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Facility managers have their hands full every day ensuring the processes in the structures under their care run efficiently. The systems that make up the building environment often require varying levels of periodic intervention to run optimally. This alone raises several challenges ranging from simple daily interventions to complex solutions that involve multiple parties.
The key to handling these issues lies in identifying the potential problems early to have time to review the most efficient and effective ways to resolve them.
While we can’t cover all possible issues a facility manager faces, below are four of the biggest and most common challenges revolving around building maintenance, and their possible solutions.
1) Controlling Costs
Controlling costs remains one of the most critical challenges in building maintenance. As a result, facility managers typically find themselves having to maintain quality service delivery despite budget constraints. They’re under pressure to do more with less.
Although this might appear daunting, it can be done. Costs can be contained with some planning and careful allocation of resources. There are some major budget items that, through close monitoring, facility managers can use to control overall operational costs of their building.
- Energy costs: According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), up to 30 percent of energy in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. Facility managers can improve this by recommending more environmentally friendly energy sources like solar panels, planting trees, using more of automated buildings technologies, choosing energy-efficient lighting and allowing for more natural light.
- Outsourced services: Keep costs under control by monitoring outsourced vendors and other third-party service providers. Periodically assess their services, and compare and negotiate prices for their offerings. This also applies to suppliers of inventory items. When there’s need to stock large quantities of a stock item, consider ordering directly from the manufacturer.
- Maintenance costs: Maintenance costs alone can account for a significant part of a facility’s annual budget. Implementing a planned maintenance strategy rather than reactive can deliver major cost savings in the long term because the cost of deferred maintenance can be rather high.
2) Record Keeping and Data Analysis
Facility managers often get swamped with records. These records range from those generated from day-to-day operations to meeting minutes, stock and assets inventory, repairs and servicing, etc.
Keeping records organized starts from capturing accurate and reliable data, then storing them to form the basis for making informed and strategic decisions. For now, Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) remains the most commonly used tool for this. However, it’s expected that with more advancement in smart technologies, the Internet of Things will play a bigger role in capturing and analyzing data, and CMMS software will be able to pick up and report that data back to you.
3) Emergency Response and Safety
In the event of an emergency, the responsibility for communication and evacuation rests with the facility management team. Considering that such emergencies can range from natural disasters to fire, security breach, terrorist attacks or critical systems failure (e.g. prolonged lift entrapment), emergency response and safety require proactive and thorough planning.
Emergency response plans will vary but should typically include:
- Contact details of first responders
- List of critical systems that must remain running
- List of regular occupants
- Step-by-step emergency response procedure
Routine safety drills and evacuation scenarios are a priority in any emergency plan. In addition, equipment checks and reports – especially automated failure reporting – will keep the maintenance team in the loop ahead of any potential problems. This is important for critical systems.
The emergency plan should be part of a centralized database where team members can easily view and review it if necessary.
For communication, mobile devices are a quick way to send information via texts or instant messaging apps. However, handheld radios and walkie-talkies remain relevant, as they can be the most reliable communications tools in worst-case scenarios where there’s cellular network downtime.
By incorporating the above, facility managers can keep people safer and avoid expensive litigation.
4) Extending Asset Lifespan
Building projects are capital intensive and the owners will spend considerable amounts of money to make their structures as modern as possible. They want their buildings to remain attractive and competitive in the market. But, as the facility ages, these systems will deteriorate. Such deterioration can be severe enough to affect structural integrity (e.g. roofing components).
Although outright replacement may be the easiest route, working to extend the life of the asset from the installation phase is usually a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.
There are two stages of the asset lifecycle where facility managers can take steps to help prolong equipment functionality.
- Procurement: During the procurement stage, it’s advisable to evaluate each vendor’s offer based on price, performance records and quality. Especially for complex and expensive assets, there should be clearly stated terms for after-sales specialist servicing/repairs and very detailed training for the operators of such equipment. These are important considerations that will minimize misuse and keep equipment running with less headache for the maintenance team.
- Operation and Maintenance: A proactive maintenance strategy with routine and preventive maintenance schedules will also help extend asset lifespan by ensuring servicing is done when due. Implementing preventive maintenance with the help of a CMMS doesn’t have to be difficult and expensive. With a proper plan in place, you won’t have to rely on reactive maintenance.
If facility managers want to go a step further and have the budget for it, consider adopting predictive maintenance. Using internet-enabled condition monitoring sensors, they can obtain real-time data directly from equipment and act on that information. Rather than guessing or keeping to rigid and outdated replacement schedules, facilities can save costs and person-hours by acting on alerts before they become a problem.
Whether experienced or newly employed, all facility managers can relate with the above challenges in building maintenance. By making sustainable changes to the way they work as well as embracing smart maintenance tools, they can create a win-win situation for all parties involved in the facility.
Bryan Christiansen is founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a mobile first, modern, and easy-to-use CMMS software. We help take the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate1.5 and streamline their maintenance operations.