Mastering the Art of Facilities Maintenance

managing time and resources effectively

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.

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

Who’s your heat guy/ gal

Years ago, companies hired maintenance staff to handle the ins/ outs of routine maintenance, perform preventive maintenance, and occasionally call in contractors for specialty trades like electrical, vertical transportation, plumbing, and HVAC among others.
Contractors would develop one-on-one relationships with maintenance staff and directors, and the technicians performing these services would often form friendships with the maintenance directors and engineers they served. Occasionally these friendships turned into collusion and price-fixing but more often they simply became a way for the contractor and the customer to develop a trust-system where the contractor would teach maintenance staff how to better maintain their systems, and thereby provide assurance that when the contractor was called- both parties understood that the contractor would not overcharge for service, and that the maintenance staff would not abuse the relationship.
However, with an ever-evolving world of new technology, trends in outsourcing, and budget constraints- many times there is no maintenance staff onsite, and the technicians lose that personal sense of contact.
So I guess, the question is- how do you develop a relationship, and a “trust-system” when a service tech is simply responding to a site, opening a door with a key fob, and working on equipment for a faceless client?
A couple of ways I have found some success is to communicate frequently through email- and to be active in social media. My twitter account gives my customers (and potential customers) a chance to communicate with me on a regular basis, and develop a “friendship” that gives them a sense of security about having me service their equipment.
My customer can get to know me, find out what sports I like, who my “driver is” and have a sense of not just what I do, but who I am.

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Preventive Maintenance Database

Preventive maintenance is work that is done to equipment and machinery on a regular, recurring basis. A common example would be getting the oil changed in your car. In order to keep most  machines working properly, companies and people create programs based on the manufacturers recommendations for the specific tasks, checks, and adjustments necessary. For a given facility or company, all of the preventive maintenance tasks, scheduling, and tracking is managed through a preventive maintenance program. Some companies use photocopied task sheets, others use spreadsheet programs, and still others use a computer-based program.

I have worked with several preventive maintenance database projects, several commercial products for preventive maintenance, and have even used the old manual programs- but I think that there is much room for improvement in how PM is performed, managed, and tracked.

First, I think a PM database should be easy to load. The supervisor or technician who initially sets up the database should not have to wade through lines and lines of similar tasks in order to set up a PM for a specific machine or piece of equiment. I think that there should be a se of generic preventive maintenance programs pre-loaded, and then the user should be able to add a few custom tasks as needed.

Next, I think the person performing the PM should be able to enter the data into the tracking system live, instead of writing on a printout. I also think that the person performing the PM should be able to make adjustments to the program on the fly. If the system says “change belts” and the unit has been converted to a direct drive system, then the person performing the PM should be able to remove “change belts” from the program.

Finally, system reporting should done through a console, showing tasks completed, tasks modified, tasks pending with percentages. The console should be configurable for administrators, supervisors, and maintenance techs, and you should be able to drill down and view more specific data as needed. PMs should be able to be sorted by category- like location, machine type, person performing the PM, etc.

A good preventive maintenance program supports the equipment and the people who service this equipment- but for all of the PM programs I have seen, the priority seems to be reversed. I think that the people performing the PM end up supporting the people who manage the program, and it becomes more about the tracking and the administration than it is about the actual work that needs to be done. It seems to me that a simple, elegant program that is easy to use and administer would capture the market.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 http://hubpages.com/hub/Door-Closer-Adjustment for a pretty good overview of how they work

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

AHR Expo this week

I’ll be attending the AHR Expo hosted by ASHRAE this week in Chicago at McCormick Place.

This is my first day working full-time for my new venture Enercient a wireless HVAC monitoring system, so we’re going to the AHR expo to see the latest and greatest in HVAC wireless monitoring and controls.

I’ll be posting to brighkite with pictures and updates, and plan to report on new technologies, equipment and controls that we see at the show.  Maybe we can get some quotes and pics from the showroom floor. I’m also taking the OPMP certification test on Wednesday at the show, so wish me luck.

Later, We’ll be able to do more in-depth reviews and post material covering the show.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | wireless | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

maintaining pumps and motors

Many pumps, circulators and motors run quietly day after day sitting in the corner, and the technology has become so reliable- it’s easy to forget that there are still things that can be done to extend the life of the pumps and motors in your plant. Here’s a few things that you can start doing now:

1. monthly preventive maintenance and inspections Pumps and motors have internal moving parts, and moving parts can eventually cause heat and friction- which eventually leads to breakdowns and system failures. The best way to prevent this is to make sure that bearings, shaft hubs, and oil ports are lubricated regularly. Consult your O&Ms for the right frequency, but after a while you will learn what the best schedule to follow is. Also, keep surfaces clean and free of dust as dust buildup can cut off air circulation through cooling vents on motor housings.

2. Take readings and get to know normal operating parameters Motors will give another clear indication that they need care, because amp draw will increase as bearings begin to fail. friction causes a strain on the motor that was not there when it was new and moving free, so the motor will need to work harder to do their job- this immediately shows as an increase in amp draw, so take regular amp readings while the pump is in operation. Remember that you are working around live voltage to do this, so always use proper safety procedures during readings and inspections.

3. Duty cycling Many pumps and motors are installed in  groups or pairs  so that they can provide backup for failures and shutdowns, however it is important to cycle the backups because bearings and seals can develop flat spots if they are left to sit without running. Some engineers and operators will run their pumps in an alternating lead/ lag switching back and forth with each inspection- sometimes this must be done by hand, and sometimes its just a matter of throwing switches in a panel. If you are unable to put pumps into service, and you know that they will be out of service for an extended period (summer/winter) put it on your schedule to operate pump shafts by hand regularly.

Finally, and I’ve mentioned this in other posts and I’ll probably end up saying it again- always listen to your plant and get comfortable enough to put your hands on your equipment as you walk through. If you get used to the way your equipment sounds, you will notice when that sound changes. If you know your normal operating temperatures, you will know when those tempertures begin to rise. These are the things that will distinguish you in your career- and make you a better mechanic.

January 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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