Developing a Preventative Maintenance Program

April 12, 2012 by John Oliver

Last week I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Southern Wisconsin YMCA Property Managers Spring Conference. West Bend was fortunate enough to host this year’s event for Y property managers and facility directors from more than a dozen different branches.

Lou Glassman, the Facilities Manager for West Bend, kicked things off by sharing details on the incredible level of associate involvement needed to keep West Bend’s 370,000 square foot campus operational. Each year, West Bend associates perform 13,000 hours of maintenance, 23,000 hours of custodial services, 6,000 hours of landscaping and grounds work, and another 6,000 hours of engineering and administration.

One of the main topics of discussion for the day was the impact that preventative maintenance can have on operational efficiency. Mike Hinckley, Senior Facilities Engineer, and Joe Philipps, AV Technician, shared West Bend’s strategy for ensuring all equipment operates as long and as effectively as it’s supposed to.

Here is the five step preventative maintenance program West Bend uses to ensure everything is working at an optimal level. While West Bend has a relatively large facility, these same steps can easily be adapted to fit the needs of any sized home or business.

A Five Step Preventative Maintenance Program

1. Identify Equipment Requiring Preventative Maintenance

The first step in an effective preventative maintenance program is identifying the equipment being used by your facility. Every organization is going to rely on different mechanical systems, which means a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work.

Take time to think about all of the systems needed to keep your organization humming along. A YMCA, for example, will obviously want to consider all of the equipment needed to keep the pool running, while a summer camp may need little more than basic electrical systems and a backup generator.

After all of the equipment has been identified it will be necessary to pinpoint the main components that each piece of equipment relies on. For example, most organizations, but especially those that cater to young kids and the elderly, will likely rely heavily on the continued performance of an HVAC system. When considering the individual components of an HVAC system you’ll need to think about the chiller, air handler, etc.

2. Determine the Preventative Maintenance Tasks

After you’ve identified all of the equipment your facility relies on, the next step in your preventative maintenance program is determining the individual tasks required to maintain the equipment. This process can be extremely complex depending on the equipment in your facility, so a good place to start is the manufacturer’s warranty. Look through the equipment warranty information and pick out every individual task required to maintain that warranty.

It is unlikely, however, that you will be able to determine all of the tasks required to keep equipment operational simply by looking at the warranty information. Be sure to consult Operations and Maintenance (O&M) recommendations and maintenance experts to fill in any holes in your list.

Once all of the tasks have been identified, record them for future reference. Recording tasks can be as basic as listing them in a spreadsheet, or as complex as importing them into a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

Over Maintaining vs. Under Maintaining

As a quick side note, it is important to consider the delicate balance of over maintaining equipment and under maintaining equipment. When you over maintain equipment, you’re spending money that you don’t need to. When you under maintain equipment, you’re setting yourself up for decreased returns on your equipment’s output and operational life. The key, which is easier said than done, is striking a balance somewhere between the two.

3. Perform Preventive Maintenance

After going through all the fun of identifying equipment and determining the laundry list of tasks needed to keep things running smoothly, you actually have to ensure that preventative maintenance is accomplished.

When it comes to performing preventative maintenance it’s important to think about the most cost effective way to get each task done. The two options you have for getting work done are having someone in-house perform the work, or have a contractor perform the work. Most organizations, West Bend included, will rely on some combination of the two.

It’s important to have a healthy understanding of your staff’s particular strengths and weaknesses. Rather than performing a task at a substandard level, it might make more sense to bring in help from the outside. For example, West Bend’s facility maintenance team is good at a lot of different things, though sophisticacted HVAC tasks that require specialized equipment or certifications, are often best left to experts. So, when it comes time to perform complex HVAC preventative maintenance, contractors are usually called in to do the work.

"Independent contractors should really be an extension of your staff."

Randy Stark, the Director of Internal Services for West Bend, says, “It’s important to note that independent contractors should really be an extension of your staff. When we have someone from outside of the company come in to perform work, we have the same expectations for them as we do our own associates. They’re expected to start work on time, maintain an appropriate and professional appearance, and stand by their work. And, in turn, we treat contractors with the same level of respect as our own staff. If you choose quality providers and manage them in this fashion, they will assume the same level of ownership in your facility as you do.”

4. Gather Feedback on the Preventative Maintenance

After performing preventative maintenance it’s extremely important to get feedback from end users. At West Bend, the end users are West Bend associates and visitors to the campus. At your organization, the end users may also include paying members or patrons, or someone from the general public.

Be certain to make detailed notes whenever follow up work is requested. Tracking this information can help lessen the risk of equipment failure in the future, which in turn shortens any potential downtime.

You must also gather feedback from those people that actually perform the work. Imagine the following scenario: you have a task setup that requires an air filter to be changed every 3 months. On time, every 3 months, a member of your maintenance staff replaces that filter and everyone goes about their daily routines. Without feedback from your staff how do you know if that filter actually needs to be replaced every 3 months? What if, upon inspection, it seems the filter is clean at every 3 month interval? Perhaps the task should be rewritten to only require a change every 4 months... or maybe every 6 months. Without feedback, you’ll never know.

5. Edit the Preventative Maintenance Task List

After gathering feedback from the appropriate parties, adjust your task list to accurately reflect the work needed. As the example above highlights, there will always be some level of variation when it comes to performing preventative maintenance.

Listen carefully to the feedback provided and make adjustments where necessary. Remember, you are looking to strike that perfect balance of performing maintenance no sooner or later than it needs to be done.

Finally, in addition to make minor adjustments to your preventative maintenance task list as work is being done, you will also want to audit your entire task list on a regular basis; in most cases, an annual audit should do the trick.

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