By Nick Stefanidakis
General Manager, Archibus
SpaceIQ

As COVID-19 has shown us, predicting the future is a coin flip. Early on, people thought the virus would last a few weeks. No one believed we’d still be wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and awaiting vaccines more than a year later.

Businesses also could not foresee the impact shutdowns and health mandates would have on productivity, operations, and facility maintenance. That included the upkeep of assets such as networks, computers, lighting, HVAC, furniture, and other items that make up a modern workplace.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of a solid preventive maintenance plan for both everyday operations and crises. Staying ahead of issues not only saves valuable budget, but also helps ensure your workplace is ready to welcome employees back if a shutdown occurs.

Defining Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is essential to keep buildings and assets in optimal condition. Whether large or small, single location or global offices, all workplaces contain components that need to be regularly maintained and updated.

Assets are among an organization’s highest expenditure. According to a report by Aberdeen, a global B2B behavioral marketing firm, the cost for one hour of business downtime grew from $260,000 in 2014 to $492,000 in 2016. That number is likely much higher today.

Unlike corrective maintenance – an on-demand service to correct a specific issue at an unforeseen time – preventive maintenance is predictable. Tasks performed at regular intervals, such as periodic maintenance, scheduled inspections, cleaning, and updates, can extend asset life, improve conditions, and make corrective maintenance less frequent and/or costly.

That can mean significant time and money savings for organizations with limited budgets and resources. Mount Royal University (MRU), one of Canada’s top destinations for undergraduate studies, automated its preventive maintenance with Archibus after corrective support tickets grew from 3,000 in 2012 to more than 14,000 in 2020. Before, facilities staff spent hours manually creating maintenance reports.

“We didn’t have single source of truth when it came to generating reports,” said Jason Philipchuk, MRU Archibus Technology Support Analyst. “With Archibus, we improved our equipment inventory to ensure assets needing preventive maintenance were scheduled and given a means to track asset life cycle. That way, we keep our craftspeople out in the field and not in office working on reports.”

Three Steps to Preventive Maintenance

To develop an effective workplace preventive maintenance routine, three steps are essential. They include taking inventory, developing maintenance procedures, and establishing critical priorities.

  • Take Stock of Your Assets

Without an inventory of assets, it’s impossible to set an effective preventive maintenance schedule. A comprehensive inventory accounts for all assets in need of regular maintenance. These include facility-related assets, personal equipment, and information management infrastructure. While determining what you have, gather information and relevant documents about each asset – age, maintenance procedure by manufacturer, history, upgrade dates, and technical diagrams.

A great place to start is taking a holistic look at your facilities supporting systems like HVAC, plumbing, lighting, electrical, and emergency equipment and what’s inside or attached to them. Refer to architectural drawings or space plans to locate everything on the list.

If necessary, your information management inventory should include all personal items like desktops, laptops, printers, copiers, and other IT equipment, including equipment used by remote employees.

  • Establish Maintenance Procedures and Timetable

With your asset inventory in hand, it’s time to design a specific preventive procedure for each asset by standard or individually. The procedure should be based on manufacturers’ recommendations; however, some will be augmented to support more robust activities due to COVID-19 or other considerations.

Once completed, use manufacturer or company standards to set a regular preventive maintenance schedule. Ask yourself all the necessary questions that will assist your scheduling process:

  • Is the procedure concurrent?
  • At what frequency?
  • Do assets require different procedures at different times?
  • Do I have the right personnel to do the work as required? Should I consider outsourcing?

Next, you’ll need to determine the internal workflow that governs maintenance work orders. Evaluate maintenance budgets, resource allocation, work order issuance and approval, workload, and invoice payments.

  • Prioritize

When resources are scarce, you may lack the capacity to stay on an asset maintenance schedule. Determining your critical priorities for preventive maintenance is not an exact science. Although these decisions can be subjective, it’s important to prioritize what matters most, particularly when your business is affected by crises like COVID-19 that alter typical routines.

Cost is an additional factor in determining service priorities. Facilities managers should consider the cost of both regular maintenance and repairs/replacements. If a piece of equipment is out of order, how long will it be out of commission? How many employees will be unable to perform their jobs and for how long? What does it cost in lost productivity?

Keep Preventive Maintenance Plans Flexible

The COVID-19 pandemic upended some typically predictable routines. Though some maintenance should be consistent, the pandemic affected each workplace differently, sometimes even from one week to the next. Some assets require scheduled maintenance, no matter who is or isn’t in the office. Other preventive maintenance plans substantially change based on how COVID-19 or other crises impacts staffing, production, and customer service.

Due to COVID-19, workspace maintenance may not seem to be as pressing of an issue right now. But neglecting preventive maintenance can have expensive, long-term consequences. The routines themselves may change, but consistency is still important. Your preventive maintenance plan should be flexible enough to allow for necessary adjustments without completely disrupting traditional routines.

Flexibility is even more important as employees who have been working remotely come back to work. Facilities managers must balance the needs of on-site workers with those still working from home.

Benjamin Franklin’s famously said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to promote better fire safety in the 1770s. That idiom holds true today as businesses face “fires” daily. Taking the steps to mitigate damage is smart space and facility management. Preventive maintenance strategies can be one of your greatest protection now and into the future.

Keep reading: What is Facilities Maintenance Support Services?