Small businesses generally don't have to stress over managing the physical plant of their operations. However, as your company grows, that office and workspace might need to expand as well. That is where facility maintenance comes in.
At its heart, facilities maintenance is a system that allows you to keep track of physical assets and their condition. It includes machinery, offices, work areas, storage facilities and any other buildings and grounds your business owns or leases. Although large companies may choose to outsource this work, it can be successfully managed in house. Following some basic principles and maintenance tips can help.
1. Plan Your Work
The focus of facilities work should be on preventative maintenance. Follow recommendations from manufacturers regarding equipment maintenance schedules, whether they are based on length of time or number of hours used. Adjust production periodically to accommodate having pieces out of service for regular inspection and adjustments.
Having a comprehensive schedule for maintenance tasks will help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by unexpected breakdowns and repairs. However, it does not mean those situations won't pop up. Make sure you leave time in your schedule to perform repairs as needed to avoid creating a backlog. By holding yourself accountable, you will ensure efficiency and accuracy in your work. Create a system for others to report concerns and problems, prioritize repairs, and respond to them accordingly.
2. Contract Out Specialized Work
Most facility managers will be able to handle basic repairs and maintenance tasks. However, some jobs require specialized skills. In cases like that, it makes more sense to contract the work out than to have staff trained and certified to perform it in-house. Some examples of specialty work include:
Pest prevention and extermination
Grease trap and vent hood cleaning
Snow and ice removal
Deep cleaning and contaminant removal
In other cases, you may be required to have outside companies perform service work. Some equipment manufacturers will only honor warranties if maintenance has been performed by certified technicians. In other cases, it may be a local or state safety code, such as with fire extinguisher inspections. Either way, be sure you know what the rules and regulations are with regard to any business operations and equipment.
3. Create a Paper Trail
Whether you choose to keep work within the company or hire contractors, you should always keep accurate records. Develop a system for tracking estimates, authorizations, orders and charges. This will help you later on if there are problems or if something needs service. For example, if you suddenly have a smokey brown cockroach infestation, it can help to pull up the exterminator contract to verify what they have been doing to prevent pests.
Thorough record keeping can help to limit liability in the case of an accident or injury. Ensure that your records are clear and easy to follow. Have a system for reporting accidents and any care that is provided as a result of them. This should also include any investigations regarding the nature and cause of the accident and changes to facility procedures that come about after it.
4. Perform Visual Inspections
A schedule is great, but it is not a replacement for direct visual inspections of the grounds and equipment. In fact, those inspections should be a major portion of your schedule. Through carrying out inspections yourself, maybe you will find areas for improvement that you otherwise would not have identified. Walk around, look at moving parts, watch machinery in operation, drive the vehicles, and check buildings and storage structures for any issues that could cause trouble. Be thorough and complete in your inspections to prevent any potential accidents that may harm your company and employees.
5. Track Total Cost
Facilities departments can seem like a major cash drain on a business. However, you should still track every expense incurred. Knowing where your resources are going can be a motivator to seek improvements or increase efficiency. When you are keeping records, track time spent on tasks, contracted labor, parts, and travel expenses related to securing them. You should also monitor any savings that result from maintenance tasks and how long it will take to see a positive impact. For example, installing insulation may help lower utilities enough to offset the initial cost of the work and materials.
Developing a comprehensive system and schedule for facilities work can help you keep it manageable. Keeping detailed records and knowing when to perform tasks and when to contract them out will help you streamline the process.