Mastering the Art of Facilities Maintenance

managing time and resources effectively

Managing your outside contractors

Working in maintenance means that you have the opportunity to learn about all of the diverse systems in your building. You very quickly learn that you can change a lock without calling a locksmith, you can change a faucet or unclog a toilet without calling a plumber, you can change a thermostat without calling an HVAC company, and as you progress in your career and learn new things you’ll find that you can outsource fewer and fewer things to outside contractors. Then the question becomes “When Do I call in an outside contractor?”

1. Establish a limit based on the cost of the project. Review and establish a policy with your property manager that if you are going to spend over a certain amount of money in material on a project, then you are going to call in a contractor. This will do two things for you; First it protects your liability and credibility by relieving you of being responsible for the materials (what if that $600 motor with the $300 bearing is a new model that needs to be retrofitted and doesn’t go in right?) Second, using an outside contractor can extend and supplement the warranty period on larger purchases.

2. Establish a limit based on the time it will take to do the project. Sure you’d love to redo the cabinets and countertops in the employee breakroom, and you probably have all the tools, skills, and ability to do the job- but how many times are you going to be interrupted by service calls? How many times are you going to listen to fellow employees complain about not being able to use the breakroom?

3. Finally establish a limit based on the degree of specialty required to do the project. Face it- there are some things that are just better left to professional outside contractors. This doesn’t mean that you “set it and forget it.” Remember you are still managing the relationship by tracking their time and their cost. Take time to ask your generator contractor what type of oil he or she prefers to use, watch your elevator contractor perform shut downs and calls, ask your refrigeration contractor about what methods he or she uses to read their gauges and set temperatures. Think of every visit from an outside contractor as an opportunity to learn something.

If you follow these three simple guidelines you will be better able to manage your relationships with your facility manager and be trusted with more responsibility in managing the relationships with your outside contracts. Knowing when to do it yourself and when to get help is an important key in being and effective maintenance technician.

June 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments


It’s always important to document the work that you do. No one ever knows how much you do, or what you do until you tell them. Make sure you have plenty of places to brag about what it is that you do as a maintenance tech.

Create daily, weekly, and monthly logs of your PM- and your service request activity. Make sure that you include as much information as humanly possible. Keep a journal, or a notebook and start making it a habit to write down every request, every communication, and every commitment you make to your customers. One good little compact journal is a Moleskine.


Whatever the type of journal you chose, just make a habit of loggin your daily activity, and keep a record of things like;

  1. phone calls to subcontractors and vendors
  2. service requests and repair requests made “in passing”
  3. dates and times you placed orders include item, PO and promised delivery date
  4. progress and status updates of ongoing projects
  5. notes on equipment and repairs that you perform

This isn’t meant to take the place of your existing documentation plan. There are federal, state, and local requirements for record keeping that you must maintain, and I recommend a 3 ring binder in your office for this sort of thing.

Finally, remember that private journals and logs that you carry can be subpoenad in the event of a disagreement or for several other reasons, so remember not to write down your personal feelings about your boss, or anyone else at the property. Keep it brief, keep it updated, and keep it professional.

June 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The Right Multi-purpose Tool for the Job

I’ve been working in the field for quite a long time and I’ve tried most of the multi-tools. The right multi-tool can make your job easier, and make you look like a pro when you don’t have to go running for a toolbox every time you need to open an access panel on a building walkthrough.

There’s times when you know you are working on a project, and you know that you have to lug out the toolbox (or boxes) and set up and do a job. Then there’s those other times when all you need to do is open a panel cover or unscrew a cap. You don’t need a whole tool pouch, you just need a few things to make your life easier. Here’s my top 5.

1. The 6-in-1 screwdriver. This baby started life as a 4-in-1, and someone got the bright idea to add the 5/16 and 1/4″ nutdrivers, and now we have a handy multi-purpose tool that’s useful for opening panel covers, tightening loose screws, adjusting door hardware, and for general inspections and maintenance. I find that even when I have all my other tools, the screwdriver i usually grab is this one.

2. Swiss Army Knife. I have to admit, I’ve only ever owned one of these, but I’ve been able to hold onto this one longer than many other tools I have. I got it for Christmas over two years ago, and I have found it to be one of the handier things I have. For one thing it fits in my front pocket, so I don’t have to strap something else onto my belt. I mostly use the knife, and the two screwdriver blades, and I have been known to use the bottle opener as well. The one I got has an LED light in it, but I never replaced the batteries in it when they died.

3. The Leatherman. This classic American multi-tool is a handy knife- plyer set that anyone who does a bunch of control or small electronics repair should have. The screwdriver takes a little getting used to balancing the handle and turning a screw, but the more you use it, the more handy it becomes. The only drawback is that the handles don’t lock back when you are using the plyers, so don’t exert too much force on it trying to crank on a small nut or bolt.

4. The Gerber multi-tool. At first glance it looks like a knock-off of the Leatherman, but once you get it in your hands, it as a little more heft, and the lockback feature means you can tork on it a little more. I’ve left two of these in burning hot attics in the summertime, so I refuse to let myself buy another. Not because it isn’t a good tool, but because I let myself lose two of them at over $60 each. One thing to remember about this and the leatherman, the handles aren’t insulated, so stay away from live electricity with it (even 24v can startle you when you aren’t expecting it)

5. The CRT Lil Guppie . I don’t personally have one of these, but a great friend of mine does, and he swears by it. The little crescent wrench, wire stripper, knife and other things fit nicely in a tiny ergonomic device that is fitted with a belt clip, or will go comfortably in your pocket.

All of these tools come in handy, and anything that you don’t have to worry about taking out of your back pocket when you sit down is always a plus.

June 7, 2008 Posted by | tools | , , , | 2 Comments