Maintenance Team at Lakeside Educational Network Keeps Things Running Smoothly for Students Going Through Rough Patches

Crowded school environments can be tough for students who struggle with learning disabilities, addictions, street violence, or other problems in their homes and communities.

But at the Lakeside Educational Network (LEN) near Philadelphia, teachers do all they can to help students succeed – and the maintenance team alongside them to keep everything running smoothly for young people going through rough patches in life.

At four separate campuses, LEN provides educational and therapeutic services to more than 1,500 students a year who are referred to the program through local school districts and social service agencies. In small group settings, some students get help with finishing required courses, while others receive trauma counseling along with class work, and still others – specifically teen moms – have a chance to earn diplomas while caring for their children. In addition, some students gain skills needed to re-enter and complete high school and LEN boasts a successful transition rate of 80 percent among students returning to their original school.

Just as the teaching staff must address a complex array of needs in the student body, so too, does the maintenance team face diverse challenges. The team not only manages 72,000 square-feet of building space, it must also cut grass and remove snow over a 20-mile radius; conduct inspections and repair a fleet of trucks, cars and vans; keep pumping stations and sewer treatment systems working; even construct new buildings and address a host of other tasks.

"We do everything from changing a light bulb to building a building," says Ed Hall, director of facility management at LEN. "We do all of our own construction and we install computer networks, telephone systems, security systems. We also take care of daily cleaning, roof repairs, signage, HVAC…whatever the facilities need, we do it."

To help manage the depth and breadth of maintenance tasks at LEN, Hall uses a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) called Bigfoot from the Smartware Group, Inc. The CMMS enables Hall and his team of 14 technicians to be much more efficient than they were a decade ago when his department relied on a binder full of paper files for work orders and repairs. Among other things, the CMMS calls up equipment repair history; automates preventive maintenance schedules; tracks work orders; monitors costs; and aids new building projects.

Managing new projects with fresh data…
In addition to ongoing maintenance on existing facilities, Hall and his team have also built or supervised new structures such as a greenhouse and the department has worked on as many as 30 construction projects in one year. A new recording studio was built under Hall's supervision as project manager.

By tapping into the capabilities of the CMMS, Hall was able to stay on top of every aspect of construction for the recording studio. "All of the information about the project is opened in Bigfoot and it gives me automatic updates," Hall explains, "Everything about the project is fresh and I can see what we did, as well as what we purchased."

Building better budgets…
Because he must monitor maintenance costs across four separate campus programs, Hall has found it particularly helpful to use Bigfoot to track expenses on a quarterly basis. "Each program is charged for its own repairs and service requests," Hall says. "If we have a request to fix a broken desk from one program, that particular program is charged. I use our CMMS to compile all the repairs and expenses for each program and issue a report that goes to our CFO."

Consequently, Hall has clear documentation when programs go over budget. "If a program estimates that it will cost $75,000 for a project and ends up costing $100,000, it is easy to see that deficit," he says. "In that case, the program staff may not realize that they went over budget. And some programs don't realize how much they're spending each month with all of their requests."

Saving money through preventive maintenance… 
Facilities on the LEN campuses have more than 30 HVAC units in place, and this CMMS sends preventive maintenance alerts to Hall when it's time to change the filters in the cooling systems. "There aren't many breakdowns now because we get PM notices to change the filters every month and they only cost $8 each," Hall says. "If you don't change the filters, the coils freeze up and form a block of ice above classroom ceilings that can leak and do all kinds of damage. Then I have to call the HVAC guy and it costs us $200 just for him to come on the property."

Hall also points to cost savings earned from using the CMMS for PMs on the education network's fleet of 55 vehicles – such as alerts to change oil after 5,000 miles. "Once a vehicle reaches 5,000 miles, the system flags me that it needs an oil change," Hall says. "Before Bigfoot, we would miss mileage data and oil changes. And with vans that have more than 100,000 miles on them that means we would be replacing vehicles if it weren't for the PM alerts."

Nothing falls through the cracks…
Besides improving efficiency and saving money, the biggest payoff for using the CMMS may be the peace of mind it offers Hall and his staff. "We have a meeting every day to go over all of the PM tasks and it's easy for me to review progress on work orders," Hall says. "Everything that's going on with maintenance is right at our fingertips. We're not afraid we're going to miss something."