Mastering the Art of Facilities Maintenance

managing time and resources effectively

Starting the New Year Correctly at Your Facility

After the holiday trimmings are all packed away, and you’ve completed those end of year tasks like budgeting, forecasting, or just surviving the holidays, the New Year is a chance to start out fresh. You’ve got that new desk calendar from your favorite vendor, or that shiny new pocket calendar is riding in your back pocket waiting for some new tasks and appointments.The problem is, after a few weeks, those tasks on your office white board never change, and you get caught up in the usual rush to respond to emergency and “immediate need” ticket work, while longer-term projects collect dust. Here’s a few tips to keep the momentum going.

1.Learn to get in the habit of carrying something to jot notes, and when someone asks you to do something, pull out your notebook, daytimer, (whatever works best- I like the moleskine) and tell them you’re busy right now but you’ll get back to them in a couple days. This will help you start managing your time better, and keep you from having 6-7 open/incomplete tasks on an ongoing basis. The real trick here is to check your lists- and follow up on promises in a reasonable time.

2. Leave notes and communicate updates. When you complete a task that someone has asked you to complete, leave a sticky note, or a post-it for them to let them know you followed through. When you aren’t finished doing something, but you’ve done something to move a project along (like calling a vendor for a delivery update) A quick note to tell someone that you changed a light,made a phone call, or painted a door frame will go a long way to remind people that you’ve actually done what you’ve been asked to do.

3. There’s no shame in admitting you can’t complete something once you find out it is bigger than you thought. An example might be where you decided to tackle a door refinishing project, thinking that you’d have time to refinish doors in your facility. You’ve done 2 of them, and they look good, but it took you 4 weeks to complete the two that you’ve done, and you have 30 more. If you approach your property manager and let them know that the project is taking longer than you thought, and give them the option of deciding what to do next, they might; authorize overtime to complete it after hours, allow you to solicit bids from a pro, or you might find out that it is not a high priority, and they don’t mind waiting.

Finally, if you are not giving your property manager,  board, or supervisor a regular report (at least monthly) of your activities you should get in the habit right away. Your monthly report can include things such as; Completed Tasks, Work waiting approval, Open work orders, Parts on Order, etc. Just because you know that something is in process, doesn’t mean that everyone else does, and it is your job to tell them.


December 27, 2008 Posted by | organization | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday Safety This Week

As the maintenance technician at your facility, it’s your job to make sure that the building is still safe despite all the mistletoe, candles, lights, and trimmings that are scattered throughout the building. You don’t need to go around yanking people decorations out of their cubicles, but there are a few things you need to be watching:

1. Extension Cords can be a hazard in a number of ways. improperly grounded cords can fault and cause fires, overloaded circuits can cause fires as well, and an easy one to miss is that they can be a trip hazard. Loan someone some tape or carry around a few extra wire ties so that you can make sure that cords and excess wires are tucked away nicely and free of hazards. If you need to, put a surge protector in, then you know if it overloads, you’ll trip instead of arcing.

2. Flammable Materials can really cause a problem because they look so nice and usually get put right next to sources of heat and open flame- you know, things like paper table cloths, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, etc. Just make sure you know where the nearest fire extinguisher is before the office gift exchange occurs.  Also, another good idea is to spray the office Christmas tree and the surrounding tree skirt down with a product that acts as a flame retardant.

3. Food & Drink can be plentiful this time of year, but choking in the office or workplace can have a tendency to happen more easily because people tend to try to eat while standing, working, talking etc. and pay less attention to what and how they are eating. If you don’t know first aid for choking, burns, and finger cuts, identify someone in the workplace who does and ask them to be on hand to provide first aid in the event of an emergency.  Also, it would be a good idea to get the number of a local cab company and post their number around the office just in case someone has a few too many cocktails at the company party.

Finally, walk the building before you leave at the end of the day, and remind everyone to turn off the lights in their decorations before they go home in the evening. The holidays can be a fun time, but they can also be a stressful time for you and everyone else at work. Be pleasant, don’t act like the Grinch safety police, but be mindful and follow these tips to ensure that your facility and the peoplein it on a daily basis are safe and not put in harm’s way because of an unsafe occurance during the holiday season.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | facilities maintenance, safety | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Basics of Combustion Analysis

Now that the east coast of the US has been running in heat mode for a few months, boilers furnaces, and water heaters will begin doing strange things (like shutting down in the middle of the night so you have to go in and hit a reset button in the middle of the night!)

One way to make sure that oil and gas-fired equipment is running is to do a combustion analysis to get a clear and definite answer about what the flame is doing inside of your piece of equipment. Combustion analysis is performed using a combustion analyzer to determine how well a flame is burning by measuring the following things:

1. how much air is it getting? if a flame is getting too much air, it will flicker (like blowing a candle) and can cause the flames to hit the sides of a combustion chamber or burner tube causing carbon to build up, which can then cause other compound problems. Too little air can cause the flame to burn low, and then you won’t get the maximum output from the system.

2. how much carbon monoxide is it making? too much carbon monoxide is a sign that the burner is not getting the right air/ fuel mixture, while you’re doing it, take a few general readings in your plant to make sure your combustion chambers aren’t leaking deadly CO into your plant.

3. What is the stack temperature? A hot stack (or flue) can be another sign that not enough heat is getting into the air or the hot water that you are trying to heat. This can also be caused by carbon buildup which can act as an insulation blowing the heat right out through the flue piping. You can get temperature readings with an IR camera but for the purpose of this test a simple infrared thermometer will work fine.

If you don’t have access to this equipment and you chose to use an outside contractor, make sure you use a contractor that has been trained by the National Comfort Institute, and make sure they leave you a copy of their readings and explain what each thing means.

Finally remember that this time of year is critical for carbon monoxide poisoning. People burn fireplaces they aren’t used to using, try to use parts of their stoves they’ve never used before, and many other combustion-related fatalities can occur. Look into getting a permanent CO detector, and have it checked annually just like your fire alarms and smoke detectors. CO is a colorless, odorless gas- and has been called “the silent killer”.

Remember, in addition to all the other important things that a maintenance technician does, you’re probably the company safety officer as well- stay informed and stay up on the latest in Facilities Management skills right here at Maintenance Mastery.

December 19, 2008 Posted by | combustion | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Building your maintenance tech resume

Over the years I have seen hundreds if not thousands of HVAC and maintenance facilities resumes and job applications, and I’m constantly amazed at how unprepared people are when they apply for maintenance and facilities jobs. Having a good resume is a key to getting hired & can be a helpful tool when asking for raises or promotions. Here’s a few tips for having a good HVAC and facilities maintenance resume:

Start building your resume now, even if you aren’t currently looking for a job. Make a folder, and keep the certificates from any classes you take, any commendations or letters that you get from your employer or customers, and be sure to track and keep a record of any special tasks you perform that go above and beyond your job description. You don’t need to bring all of your certificates to an interview either. If you have your HVAC recovery certification, make that a line on your resume, don’t ask your interviewer to sort through ten pages of certificates. It is ok to be proud of them, but they belong on your wall (not stapled to the back of your resume.)

Second, try to get training in areas and abilities that complement your job description. Take a word-processing class, or a time-management class. You will not only build your resume, but it will help you communicate with your non-maintenance co-workers and show that you can move and communicate  in their world.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You want to have at least three people review your resume. You’ll want to have someone review for grammar and spelling errors. Nothing catches a reviewers eye like spelling “maintenance” wrong on a maintenance application. Next have someone in the business review your resume, to look for technical errors or clarifications. Finally, have someone read it to see if you’ve used technical terms where you don’t need to. Rather than say “managed HVAC condenser retrofit program” say “managed a program to replace air conditioners” Remember, chances are that you’ll be hired by a non-technical person, and if they can understand your resume it shows you aren’t hiding behind technical lingo, and you actually know what you’re saying.

Finally, keep a soft copy of your resume in digital form, that way you can easily refer to it, keep it updated, and make changes to it as you develop in your career. Even if you don’t have a computer, buy a usb memory stick and carry it with you to keep documents and files handy.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | resume | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using OEM Information to Create a PM Program

Everyone says “according to manufacturer’s recommendations” when writing preventive maintenance tasks, but in reality, how often are the OEM-Original Equipment Manufacturer’s recommendations actually followed? When writing a PM program, it should become standard practice to consult the installation, startup, and operation documentation that came with the equipment.

More often than should be the case, the original OEM material is not with the equipment, and it is nowhere to be found on site. So, what do you do when the OEM’s aren’t onsite? Write down as much information you can find on the equipment including model number, serial number, amperage, voltage, etc. and consult the following sources:

1. go to the manufacturer’s website

2. call your local manufacturer’s representative

3. consult a third-party engineering firm to write your program for you

Finally, keep a library of your preventive maintenance tasks for future reference.  If you have a PM written for a specfic type of pump, fan, motor, or other piece of equipment, and you later acquire a contract that has that same piece of equipment, you can use the one you have. I prefer to call this my “best practices” book, and I keep both a digital copy, and a hard copy for reference when writing new programs.

December 8, 2008 Posted by | facilities maintenance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment