How to efficiently manage all of your maintenance vendors

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Maintenance is a tricky business. Even more tricky is the juggling act of managing all the vendors you work with to keep your facility up and running. By Bryan Christiansen.

In this article, we will provide an overview of factors needed to ensure the efficient management of all your maintenance-related vendors. These include essential aspects of maintenance vendor agreements and the tools that can be used to efficiently manage your vendors’ action and data.

The two types of maintenance vendors

Most businesses will have to deal with two main types of maintenance vendors:

  1. Maintenance service and repairs providers: these are the skilled tradespeople who do repairs to physical assets such as machinery, equipment or premises, or who service them on a regular basis as part of a planned maintenance schedule. The company hires them as a part of outsourcing maintenance work. According to our recent maintenance survey, 90 percent of facilities outsource at least one part of their maintenance activities.
  2. Machinery parts and equipment sellers: these vendors sell the required machinery or equipment or components thereof. These can be either wholesale or retail sellers, depending on the established working relationship.

Essentials of maintenance vendor contracts

A critically important part of any vendor management system is the contracts in place with any and all vendors who provide some type of maintenance services. As with any contract, there are fundamental aspects or clauses to maintenance vendor contracts. These should include:

  • exact purpose and nature of the vendor’s service
  • equipment and machinery to be serviced/repaired/sold specified
  • project-specific or other unique attributes beyond the normal scope of maintenance
  • confidentiality
  • applicable indemnities
  • force majeure parameters
  • terms of payment, and
  • termination requirements.

There are valuable tips about what to do and not do regarding contracts with maintenance vendors:

  • Fit for purpose: Ensure that a contract is wholly applicable for a given vendor. Avoid generic contracts for all vendors as that may overlook important issues specific to a vendor.
  • Skip the ‘legalese’: Don’t overcomplicate a contract with endless clauses and dense legal jargon. Some vendors may find this daunting and it’s usually not necessary.
  • Set the right tone: Your vendor contract should be aspirational, not merely technical (i.e. what relationship do you seek with a vendor?) Some contend that having a partnership with a vendor ensures optimal results, and  not the stereotypical, top-down ‘client-supplier’ role.
  • Keep it realistic: Don’t over-rely on a contract. A contract is only as good as the parties to it, so keep it simple and specific to the service being rendered. Revert to a contract as a last resort, not first.

You can learn more details about creating maintenance contracts here.

CMMS and maintenance vendor management

Fortunately, today there is a wealth of software that can assist your company with the optimal management of your maintenance vendors. A modern CMMS should provide vendor management capabilities that help facility managers track both types of maintenance vendors.

Managing outsourced maintenance work

Some CMMS solutions offer facility managers the ability to share work orders with vendors through the software. This way, a CMMS can help track the history of all work that the vendor has completed for your company. Furthermore, this can also be used to provide precise cost breakdowns on spends for each vendor. 

Furthermore, these digital systems can ensure that the all-important ‘data trail’ needed for internal and external auditing purposes is available at all times. 

Managing parts and equipment suppliers

To efficiently manage vendors that supply parts and equipment, it is nice to have all information in one place to have an overview of all vendors and quick access to relevant information (like contact information which managers can use to inquire about an issue/delay or make future orders).

Same as with maintenance service providers above, CMMS can help you track costs associated with each vendor, which is extremely helpful for reporting purposes and estimating future costs.

However, it should be noted that not all CMMS packages offer all these vendor-related options. Therefore, it’s important to inquire as to the full suite of options that a CMMS offers before committing to it.

Parting thoughts

Ultimately, you should establish a respectable working relationship with each and every maintenance vendor with which your company deals. As American business and columnist Harvey Mackay says: “A smart manager will establish a culture of gratitude. Expand the appreciative attitude to suppliers, vendors, delivery people, and of course, customers.” 

So, treat each vendor as you would any customer – you never know the day when your business may really need that vendor to come through for you!

Bryan Christiansen is founder and CEO of Limble CMMS.

Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash

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