Mastering the Art of Facilities Maintenance

managing time and resources effectively

The Importance of “Jobbing”

If you work in a facility full-time as a maintenance technician, you know what it is like to walk up three flights of stairs, or across a campus, and realize that the pipe wrench, screwdriver, cordless drill, etc. is laying back on the desk in the maintenance office where you left it.

HVAC, Mechanical, and Plumbing contractors can multiply the impact of a forgotten item tenfold when the office is across town from the shop during rush hour.

Regardless of how far the office is from the work being done, some serious time, effort and cost can be saved by taking a few minuted to go through a checklist and make sure you have everything you need to do a job.

First ask: What is the task? Whether you’re hanging a new picture in the office lobby, or installing a new water heater- there is still a list of items you will need to do the work.  Taking time to think about what you are going to be doing and what you will need to bring with you to do the job can can be the difference between finishing the job and feeling good about the accomplishment and not getting the job done and feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything.

Next ask: What are the tools I am going to need? Run through the inventory. Hammer, Drill, screwdriver, specialty tool, or tools that need to be signed out from the office, or rented. If you’ve ever assembled a piece of furniture, or a bookshelf- you’ll remember that the first thing in the instructions are the tools you’ll need.

Finally, when you arrive at the work site, go through your material and tool inventory one more time, and take the time to lay them out within reach of the work. Bring along a small mat, towel, or dropcloth so you aren’t laying your tools and material on the customer’s hardwood/ ceramic/ tile floor.

It is inevitable that you will run into situations where you need a different screw size, or pipe fitting, or piece of material than what you planned- but having a plan and an inventory for the project will still keep the material or tool trips to a minimum. Following these thought processes, and taking a few moments to think about the task, the tools, and the materials necessary to do a job beforehand will save you time and effort, and help you create a successful, polished, completed project every time.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | facilities maintenance, organization, tools | Leave a comment

Managing work orders and work flow

Managing workflow, documenting work, and providing for compliance with record keeping can be a tough tract to manage when spring and summer work picks up. Maintenance technicians can be overwhelmed and can handle as many as 60-70 work orders in a single day. How do you manage all of these work orders?

My thoughts go back to property managers scribbling addresses on a post-it note, or concierge desk attendants handing “while you were out” notes to maintenance technicians. The tech then proceeds to put the note in their shirt-pocket and then realizes days later that they forgot the call…

The best way to handle a work-order system with maintenance techs is to provide a written work order.  A written work order program can also include the following:

  1. maintenance request forms
  2. door hangers
  3. work orders
  4. make-ready boards

Tenants and customers can fill out a form to make a maintenance request (they can be placed in the lobby, at a concierge desk, or at the property manager’s office) and then the actual work order can be assigned to the maintenance tech. The tech should always leave behind a document that tells a tenant or owner that a tech was in their unit, and door hangers can be used to notify pending work, that a tech is currently in the unit, or that a tech visited earlier.

Finally, in managing workflow, tracking and make-ready boards can be used for punch-out tracking ,special products and for assigning tasks with multiple technicians and vendors.

John Tindale and Maintenance Mastery were not compensated for mentioning Great American Property Management Products.

April 1, 2010 Posted by | buildouts & remodeling, facilities maintenance, organization, safety, tools | , , , | 3 Comments

Commercial door closers and hardware

I recently had the pleasure of trying to adjust a commercial door closer, and I had a flood of memories come back of all the Rixson hardware I used to maintain at Nordstrom. It doesn’t seem like much, but door closers can be somewhat complicated. To get started, there are basically three components to the action of a commercial door.
1. back ckeck. this is what provides force against you when you try to open a door, basically if there was no back check, you could just as easily break a door opening it, as you could slamming it shut.
2. Sweep. This refers to the speed with which the door actually closes when you let go of the door. The sweep needs to be controlled, so that the door doesn’t slam shut.
3. Latch refers to how the door actually closes. If a door is working properly, you can actually observe the door close slowly, and then at the last minute the sweep control will let go to let the door accelerate slightly just enough to let the locking mechanism catch.
I remember spending hours trying to adjust glass doors so that they have the same backcheck, the same sweep, and the same catch speed, and how seasonal changes would wreak havoc on the hydraulics, and cause the doors to open and close at different rates.

Because doors have a tendency to be easily forgotten, I suggest that you include in your regular PM program, a provision to check your doors. things that you want to include may be;

1 Open door to check proper back check, and that door does not swing fully open freely

2. allow door to close, verify that door closes gently

3. observe latch speed to ensure that door and latch mechanism are working properly

4. check closer for visible signs of wear or hydraulic fluid

Every door closer is different, but they all have a way to adjust each element of the function of the door, and you can usually find set screws in the closer for changing these settings.For more information about adjusting and installing door closer hardware, consult your manufacturer, or check out for a pretty good overview of how they work

March 12, 2009 Posted by | facilities maintenance, Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

Great idea from Construction Protection Systems

Managing a buildout or remodel in an occupied space can be a big enough headache, but trying to keep contractors from destrying common areas during the process can become a full-time job, and as a maintenance professional, you’ve already got PMs that need to be done, service requests, and other tasks on your schedule.
One great item I just found mentioned in Total Facility Manager as their product of the month is the 123 Door Shield from Construction Protection Systems llc.

the 123 Door Shield protects doors from dings and scratches during remodeling and interior buildouts.

the 123 Door Shield protects doors from dings and scratches during remodeling and interior buildouts.

The 123 Door Shield can be re-used, stacks flat, and can be recycled if you decide you don’t need it any more. No actual adhesive touches the door, as the pre-fab construction simply slips over the door. Calbrated perforations for door handles and door hardware make it easy to accomodate different locations for handles and locks.

Manufactured in Colorado, the 123 Door shield comes in packs of 5, and can be pruchased through local distributors of doors and door hardware. Click on the picture above for more information.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | buildouts & remodeling, facilities maintenance | 3 Comments

Highlights from ASHRAE’s AHR Expo

Expo floor shot

Expo floor shot

We just Got back from the show tonight, and I wanted to highlight some of the exhibits that I saw there. Since this was my first AHR Expo, I really didn’t know what to expect going into it, and I have to admit that I was impressed with the number of manufacturers that were represented at the show.

Johnson Controls probably wins “the biggest exhibit with the most hype” award, giving out free gadgets with drawings and a giant puzzle for the crowd to work on. They were also the first one to get an email out to me with more information after scanning my badge at the show.

I was a little disappointed with the lack of actual zigbee devices, while the zigbee-bacnet connection was pretty big news. Bacnet has decided to accept the zigbee protocol for wireless solutions, and IEEE (the creators of the zigbee protocol) has also decide to reciprocate. This should allow manufacturers to design hybrid systems that combine the best of wired solutions, with new wireless innovations.

A real example of a company moving forward with wireless is Honeywell, who was there with a large “hype booth” but also had a smaller booth tucked over in the corner exhibiting a new CO monitoring system that uses zigbee wireless sensors with a hybrid CO/ CO2 monitoring system.

Another small vendor with a really great product called Gasflux uses a liquid flux tank attached to an oxy-acetylene rig to create a really clean brazing technique. I’m sure this will catch on with refrigeration mechanics and welders alike.

Green was a big deal this year, as was to be expected- from variable frequency drives, to high efficiency pumps, solar collectors, and heat recovery devices, finding ways to reduce energy costs has become the holy grail of the HVAC industry. The thing that I like about ASHRAE is that they are making real efforts to gauge and measure actual energy savings, and their OPMP certification is a step in the right direction to help facility managers decide on the cost benefits of adopting an energy strategy. (I took the test, I guess I’ll find out in a few weeks if I passed or failed!)

Finally, the big news this year at ASHRAE was globalization- Many Chinese manufacturers were represented, as well as more european manufacturers as well. With efficiency and cost becoming hotter issues, manufacturers that can create small, modular high-efficient equipment at a lower cost will begin to stake out their own segment in the market.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | controls, facilities maintenance, wireless | , , , , , , | 1 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

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

The Right Lube for the job

The other day I was in a building and the maintenance guy sprayed a tight door handle with WD40. He smiled at me proudly when the door handle operated smoothly after a fresh shot. It got me thinking about our buildings, and I thought I would put together a small list.

Dry lubricants- such as graphite, and powdered Teflon, and tri-flow are designed for high-dust areas, and places where (like door handles and hinges) people might touch and get grease on their hands or keys. Never use a liquid lubricant on a door handle! They can actually cause more harm than good. Dry lubricants are designed specifically for the purpose of piling up, keeping dusts and other abrasives on the surface (away from moving parts) instead of mixing it in the way liquid lubricants do.

Grease- Sometimes it isn’t enough to walk by a motor or pump and top off a bearing with a shot from the trusty grease gun. Pump, motor, and gear grease needs to be the proper amount to keep metal from rubbing against metal. Over-greasing can cause hydraulic pressure to build up inside the sealed compartment and actually cause more harm than good, while under-greasing can cause metal friction. Wipe off grease ports and zurn fittings before you attach the grease gun (to keep from pumping dust or paint into the fitting.) and slowly add grease until you feel a slight resistance in the pump handle. Sometimes you can actually hear it in the bearing.

Do not trust grease fill tubes to deliver grease to the right place. If you are blindly walking up to the side of an air handler or other unit and pumping grease into a grease port, without verifying where that grease is going, you’re looking for trouble. Also watch for grease relief fittings leaving a pile of grease at the bottom of a motor base as well.

Belt Dressing- If you have a belt in a building that is squealing, and you have found that the magic solution is to hit it with belt dressing every once in a while, chances are that the belt isn’t properly aligned. Another sign of this will be that the belt is wearing out on one side while the other side still looks new. If this is happening the motor and the pulley need to be aligned.

Aluminum based lubricants- These should be used when applying a flange or door gasket that you know will need to be separated again. Aluminum-based lubricants provide a seal, and prevent the gasket from sticking to the flange face. It is common courtesy to the mechanic coming behind you (maybe me) to apply an aluminum-based lubricant to prevent hours of scraping and cleaning old gasket material from a flange face.

Silicone Lubricants- finally silicone lubricants shouldn’t be used on silicone gaskets and o-rings. The similar nature of the materials will cause a premature breakdown of the gasket or o-ring. Use a mineral- based lubricant.

After applying lubricant, make sure you wipe down the area, clean up, and don’t leave gobs of grease around the zurn fitting to prove to people that you are greasing the bearing. The proof will be in the fact that the bearings or gears aren’t overheating.

References on the web:

May 27, 2008 Posted by | facilities maintenance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conducting a Building Walkthrough

Community Managers, Property Managers and HOA Representatives have a lot on their plate when it comes to the general maintenance and upkeep of a commercial or residential property. One of the ways you can keep up with what’s going on in your property is to conduct regular walkthroughs of your facility. A good walkthrough gives you a fresh perspective to recognize things like: cosmetic and general appearance issues, safety violations, lighting, and mechanical systems. It is also a very good way to build a structure and timeframe around ongoing projects and to-do lists.

When considering cosmetic and general appearance issues, you want to think about how the property might have looked when it was first built. Was that wallpaper peeling in that corner? Was the fabric on that chair in the lobby frayed on the arms like it is now? Was that back door scuffed up from the delivery guy like it is now? These are all obvious examples, but a good walkthrough helps you to see some of the smaller things because it’s the details that customers, unit owners and future prospects notice when they first visit your building.

Safety is a big part of facilities maintenance these days, and we all want to be compliant with local, state, and federal laws concerning public safety. However, even without a lot of training there are actions you can take to keep your building compliant. Some active measures will be to make sure that: ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) entrances and doors are working and in proper order, hallways are free from debris and storage, fire exits are well marked and signs are lit. You also want to know how your emergency systems work, and know what your emergency plan is. No one can know all of the codes and regulations, but common sense can many times keep your building safe.

Lighting plays a key part in many areas of facility operation, including cosmetics and general appearance, safety, as well as energy efficiency. Are all the areas of your building well lit? Do all the buttons on your elevator light up when you push them? Do you have equipment in place to save energy by automatically turning lights off when rooms are not in use? You might want to visit your site in the evening to see if entrances are well lit, or if trees or shrubs obscure lighting.

The mechanical systems in your building deserve attention from your walkthrough as well. Even though you might not be an expert plumber, electrician, or tradesperson, there are still things that you can train yourself to look for. Do you have a written maintenance program? Are mechanical rooms clean and well lit? Are utility closets clean, well lit and secure? What is the difference between your summer operations and winter operations (outside hose bibs, fountain pumps, etc.)? Knowing a little bit about how your building’s mechanical systems work will help circumvent problems in the future.

Finally, you want to have a format for your building walkthrough that provides: the date of the walkthrough, personnel present on the walkthrough, and a detailed list of action items that need to be addressed. You will want to record who is responsible to see that the particular item is addressed, and what your deadline is for determining when the action item will be addressed. Ongoing projects can be updated as you do the walk, and to-do lists should be updated and followed-up frequently. Regular walkthroughs will keep you updated and knowledgeable about the state of your building systems.

May 26, 2008 Posted by | facilities maintenance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction to Facilities Maintenance

Facility Maintenance and Operations can always be a tricky issue for businesses and organizations because it’s always difficult to get people to see the value in maintaining anything. When a computer breaks, we throw it away, when a car breaks down, we buy another one. It has become cheaper and easier to replace things than to repair and maintain them.

The trouble is with a building, you can’t just throw it away when it stops working.  The truth is that facilities, maintenance and operations are a matter of stewardship. We have been entrusted wit h a building and we are called to maintain it- efficiently and effectively and to maximize the resource that having a building gives. Taking care of equipment, changing belts, lubricating motors, changing lights and taking care of the general day to day operations and maintenance in a building are all important parts of the overall business or residence that you are taking care of.

There are three parts to Facilities Maintenance and Operations (or FM&O.)

  1. The first is routine maintenance. These are the things that need to be done weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually to keep the building running efficiently. These items usually include existing HVAC systems, lighting, life safety, plumbing and electrical systems.
  2. The Second is emergency repairs and breakdowns. Managing the FM&O is an effort to minimize the number of times a plumber has to be called, or the number of times the lighting or heating system doesn’t work.
  3. The third part of FM&O is in planning for the future; will a new heating system save money on future gas prices? Will different lighting cost less to operate? Forecasting is usually based on historical costs and known immediate needs.

Being an effective maintenance technician or building maintenance professional means staying on top of code requirements, trends affecting the industry, green initiatives, and many other pieces of the puzzle that keep buildings and facilities running smothly. This blog is dedicated to staying on top of these and other facilities maintenance related issues.

May 25, 2008 Posted by | facilities maintenance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment