A recent study revealed the continued rise in the compound annual growth rate of the U.S. facilities management sector. While the temporary demand for space within large commercial buildings is lower, emphasis on overall sustainability and facilities management has not declined.
The challenges for most real estate facility management professionals is to achieve enhanced energy efficiency and develop sound practices to maintain their facility operations and physical plants.
The commercial property or facility manager of today is tasked with determining how to create value, perhaps through outsourcing and partnerships. The challenge is to improve building systems, environmental compliance, safety standards and boost maintenance productivity. The first question that needs to be addressed here is what exactly defines creating value?
To build value, facility maintenance strategies must benefit the organizational function in ways such as improving the physical plant of capital assets and improving service requests processes in order to increase net operating income. Real estate value might be created through building automation that ensures fire safety or preventing the need for costly emergency repairs or reducing operating expenses. A facility maintenance team that successfully maximizes value operates “behind the scenes” often without notice by the building’s occupants or end users.
What is Commercial Facility Maintenance?
Facility maintenance involves maximizing a building’s functionality and efficiency through servicing key systems and equipment. A capital asset serves commercial real estate ownership for a long time and requires detailed and ongoing monitoring and service and, eventually, equipment replacement.
The process of facility maintenance – sometimes referred to as engineering maintenance – will commonly be referred to as property maintenance when associated with large commercial properties. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) says facilities maintenance emerged in the 1970s.
Perhaps more importantly, larger businesses began using third-party service providers for heating, illumination, plumbing, cleaning and sanitation, and more. The discipline of the facility management profession also expanded into other commercial activities including corporate office relocation and space planning. Soon opportunities for obtaining professional certifications began.
Today’s programs include Certified Facility Manager (CFM), Facility Management Professional (FMP), Sustainability Facility Professional (SFP), and many more. Common types of workers include a facility manager, chief engineer and maintenance technician that have roles in oversight and performing services. Technicians generally perform preventative maintenance, system testing, repairs, and often are experts in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).
Facility maintenance examples of large commercial properties and their related maintenance need Include:
- Office buildings/complexes: Maintaining interior temperature (HVAC), lighting, elevator servicing, and indoor air quality concerns.
- Retail centers: Tasks include regular roof monitoring and repairs, fire safety and comfort concerns, as well as insuring restroom plumbing fixtures are properly operating.
- Hospitals: Insuring systems for safety standards, including fire alarm and fire suppression systems are maintained by technicians; also work on auxiliary power equipment..
- Universities and other educational facilities: Tasks may include lighting, HVAC units, and emergency repair issues such as flooding.
- Hotels: Maintenance concerns may include waste and recycling management, refrigeration, HVAC, fire safety, and exterior lighting.
Why Facility Maintenance is Important
Facility maintenance is an important operational function that typically involves day-to-day tasks and continuity plans that support a building’s systems and equipment. Proper maintenance is designed to achieve optimal overall levels of productivity and efficiency. A large commercial facility has multiple critical components and separate systems, along with safety standards to adhere to.
Although each individual component or system within a commercial asset is separate, major ones are interconnected. When maintenance is neglected or not properly identified, the facility or building might experience downtime or other losses of productivity that can have real consequences.
Facility maintenance must be part of an overall plan to keep the operations continually moving properly and minimize the highest risk conditions and life safety of the property and its end-users.
Employees, tenants and customers often form negative opinions when they recognize that a commercial real estate facility is poorly maintained. People commonly perceive that maintenance shortcomings are an indication of overall low-quality standards. Building owners and property and facility managers must also remain aware of how poorly maintained assets have a multitude of other negative effects.
Reduced facility maintenance effectiveness in a commercial real estate environment may create business risks with hazardous conditions that increase the potential of accidents and injuries. For example, a plumbing leak that goes unrepaired may result in dangerous slip-and-fall incidents for employees and others. Accidents that occur on the premises may increase the cost of worker’s compensation and expose parties to potential liability.
Capital assets typically require that regular service and maintenance be performed according to a schedule issued by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). When these parameters are not adhered to, an expensive piece of equipment may need replacement much sooner than its expected useful life. Some types of machinery or capital assets may also require strict compliance with the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule in order to maintain warranty coverage.
Effective facilities maintenance professionals understand the significance of unexpected downtime that occurs during repairs or replacement of components, particularly HVAC units which typically affect the entire property. Emergency repairs may result in failing to meet key project completion deadlines for a building’s occupants. Following a proper maintenance schedule will prevent these types of problems and keep the operation moving at peak efficiency.
Why Do Facilities Need to Be Maintained?
Some facilities maintenance guidelines are required for compliance with certain fire safety requirements, environmental standards, or other regulatory measures. For example, specialized boilers might require detailed inspection, diagnostic testing, monitoring, and preventive maintenance at specified intervals. Facilities must also operate according to health or safety compliance requirements or codes of local, state, or federal governments.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency that enforces a host of different workplace regulations, many of which involve facility maintenance. OSHA provides guidelines for minimizing risks and prevention of possible occupational hazards that create illness, injury, or death.
For example, OSHA requires facilities that work with any potentially hazardous chemicals to adhere to operational maintenance practices and procedures. Here, all maintenance technicians must undergo thorough training regarding preventive maintenance programs.
Creating written documentation is necessary to properly comply with most facilities maintenance activity. This “paper trail” should be documented in a standardized format that ensures accuracy and includes the time and date of completion by the technician. Today, many commercial facility managers use Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) with reporting capabilities that document activity, costs, and equipment assets.
Delays in maintenance requirements have proven to heighten future expenses, particularly those related to capital assets. Deferred maintenance is a term referring to delays (failures) in properly inspecting and/or repairing equipment and systems. Maintenance deferrals are among the leading causes of potential problems with building systems and equipment.
When proper maintenance, service, and inspection tasks are deferred, it inevitably leads to more costly system or equipment failures. In these situations, maintenance staff is functioning in a largely reactive manner that is generally not sustainable in any facility.
Key Facility Maintenance Concepts
The Assessment Process
Commercial facility and property management professionals must work to develop the framework and procedures for an effective and value-oriented maintenance requirement plan.
The facility maintenance process must be developed using strategies that will best achieve asset-specific results. Before assessing, testing, or employing different strategies, the maintenance goals must first be clearly defined based on the circumstances. Some of the common goals will involve prolonging the life of assets, reducing repair costs, achieving peak efficiency and energy reduction.
Experienced property maintenance professionals understand the importance of inventorying the critical building systems and equipment, as well as their current condition and recent work order history.
Operating costs will clearly be among the most critical considerations in the development of a facility manager’s maintenance plan. These are costs that extend far beyond simply the initial costs of acquiring a system or asset requiring maintenance.
Examples of fixed or stable costs may include the wages paid to maintenance technicians or an annual service contract. Routine inventory procurement for the preventive maintenance process might also be somewhat predictable, particularly when they are purchased in advance. For example, a piece of equipment that could require frequent changes are filters for HVAC units.
Experienced facility management professionals recognize the critical importance of obtaining “buy-in” from senior management or ownership. Other key aspects of the plan include staffing, such as establishing ways of measuring performance, and initial and ongoing training.
Facility Maintenance Work Order
What is a work order process in the context of commercial facility maintenance? It is a formal request for the performance of some type of maintenance activity. After a work order request is approved, the maintenance technician will proceed with the task.
In today’s paperless digital environment, work orders are more likely created in some electronic format or facility management software. In this example, the CMMS is used exclusively as the means of initiating, tracking, and documenting facility maintenance requests in real time. This creates uniformity and allows any party, including end-users, to view the status of a particular work order.
A work order will typically be assigned some type of unique job number or combination of characters. If supplies are needed for the completion of the project, a purchase order number may also be referenced.
A work order may request that a particular piece of equipment be tested, inspected, cleaned, or preventive maintenance performed. Generally, a work order would not be an ideal means of addressing emergency or extremely urgent matters.
Facility managers should create work orders today in their CMMS system or other software system used by the facility operations team. Entering the work order in a central system allows management to monitor all open projects.
Having your work orders completed through a central computerized facility management platform allows for a more seamless facility maintenance process. The management and maintenance technician teams can easily access warranty information specific to the equipment or system needing service. A robust electronic system today can be configured so maintenance technicians have access on their mobile devices regardless of location.
These best practices will better ensure that work order requests are handled in a prompt and productive manner. Proactive reminders regarding system or equipment maintenance will result in fewer emergency repairs. Next, we will discuss the three most common types of facility maintenance.
Commercial facility operations have been using predictive maintenance (PdM) since approximately 2000 as a means of monitoring critical assets. With today’s robust digital networks, predictive maintenance is a process that can be considered as continuous or in real-time. Predictive maintenance involves remotely monitoring the status of a piece of equipment, system, or another significant property asset.
Predictive maintenance is based largely on detecting variations from the normal or expected activity. First, “baselines” are established, which can be thought of as the “control group” used in the scientific method. Sensors responsible for monitoring the status of the equipment will continually detect any unexpected deviations from the baselines.
Maintenance technicians or others within this realm must receive proper training for both interpreting and responding to notifications or potential concerns. The sensors attached to equipment may detect increased vibration or significant changes in operating temperature that indicate a problem.
When the sensors detect a problem, electronic systems can generate a work order that describes the concerns for action by a maintenance technician. Predictive maintenance practices have proven to be very effective in the realm of facility operations and facility management.
Preventative maintenance (or preventive maintenance) involves proactively inspecting, servicing, and replacing components within equipment or systems. The U.S. Department of Energy states that the concept of preventive maintenance was initially created by the U.S. Navy. Data now suggest that preventive maintenance can reduce overall costs by approximately 12 to 18% compared to basic reactionary property maintenance practices.
Along with being cost-effective, preventative maintenance is generally preferred by technicians that complete this type of work in commercial settings with the concept often described as action taken “before problems occur.” Preventive maintenance is a necessary component of any commercial facility service plan.
Three of the most frequent areas of preventive maintenance involvement includes electrical, plumbing, and HVAC units. Maintaining these areas is critical, as they represent some of the costliest systems found within a large commercial facility, carry the highest risk of failure and significantly affect the end-users.
Common preventive maintenance activities involving plumbing systems include detecting pipes for leaks, cracks, or other types of wear. Components such as fans, bearings, filters, motors and pumps used in the HVAC units need to be inspected at varying intervals.
Electrical systems generally require diligent maintenance, largely because of the possibility of hazardous conditions and the importance of maintaining uninterrupted service throughout the facilities.
Often considered to be reactive, corrective maintenance involves promptly responding to notifications of known system or equipment failures. Although a form of maintenance, it is a process of restoring or repairing something that is malfunctioning. A task that begins as a preventative maintenance effort can sometimes reveal an apparent need for corrective maintenance.
Perhaps a maintenance technician is performing a preventative service and notices that a significant problem exists? Because of these scenarios, many seasoned facility managers will ensure their technicians are cross-trained in predictive, preventive, and corrective maintenance.
Corrective maintenance may involve capital assets, HVAC units, plumbing problems, and may require some specialization by the technicians. Because system failures are unexpected, this form of maintenance is often among the most time-sensitive types. Corrective action may also be dependent on access to or availability of certain parts necessary for making repairs.
When a service or maintenance technician detects a condition that represents a potential safety concern, it is generally corrective. Corrective maintenance problems may also be prioritized when they create production delays or periods of downtime to minimize disruptions to comfortable work environments.
Corrective maintenance, when combined with effective preventive measures, helps facility maintenance preserve assets by potentially lengthening their service life. Corrective maintenance concerns may also present an opportunity to replace certain components with ones that offer better efficiency or other benefits.
Preventive Maintenance: It’s Your Best Bet
Preventive maintenance should be a key part of any comprehensive facilities maintenance strategy; however, predictive maintenance, depending on circumstances and the facility, may also be included. The preventive maintenance strategy should be based largely on the recommendation of the original manufacturer for optimal results. Over time, these proactive measures have proven to result in excellent savings for organizations of all sizes.
Keep in mind that equipment that has been properly maintained is also likely to operate more efficiently. Capital assets are significant purchases typically intended to last for a multi-year period and are worthy of diligent maintenance. Compared to emergency repairs, preventative maintenance is much more cost-effective and less disruptive for the service and maintenance personnel.
Safety standards are another critical reason to develop sound practices regarding preventative maintenance activity. The safety of employees and others within a commercial facility is paramount and hazards are often detected through preventative maintenance. Injuries from equipment not properly functioning can translate to employees missing work, increased insurance rates, and potential exposure to costly civil liability.
Things to Know About Preventive Maintenance
There is often a tendency to lose sight of how adherence to a preventative maintenance plan creates value. Management may transition to a form of “lowest-cost” maintenance by insufficiently staffing technicians and/or failing to properly train them. In the vast majority of cases, this results in costly unforeseen facility system malfunctions that were avoidable.
The next two steps in achieving a properly developed preventive maintenance plan involve establishing your equipment database and project implementation.
Preventive Maintenance Database
Effectively developing your preventive maintenance inventory involves reviewing the systems and equipment that need service and determining appropriate service intervals. It is helpful to know the anticipated lifespan of the equipment and set goals for prolonging (exceeding) this time period(s). The majority of preventive maintenance database information is organized according to the type of equipment and then having step-by-step instructions for each.
Checklists for preventive maintenance tasks generally have a separate set of time-based activities and a set of condition-based activities. Time-based activities are typically performed at some regular intervals and are seen as being “routine.” Compiling a list of condition-based activities generally poses a greater challenge, as these tasks are not routine and more discretionary.
All equipment that will be serviced within the preventive maintenance plan should have its model number verified and an appropriate service manual obtained. Each piece of equipment is then added to a full inventory listing and any existing maintenance history included.
Forethought must be performed to determine if the preventative maintenance will create downtime or disruption. Certain critical pieces of equipment might be best serviced by the on-site technician team or contracted vendor after-hours or during off-peak times of operation.
Implement a Preventive Maintenance Program
The preventive maintenance database should be viewed as a framework that supports a certified facility manager’s overall process. The implementation involves taking this compiled data and information and actually applying it. The following are five keys to establishing the maintenance equipment or system implementation process:
- Create the schedule according to the specific recommendations of each item needing maintenance. Data regarding each piece of equipment is a key consideration including age, remaining years of service, rates of failure, etc.
- Obtain input and feedback from technicians who typically perform work
- Consider creating a system of labeling each piece of critical facility equipment. This can be simply a barcode on each piece of equipment that is scanned. The information should always be referenced and verified by the individual completing the maintenance to prevent any confusion.
- Facility management should document the amount of time that is usually required for maintaining each system or piece of equipment. This helps calculate the expected time needed to complete inspection, testing, or other maintenance tasks. This might apply to schedule hourly employees and for assisting management in making decisions if contracting with third-party service providers.
- Remember that the preventive maintenance plan should be continually evolving and improving once implemented. Even the most well-developed checklist and plan of implementation will reveal some required updates or inefficiencies once put into practice.
Some Critical Characteristics of Effective Facility Maintenance
Successful facility maintenance professionals increasingly demonstrate excellent listening and communication skills as a means of problem-solving. The underlying concept of preventive maintenance today is based on gathering information, encouraging feedback, and understanding new technology. An effective facility manager understands the organization’s goals and communicates with staff, conducts research, and works with vendors and suppliers.
Now more than ever, effectively maintaining large commercial facilities requires these professionals to use the latest technology. Real-time monitoring of equipment, remote notifications, and integrating with a comprehensive facility management system are among the most critical. Failing to embrace all that the technology of today offers hinders efficiency and is definitely not cost-effective.
How Facilities Maintenance Can Maximize Value
To achieve value creation, property maintenance must strive to maximize the lifespan of its costly capital assets. At the same time, efforts must be made to reduce costs by limiting operational costs and increasing energy efficiency. Today’s facility maintenance professionals might consider contracting or outsourcing many of the operations within their scope of responsibility.
Exploring the possibilities of using third-party service providers is a viable part of a value-based strategy. For example, considering the cost-effectiveness of contracting with professional facility maintenance or engineering contractor. When making these assessments, it is critical to evaluate both the direct and indirect costs of doing so.
The Most Effective Facility Maintenance Provider
For many years now, facility and property management professionals have relied on the team at Servi-Tek Facility Solutions for their large commercial properties. We offer customized facilities and engineering services for property managers, facility directors, and building owners in dozens of leading industries.
We recognize that each commercial property has unique challenges, maintenance requirements, and operating budgets. Our team has expertise in the maintenance and service of systems including HVAC units, electrical, plumbing, energy conservation, and many others. Servi-Tek’s objectives in our contract facilities are to achieve optimal efficiency, reduced operating costs, and boost returns on investment.
With offices now located in Hawaii, Arizona, and Southern California, we look forward to the opportunity to partner with you. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your organization achieve its facilities management objectives.