How to set up a proactive property maintenance program

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For occupants of commercial properties, property maintenance has a greater impact on their business’ success than they may realise. By Bryan Christiansen.

Poor property maintenance often results in higher energy and operational costs, unsafe conditions and potential fines, and decreased employee performance. Not to even mention how it negatively impacts the value of the building itself. Achieving this requires that property managers have a proactive maintenance program in place.

The goal of this text is to outline how this can be done in practice. The context of the article covers a situation where the property owner/manager wants to build an in-house maintenance team. If the maintenance work is outsourced to a professional property management/facilities management company, then it is up to them to outline their workflow.

1. Know the asset base 

Understanding the extent of a building’s assets starts from compiling an asset register: a listing of the components that make up the property. The asset register may include every major element in the building or just the assets that require regular attention in the form of inspection, maintenance, servicing, cleaning, or replacement.

The specific details and format of the asset register may vary, but will usually contain information like:

  • asset name and barcode/unique identifier (like a serial number)
  • asset location
  • purchase date and price
  • manufacturer’s information (OEM manuals), and
  • maintenance history.

These days, asset registers are usually prepared and stored digitally. The advantage being that digital registers are easily searchable and include clickable links to supporting documentation.

2. Gather asset management information

Proactive maintenance seeks to minimise equipment breakdowns by first identifying the factors that lead to equipment failure and then scheduling activities that will reduce performance degradation. This information comes from several sources like original equipment manufacturer (OEM) guidelines and equipment history and records.

OEM manuals 

OEM guidelines provide a wealth of information that can help property managers with physical asset management. Among other things, OEM information provides a baseline for maintenance frequency and recommends the ideal operating conditions for each asset. This is vital data for maintaining assets like HVAC, vehicles (if any), and all kinds of mechanical and electrical equipment captured in the asset register.

Equipment history and records

Equipment repair and maintenance data gathered over time reveal a pattern of failure, expenditure, and repair. This is another valuable source of maintenance data. From maintenance logs, charts, and other records, the person in charge of the maintenance schedule will get actionable insights into usage patterns, recurring issues, spare parts inventory needs, and the criticality of each piece of equipment.

3. Formulate the maintenance program

An effective proactive maintenance program is designed to make optimal use of available resources (time, labor, materials). This requires planning and scheduling of tasks paired with effective use of computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) and other tools.

Planning and scheduling of tasks

Due to the multitude of potential tasks that can be expected, careful planning is vital in ensuring smooth operations and preempting excessive equipment breakdowns. The property/maintenance manager needs to focus on scheduling inspections and planning PM frequencies (i.e. weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually). Much of this scheduling will be done based on the information gathered in step two. 

Despite the best efforts, unforeseen situations will arise, so it is unrealistic to assume that 100 percent of maintenance activities can be planned without fail. Rather, a more realistic approach for a good proactive preventive maintenance program should aim for a 70/30 split between planned and unplanned maintenance. 

All this can seem overwhelming on busy properties. One way to deal with that is to automate maintenance workflow by implementing cloud-based maintenance software, which leads to the next point. 

Using CMMS and other tools

Using a CMMS system makes everything easier by storing all maintenance information in one location and allowing users to create maintenance schedules with just a few clicks. 

However, there are several CMMS brands available today – and not all have the same functions and capabilities. Hence, narrowing down the best fit for an organisation may be tricky. Nevertheless, key features to look out for are a user-friendly interface, work request portal so people can easily submit maintenance tickets, work order management, spare parts inventory management, and a detailed reporting system. Support for predictive maintenance is a bonus, but not all building managers will have a need for that.

4. Build the maintenance team

By now, the property manager should have a clear picture of the work at hand. They know what kind of maintenance jobs need to be done, how to do them, and at what intervals. The next step is to hire a team of qualified staff to execute these tasks. Maintenance staff size will vary depending on the property’s size and complexity, but generally, the likely choices may include a maintenance supervisor, technicians, then cleaners and gardeners.

Interviewing and hiring maintenance staff can also be done in-house or outsourced to a recruitment agency.

5. Implement and execute the program

At this point, the PM program is ready for implementation. Ideally, the staff have been thoroughly trained on any new technologies to be used, and they have been introduced to the agreed processes and procedures. But, trying to implement so many changes at once can become problematic. Therefore, the property manager can consider implementing the PM program in phases. 

For instance, they may consider starting with a pilot program at one section of the property or starting with a few assets then expanding the scope as time passes. This approach also enables the team to gradually make observations and give feedback that will help to fine-tune the program further.

A preventive maintenance program should always be subject to continuous improvement. The information gathered from staff feedback, work order information, and other reports will also help identify where strengths and weaknesses exist.

Final thoughts

Setting up a proactive property maintenance program will take time, commitment and effort but it is worth the trouble. Using modern tools like maintenance software will help streamline the process from start to finish and allow the property manager to automatically track maintenance-related information behind the scenes with minimal addition to their daily workload.

Bryan Christiansen is founder and CEO of Limble CMMS.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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