Revamp Your Preventive Maintenance for 2009

Jan. 1, 2009
An organized preventive maintenance schedule will keep you on track all year

Preventive Maintenance Check List

It's a new year - a chance to start over and get things right. You may be dusting off your mental list of resolutions from last year; though you might not stick to a new exercise regimen or your vow to cut back on coffee, you'll want to add revamping your preventive maintenance program to the list.

Your 2009 budget may be tighter than ever, but don't put off preventive maintenance. "[Building systems] are maintained on a seasonal, monthly, or annual basis; should maintenance be deferred for fiscal reasons, premature equipment failure may eventually result in imposing hardships that go beyond dollars," says Walter M. D'Ascenzo, senior project manager at Washington, D.C.-based Facility Engineering Associates. When preventive maintenance is neglected or avoided, equipment life shortens, energy is wasted, and the building's appearance reflects the lack of care. As Jean Sundin, principal at New York City-based Office for Visual Interaction Inc., says, "A building that's not maintained well looks like no one cares about it, and that's not the appearance anyone is going for."

With the following steps and expert tips, you'll be able to successfully form a preventive maintenance program for 2009 - and years to come - that will keep your building and budget in great shape.

Step 1: Inventory and Assess
Every facility manager's preventive maintenance (PM) program should start with a thorough facility inventory, including basic information on conditions, systems, components, and equipment. By keeping an up-to-date list of systems and equipment to check and maintain, you won't overlook anything, and you can comprehensively track conditions and maintenance for building systems year-round. Your inventory should include information on component condition and functional performance, as well as information on equipment age, usage, location, the warranty, and model. The more information you have, the easier it will be to solve problems later. You or your staff may be able to handle roofing and HVAC maintenance and repair, but calling in help for life-/fire-safety systems and electrical maintenance is advisable and, in some cases, required.

Once your inventory is set, conduct your assessment/inspection. Inspection frequency should be determined by building type, what systems you use, and how well things are working. According to Bob Marvin, principal at Marvin & Associates Inc., New Albany, OH, "Keep in mind that the best maintenance programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of a building and its intended occupants, and climatic conditions." It isn't economically feasible to include every piece of every system in a PM program, so you must determine what equipment is critical or most expensive/difficult to replace. If you're unsure of how often to check a certain system or piece of equipment, refer to the manufacturer's recommendations or look up guidelines produced by industry associations or groups.

Step 2: Streamline PM with Software
While you may have to do some homework to decide how often and when to inspect and maintain systems, the process can be streamlined through software built for organizing PM programs. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMSs) can focus your preventive maintenance - from inventory to work orders and requisition - into one package. Using software to track inspection, jobs, checklists, and many more aspects will streamline a process that might otherwise be cumbersome or disorganized. "PC-based comprehensive building maintenance software packages incorporate an equipment inventory and issue maintenance requests based on facility requirements, such as frequency and action dates, equipment maintenance history, and staff accountability," says D'Ascenzo.

CMMSs can be Web-based or hosted on your server. There are a dizzying number of options. Whatever program you choose should be easy to use; include a reporting function; allow you to combine weekly, monthly, and yearly maintenance on a master schedule; and help you determine and forecast the cost of PM plans. Many FM software programs (like computer aided facility management [CAFM] and integrated workplace management systems [IWMSs]) are all-encompassing, including space-planning and asset-management features along with CMMS functionality.

Step 3: Get Everyone Involved
"There's no substitute for training and experience," says D'Ascenzo. Depending on facility size, you may need to involve your entire staff in your PM routine. Every qualified employee should be trained and know how to safely complete each aspect in case emergencies or scheduling conflicts put them to the test. Consistent execution of PM practices is encouraged by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as an integrated-team approach to operations and maintenance (O&M). According to the DOE, "If implemented effectively, the multiple benefits of O&M practices should include reduced operating costs." The DOE also suggests offering professional development for your maintenance staff in order to grow a well-trained team.

In addition to getting staff on board with your PM program, one of the best ways to identify and remedy maintenance problems is to ask tenants to be your eyes and ears. "Interview the people who occupy the building every day," encourages Richard L. Fricklas, educator, author, and former technical director at the Roofing Industry Educational Institute (RIEI). "Asking, ‘Where are the leaks?' may be very profitable." Survey your tenants on maintenance problems, or have a general maintenance-related e-mail address where immediate concerns can be sent.

Jenna M. Aker ([email protected]) is new products editor at Buildings magazine.

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