While maintenance and repairs are an expected and inevitable part of facility management, the costs attached to them can still be a wildcard.
You may be cruising along well under your maintenance budget when—BAM—you get hit with the need to replace an entire floor of carpeting or purchase a new HVAC unit. Suddenly you find yourself way over budget with the rest of the year or quarter still to go.
Once the problem has occurred, there’s not much you can do except react and find the best solution (which usually means spending a lot of money). But there are things you can do ahead of time to help reduce your building’s maintenance costs.
The Difference Between Reactive, Preventative, and Predictive Maintenance
There are generally three approaches to building maintenance used by facility managers:
- Reactive – This is the “fix it when it breaks” approach.
- Preventative – This is the “check it and make repairs before it breaks” approach.
- Predictive – This is the “use technology to forecast when a problem will occur and provide maintenance accordingly” approach.
The most common type of maintenance employed by facility managers is the “reactive” approach. According to a post by Akita Box on preventative maintenance planning, 85 percent of total maintenance spending is on reactive maintenance.
The reason for this is simple: It’s the cheapest—or at least it seems to be the cheapest. The reality is that it’s only the cheapest when everything is running smoothly. But, as we all know, things don’t always run smoothly.
3 Proactive Ways to Reduce Maintenance Costs for Your Facility
Preventative and predictive maintenance approaches are growing in popularity with facility managers. By taking a more upfront, proactive approach with certain aspects of building maintenance, managers are achieving greater cost efficiency.
Here are a few key areas where taking a proactive (versus reactive) approach to building maintenance can pay off:
Particularly in large buildings, maintenance teams may be spending a lot of time dealing with the simplest of tasks: changing light bulbs. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal—after all, changing a single bulb doesn’t take long and people need light.
But those bulbs add up. And, more importantly, the maintenance time required to change them adds up.
One potential solution that may help you reduce maintenance costs and significantly reduce your energy costs at the same time is to invest in LED lighting.
According to Stouch Lighting, LEDS typically last “50,000 to 100,000 hours or more without a relevant decrease in light output”. That’s 50 times longer than a typical incandescent bulb, and 2-10 times longer than any other lighting technology.
While LED lights are more expensive than other lights, the investment is more than made up for in the long run with reduced energy costs, less frequent need for replacement, and long-term maintenance savings.
Managers typically make two key commercial carpeting cleaning mistakes:
- Not having it cleaned the right way (based on carpet type and traffic patterns)
- Waiting until the carpet is visibly dirty to have it deep cleaned
Both may be done for cost-saving purposes—and both will probably cost you more money in the long run.
Properly caring for carpet can seem like an excess expense to many managers. That is, until they discover the cost of restoring or replacing commercial carpeting.
The best solution: A carpet preventative maintenance program. By having your carpets regularly cleaned and maintained, you can cut a lot of high-cost repair or restoration work—and even potentially push back a planned carpet replacement.
A consistent maintenance program can extend the life of carpet by 5-10 years depending on the facility and traffic pattern and that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in savings a year.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning can cause facility managers a lot of headaches and unexpected maintenance costs. When a unit stops working on an extremely hot or cold day, managers are backed into a corner where they have to react.
HVAC is an area where preventative and predictive maintenance can definitely save you money.
This preventative maintenance checklist suggests inspecting your HVAC system at least twice a year, with seasonal start-up and run inspections, and looking for screw or latch updates, gasket repairs, and missing screws replacements.
Predictive maintenance can also be a valuable tool for managing your HVAC system—though the technology still comes with a high enough price tag that it may be tough to justify the investment.
There’s also another intriguing option: geothermal heat pump systems—a trending alternative to HVAC systems which can save a facility 30-50% in heating and cooling costs.
Identify Cost-Saving Maintenance Opportunities
The best method of reducing your maintenance costs is to record and monitor them over time. This will help you identify where your budget is going and where it may make sense to take a different approach. There are a number of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) available today that can help you do this.
As with any spending scenario, if you take a close look at where the money is going, over time, you should be able to identify specific opportunities to save. And remember, don’t just think about the short term—do the math and keep your long-term investments in mind.