaces)

Spring Preventive Maintenance: Achieving Excellence

Preventive Maintenance


Spring will be here before you know it, and with it a fresh round of preventive maintenance. While following through on checklists is critical to saving energy dollars, extending the life of equipment and saving on repair costs (more thoughts on that later), high-quality preventive maintenance is part of a facilities department mindset that insists on excellence in four different areas.


In 2013, the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson was awarded APPA’s highest institutional honor: the 2013 Award for Excellence, which highlights the essential role of facilities operations in an institution’s overall mission and vision. Christopher Kopach, CEFP, assistant vice president of Facilities Management, attributes that excellence to teamwork. “We changed the overall culture of our department,” he says. “We started with key leaders, getting everyone trained and on the same page. Then we worked with staff. We created a new common vision to succeed in a difficult financial time, and teamwork is critical to that success.”


To boost the teamwork focus, the department has had a key saying every year. In 2011, it was “running the department like a business,” which was intended to promote cost effectiveness, and that leads to the second area of excellence: customer service. “There’s always a concern of outsourcing versus in-house staffing,” Kopach reminds. “I’ve always said no one can do the job better than we can, provided we’re working together to produce a cost-effective product. To that end, we focus quite a bit of staff training and focus on customer service. We want to be the provider of choice for services we offer our campus community.”


“I’ve been in facilities for 32 years,” says Kopach, “and the trick to success is communication. We’re communicating all the time.” He notes that routine meetings with different employee groups are essential for idea gathering. “Who better to ask how to improve our services than the men and women who perform the work on a daily basis?” he asks. “In doing so, we eliminate barriers and perfect the use of the latest techniques, technology and equipment.”

Similarly related to communication, UA employs PDCA: Plan, Do, Check and Adjust, a project management tool that assists with change. Plus, the team measures and reports on an ongoing basis: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” Kopach says succinctly.


Strong leadership starts with leadership development, which UA values. “If we have good leaders,” says Kopach, “we will have good employees.” He explains that his department will lose 60 percent of employees in the next 10 years because of retirement, and that includes 40 out of 90 leaders. This makes a solid training program imperative.

Maintenance Supplies


An ounce of prevention. By forming a clear and focused understanding of an institution’s mission and goals, facility managers can build a solid foundation on which to develop a realistic maintenance program. Only through such a focused understanding can a program be developed that will support the broader goals of the institution. Managers must then work to gain an honest and objective understanding of the current status of their respective operations. Lastly, managers must continually monitor and compare actual progress to projected progress. It is not a simple matter of putting a plan or program together and letting it rip.

Do more with less: UA administrators are doing more with less. For example, they’re purchasing higher-quality filters that require changing every six months, as opposed to lowerquality filters that require changing every three months.

Prepare for your climate: Arizona experiences heavy rain in July and August. Knowing this, Kopach ensures that all roofs have been maintained before July. More, all roofs are recoated on a four-year cycle, and 10-year spreadsheets provide analyses of what areas need work. Similarly, cooling plants are preventively maintained in the winter. “This allows them to run from Memorial Day to Labor Day without a hiccup,” says Mark St. Onge, EFP, UA’s assistant director of Facilities Management.

Clean from the outside in: “We believe in an outside in philosophy,” Kopach says. “Our buildings are cleaner on the inside if we keep the dirt on the outside.” In Arizona, that means keeping sand and its oil out so that it doesn’t work its way into carpet or wear down finishes on hard floors. At UA, every day the campus’s 6.5 miles of street are swept.

Make stewardship a priority: Of course preventive maintenance is important, but building stewardship is more so. Monte Kugley, a maintenance manager with University of Iowa (UI) in Iowa City, phrases it this way: “There are a lot of things that are important, but our thinking is that stewardship is first. Everything else regarding day-to-day workings in the buildings falls in line after that.”

Establish standard operating procedures (SOPs): Administrators at UI have refined processes in order to streamline the number of steps needed to complete the spring changeover process and are establishing SOPs per piece of equipment per building. “The SOPs are a direction dictionary, if you will, as to how each piece of equipment should operate and what needs to be done to maintain it,” Kugley says. “Its value comes when a person must work with a piece of equipment with which he or she is not familiar, such as when the usual technician is on vacation.”

Show the team the numbers: UI administrators have been working toward a two-part, 2020 energy goal. Recognizing the value of proactive preventive maintenance as a means of meeting one goal of reducing energy consumption by 10 percent, the team realized a need to look at steam trap maintenance.

“We hadn’t done steam trap maintenance for a few years and, before that, it wasn’t a well-defined process, reports Mike Lee, senior manager of Maintenance Services. “We did an inventory and found steam traps we didn’t know we had. Then we started making repairs. In the first year, we identified $300,000 steam-loss savings and 6,000 tons of emissions on the generating end, and we only did a little more than one-third of our buildings.” He acknowledges that developing a program is helping them reach their goal but, more important, informing the entire team of the savings makes it easier to achieve buy in and build teamwork.

Focus on continued efficiency: “Preventive maintenance schedules are living documents,” says Kugley, “and we’re always trying to define new or fewer steps to streamline maintenance.” Therefore, if someone comes up with a more efficient way to service equipment, he’s open to hearing about it, trying it and updating schedules as changes are applied.

High-quality spring — and yearround — preventive maintenance is part of a facilities department mindset that insists on excellence in the areas of teamwork, customer service, communication and leadership. That mindset also insists on simplifying systems and projects in order to save energy, extend equipment life and save on repair costs.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .