Webinar Highlights: Overcoming Facilities Maintenance Challenges

Maintenance teams continue to evolve and distinguish themselves as valued strategic allies worthy of investment. For our new report on the State of Maintenance in Manufacturing and Facilities Management, we spoke to hundreds of professionals about their common challenges and go-to strategies. 

We recently took a closer look at how facilities management pros responded with a panel webinar. Kristin Drake, Limble’s VP of Customer Success, moderated a conversation between Samantha Handy, Business Process Consultant at Aztec Construction, and John Rimer, President of FM360. In addition to examining the survey results, the panelists and attendees offered insights drawn from their own experiences. 

Here are some key tips and takeaways from the conversation. As you’ll see, one recurring topic was the role a CMMS plays in boosting maintenance’s capabilities and helping facilities managers overcome their most common challenges.  

Maximizing uptime: tips and best practices

Though facilities managers don’t sweat downtime quite as much as maintenance teams in the manufacturing sector, they still contend with safety risks, complicated supply chains, limited budgets, and other factors that can contribute to inefficiencies and wasted time. 

Prioritizing preventive maintenance

Facilities managers were practically unanimous in their choice of strategy for addressing downtime. Both webinar panelists and 90% of survey respondents agreed that more proactive maintenance is essential for minimizing downtime and its various consequences. 

A smaller number of respondents said they use condition monitoring tools to inform their maintenance strategies. Rimer stressed the importance of transitioning to condition-based maintenance where possible, leveraging the appropriate tools and techniques to gather data. With schedules and plans informed by this data, facilities managers can execute maintenance work right on time. 

Training and re-training maintenance technicians

A skilled and well-prepared team is essential for minimizing the impact of both planned and unplanned downtime. Our panelists and attendees emphasized the value of training your team well and regularly soliciting stakeholder feedback to help improve on-boarding and training programs. 

Dealing with aging equipment and infrastructure

As one panelist quipped, old and outdated equipment and buildings are an “age-old problem” for facilities managers. Because around half of organizations are at least half reactive, they defer critical maintenance tasks and leave assets to depreciate unchecked. Over time, they begin to fail more often and cost businesses more money. In more extreme cases, they can leave operators and technicians vulnerable to injuries.  

At Aztec Construction, Limble helped facilities managers identify more than $20,000 in unneeded parts. Rather than leaving these to languish on a shelf, the Aztec seem sold these to fund future initiatives. The conversation repeatedly turned to the role a quality CMMS platform should play in identifying high-priority assets and making more strategic, cost-effective decisions. 

Buy vs. repair decisions

Assets like vehicles and heavy equipment don’t come cheap. Making the wrong decision during repair vs. replacement discussions or buy vs. lease debates can cost your business tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and hurt your reputation among executive management. 

Capital replacement programs

Our panelists argued that data is the single most important factor in advocating for investments in maintenance and facilities management. To evolve beyond a tactical cost center and begin serving as a model for innovation and efficiency, facilities managers need to introduce capital replacement programs informed by thorough facility condition assessments

Which KPIs are important for facilities managers? 

As facilities teams begin to collect more data and report on their performance, which metrics should they prioritize? The panelists and attendees named a range of important data points for understanding the success of maintenance work and emphasizing the function’s value.  

Performance and productivity metrics

The team at Aztec Construction Group pays especially close attention to their planned maintenance percentage as well as their average response times. These offer a good sense of the team’s productivity as well as the performance of individual employees. They have found these metrics especially useful for driving buy vs. lease debates and identifying instances where additional training may be necessary. Rimer also cited planned maintenance percentage as arguably the most important metrics for FM360’s facilities managers. “If I’m not monitoring that,” he remarked, “that’s my first mistake.” 

Strategies for addressing talent gaps in facilities management

With more and more of the workforce expected to retire by the end of the decade, Rimer noted that talent gaps will likely get worse before they get better. Both panelists agreed, however, that with the right tools and a proactive approach, organizations can overcome even this persistent challenge.

CMMS solutions and the recruiting process

“A CMMS is a recruiting tool in and of itself,” said Handy, noting that hiring managers can highlight the ways software like Limble can improve the average workday and eliminate common frustrations. Ultimately, a CMMS can contribute to higher job satisfaction for drivers, technicians, operators, and other end users. 

Another reason to get more predictive

Rimer noted that the shift toward more predictive and condition-based maintenance can both make a workplace more appealing to an applicant and, where necessary, help organizations allocate a smaller number of people more efficiently. He encouraged even small organizations to check out their options. 

More key takeaways for facilities managers 

  • Manage up, out, and down: Rimer described the importance of managing perception. First, your team should know how to  “manage up” and advocate for itself to management, using data-driven insights to justify new funding or resource allocation. Next, they should “manage out,” asking important questions of their customers and partners. If you don’t ask, you may not know about potentially costly issues until it’s too late. And, finally, “managing down” means ensuring everyone across the team is not only on the same page and prepared for a job well done but also equipped to sell the value of facilities management.
  • Safety first: Enforcing safety and compliance standards should amount to more than just a box-checking exercise. At Aztec Construction Group, safety is at the heart of any decision-making process. Facilities managers should take pains to go beyond implementing rules, building a culture of safety and compliance informed by underlying principles. After all, there may not be a department within your organization where employees come in contact with more potential hazards throughout the average day. 
  • Know your audience: Both panelists acknowledged that facilities and maintenance departments are still generally regarded as cost centers within their organizations. As a result, they’re no strangers to skepticism. Oftentimes arguing for investments and important changes also means fundamentally changing the department’s perception within the organization. Handy and Rimer encouraged attendees to always tailor their messaging to their specific audience. You should ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?” and structure your argument accordingly. It’s also important to keep all relevant stakeholders looped into every decision-making process. With more insight into the value of data-driven facilities management (and the cost of inaction) they’ll grow into advocates for the function.   

Check out the full conversation

Stream the full on-demand webinar and browse for additional videos, whitepapers, and downloadable guides in our Resources library.

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