Facilities maintenance is the ongoing process of servicing, repairing, and replacing the capital assets, systems, and spaces associated with a building. It’s not glamorous, but it’s an essential component of every organization’s daily operations.
Effective facilities maintenance helps businesses minimize unscheduled downtime, extend the life and utility of their assets, minimize disruption to other operations, and maintain a safe, healthy work environment. And when issues do arise, streamlined work orders and facilities maintenance processes ensure you can resolve them quickly.
Regardless of the types of buildings your organization operates, there are critical assets that can cause costly problems. In a corporate office building, the HVAC can fail, making the work environment uncomfortable for every employee. Or you could have a water breach in an upper floor, which could damage everything below. In retail and hospitality, your infrastructure affects your customers as well, and your operations might depend on specialized equipment that you lease or own, such as ovens, freezers, boilers, or soda machines.
Maintaining specific assets can get incredibly complex. In healthcare, for example, assets like MRI machines are highly regulated. If they have defects, need repairs, or simply underperform, it can have major consequences for patients and staff. And in a single healthcare facility, there could be numerous machines with equally complicated maintenance requirements.
In this guide, we’ll examine the keys to successful facilities maintenance, digging into some of the biggest challenges facing large organizations today, as well as exploring modern solutions. First, let’s look at the main types of maintenance involved in facilities maintenance.
Facilities maintenance requires organizations to be both highly proactive and reactive, constantly weighing the risk of equipment failures against the cost of repairing or replacing key assets.
Preventive maintenance is proactive, keeping assets in peak condition by servicing them regularly, identifying problems early, and resolving them before they cause failures. While you can develop maintenance schedules manually based on an asset’s life expectancy and maintenance history, modernized facilities leverage predictive analytics, too.
Using Internet of Things sensors to track and measure an asset’s performance, organizations can create predictive maintenance schedules based on how each asset performs in real-time. This can dramatically reduce the likelihood of unscheduled maintenance, which is far more disruptive, as it’s harder to have backups and workarounds in place. Obviously, this depends on your technology. You need IoT sensors to track the asset’s performance and facilities maintenance software with the intelligence to process and react to that data.
Regardless of how proactive your organization is, unexpected maintenance issues are bound to arise. A contractor could leave a valve open, causing a major leak. Plumbing can fail. Pests can cause electrical problems or bio hazards. And that’s where corrective maintenance comes in. Also referred to as reactive maintenance or breakdown maintenance, this is where organizations need smooth, efficient processes in place to prioritize and resolve problems as they arise.
Ideally, you want to eliminate as much corrective maintenance work as possible—but you’ll never be completely free from it. With reactive maintenance, the goal is to quickly get assets operational or implement a replacement. This depends on the organization’s ability to detect issues fast, simplify work orders, and give maintenance leaders the contextual information they need to make cost-effective decisions.
In some cases, maintenance workers decide not to make needed repairs. This happens when an asset can continue to operate without a repair, and the risk of a larger failure is outweighed by the costs and other factors involved in making the repairs.
While it’s never ideal to leave assets operating inefficiently, and problems that stem from deferred maintenance are often much more costly than the initial work would have been, this is still a strategic option to keep on the table.
For example, if your lease is about to end on a facility and you aren’t renewing, your organization may not receive much benefit from your investment in repairing or replacing the asset. The net present value of the asset could have an impact as well. If there’s not much value left in the asset, it may make sense to use it until it absolutely needs to be replaced. And of course, your maintenance team may not currently have capacity for all the work orders in their queue.
Depending on your maintenance needs, you may want to build a facilities maintenance team in house, or contract with a specialized vendor. The benefit of building an in-house team is that your maintenance crew becomes more familiar with your specific assets, and they’re available at a moment’s notice. You don’t have to wait for the commercial plumber to have an opening later this week, or call every local contractor you can find on Google—your team is already on site.
However, sustaining an internal maintenance team can take far more resources. And with external vendors, you also have the ability to work with highly specialized vendors, ensuring that decisions are always made by someone with the right expertise. Typically, organizations use a combination of internal and external teams so that they can respond quickly to problems, perform basic preventive maintenance, and call in a specialist when there’s a problem the in-house team isn’t equipped to handle—like if the water cooler has a buildup of biofilm.
For many organizations, there are several ways in which the scale of facility operations, size of real estate portfolio, acquisition of other organizations, and complexity of maintenance work can seriously inhibit facilities maintenance.
The more assets a facility has to manage, and the more facilities your business has to manage, the more complicated work order management becomes. At any given time, your maintenance department could be juggling hundreds of work orders, each of which could have dozens of steps. As these orders come in, your team has to triage jobs and route them to the right people, as well as evaluate how much work is involved, how critical that work is, and where it fits in with everything else.
Large organizations need a streamlined system for assigning work to the right people, tracking and updating the status of associated tasks, mapping out the steps involved in a job, and estimating time and costs involved. The work orders themselves could come in a wide range of formats, and the rest of this process typically involves either an intricate network of spreadsheets or specialized facilities maintenance software like Tango Maintenance.
Often, organizations find themselves stuck in spreadsheets because the software they’ve seen or used in the past hasn’t been able to handle the inputs they needed. But spreadsheets are cumbersome to navigate, and they can run the risk of causing someone to work from outdated information. As they grow more complex and unwieldy, spreadsheets can also create bottlenecks, where only one or two people know how to find and understand the information the documents contain. While using spreadsheets may begin as a “simple” solution, it quickly gets out of hand at scale.
Tango Maintenance automatically routes the right information to the right person at the right time, giving your internal team and external vendors everything they need to keep projects moving forward.
Most organizations are asset data poor. They may not even know what assets they have or where they’re located. When a maintenance worker or administrator has to make repair or replace decisions, they often don’t have enough context about the asset or its associated documents. As a result, they can wind up repairing assets they should have replaced and replacing assets they should have repaired.
This isn’t because they’re too lazy to look up the warranty, calculate the net present value of the asset, view the order history, or research the lease. Sometimes that information simply isn’t accessible, or else it takes far too much time and effort to access.
But if an asset (or the component that failed) is still under warranty, the manufacturer may repair or replace it for free. And if there’s little remaining value or the asset isn’t expected to last much longer, it’s likely to fail again, no matter how good a bandaid repair is. Depending on the service level agreement (SLA) or not-to-exceed (NTE) clauses in the associated documents, your lessor may be responsible for completing the work. And if your lease is about to end, why replace something you could just repair?
Information like this is critical for maintenance teams to make the right decisions. But in most cases, they don’t have this in front of them when it’s time to decide what to do with your assets. Tango Maintenance is changing that.
When work orders come in, your maintenance team gets all of the context they need about the asset, including information like:
- Asset name and manufacturer
- Date of purchase/installation
- Its previous work order history (and expense history)
- Landlord/tenant responsibilities
- Notes about regulations surrounding the asset
- How much life it should have left
- The net present value
By providing greater visibility into crucial maintenance details, Tango Maintenance helps you address another challenge to facilities maintenance: bottlenecks.
At any given facility, there will inevitably be a couple of employees—perhaps even just one—who know the most about your assets and equipment. They’re the ones who have done the repairs and made the decisions in the past. They were there when the asset was installed. Maybe they ordered it from the manufacturer and remember details of the warranty, or who is responsible for maintaining it. They may have relationships with specialists, contractors, and vendors you’ve used over the years. When the work orders come in, these people track, complete, and close them.
Maintenance bottlenecks create risk. If everything depends on one or two people’s expertise and experience, then when they’re unavailable—or if they leave—your facility is vulnerable. It will take longer to complete work orders, some little-known preventive maintenance will be neglected, and you’ll be stuck paying for repairs or replacements you don’t need.
This creates two challenges for organizations:
- Keep these people happy and give them tools that make their lives easier
- Increase everyone else’s access to the information that lives in their heads
Give them a clunky computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that doesn’t have the capabilities they need, and that daily friction may cause them to work around the tool (decreasing everyone else’s access to the information) or even look for a job elsewhere.
With intuitive workflows, comprehensive functionality, and convenient dashboards, Tango Maintenance simplifies the processes your facilities maintenance team uses every day to prioritize work, track progress, and make decisions about assets. And since it’s so simple, anyone who needs access can find the asset or work order information they need.
As facilities and the businesses that inhabit them change hands, the platforms, software, and tools wind up changing, too. You have a wide range of facilities maintenance software vendors to choose from. And they don’t all work together.
Facilities maintenance software is under the umbrella of tools included in an integrated workplace management system (IWMS). IWMS is built to improve everything from lease accounting and space management to site analysis and real estate transactions. These sprawling platforms are often an amalgamation of modules—specialized point solutions from different vendors, all mashed together. While these tools are usually designed to integrate with one another, some platforms can’t support all of the functionality within an individual module, and vice versa.
This creates a frustrating experience for your maintenance department if, for example, you acquire another business that has different kinds of assets than you. While it’s nice to have all of your locations using the same tools so you can keep all of your work orders in one place, your old CMMS may not work well in this new context. Or maybe your facility was acquired, and now you’re being pressured to embrace incompatible tools that don’t support your data.
Some organizations prefer a decentralized approach, where different facilities can use different tools. But others are moving toward streamlining processes and making their data, processes, and structure more consistent. For these businesses, smooth integration is vital to their success—and their employees’ satisfaction.
While Tango Maintenance is part of our IWMS suite, we built it to integrate with every platform on the market. So you can improve maintenance processes without swapping out other tools you know and love.
A single repair-or-replace decision can get expensive fast. And when those decisions are made based on incomplete data, they often represent wasteful expenses. Multiply those wasteful expenses across your entire lease portfolio, and you could be wasting tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Tango Maintenance gives your team the context they need to make informed decisions, and automatically routes work orders to the right people at the right time. From start to finish, Tango streamlines service requests and supports your maintenance processes. Our software can also pull relevant data from the rest of your IWMS suite, giving your maintenance department fuller context about each asset, including landlord and tenant responsibilities, how the asset fits into your real estate strategy, the project it was part of, and your location’s total CAP/EX and OP/EX.
Want to see how Tango Maintenance can improve your workflows?