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5 Tips to Handle Mechanical Maintenance Issues Office Buildings

To keep mechanical issues in office buildings down, prevention is the best medicine. 

From breaking belts to power pump failures, facilities managers can face a variety of maintenance issues in their office buildings if their systems aren't regularly maintained. That can be costly to your business and the bottom line.

So, how do you make sure you’re doing what you can to prevent mechanical issues while minimizing downtime and costs?

Here are five tips to help you better manage, maintain and prevent mechanical issues in office buildings:

1. Have Regular Equipment Inspections

“Regular, consistent inspections of all mechanical equipment allow for a more efficient operation and can uncover issues before they become catastrophic or impact normal operations,” says Vinnie Del Borrello, a senior facility manager at Johnson Controls, a global technology industry leader headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., that optimizes energy and operational efficiencies of buildings.

Doing preventative maintenance to stay ahead of issues rather than reacting to them is of the utmost importance, says Sam Davidson, CFM, International Facility Management Association (IFMA) member and director of facilities at Children International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization in Kansas City, Mo. He recommends doing a walk-through daily or weekly to listen and look for anything malfunctioning, like a loud motor or a leaky pipe. “If something goes down, I’ll do a pre-evaluation and try to identify the problem,” says Davidson, who then fixes the problem or calls his contractor if it’s outside his range of expertise. “You can solve the problem in just a few hours, which saves time and money in the long run.”

2. Facility Maintenance Checklist

Facilities managers should consider creating a checklist, listing every piece of equipment, as well as what needs to be done to each. The checklist should be updated as new equipment is added to the building and old equipment is retired or at least two to four times a year, Davidson says. It can then function as part of the service agreement for contract workers. “If you don’t have these lists, you aren’t going to do your preventative maintenance,” Davidson says. “That’s when you forget something like the belts and something breaks down.”

3.  Benchmark Costs

To help benchmark costs, facilities managers should refer to surveys from associations, like the Building Owners and Managers Association’s (BOMA) annual Experience Exchange Report, to measure where they stand in their industry. The data is presented as cost per square foot in utilities and repair costs, says Ray Celli, owner of Optiera, Inc., a management consulting firm in New Port Richey, Fla. that helps clients optimize the performance of their real estate and buildings.

Because Celli does consulting work across the United States, having that information helps him set target improvement benchmarks for utility costs. For example, if his costs were $2.30, after adjusting his utility cost inflation, Celli might set a 5 to 15 percent improvement target for utility costs. “If you don’t measure your progress, you won’t know where you stand in the industry, and you won’t be able to tell your management,” Celli says.

4. Create Contracts

Many facilities managers must take on an administrative role, which means they aren’t directly servicing the mechanical systems, but engaging contract workers to do the job instead. That means it’s important to clearly articulate to contractors their duties, Celli says. “Your contract should clearly define roles, responsibilities and expectations, as well as systematically evaluate performance,” he says.

Make sure to outline all preventative maintenance within the contract, including how often walk-throughs should occur, what to inspect for each machine and the steps to take when there’s a problem. For Davidson, that means drafting a 13-page contract in which he includes detailed information about the replacement schedule for filters, belts and motors. The contract also includes a listing of every piece of equipment the contractor has to inspect.

5. Track and Record All Maintenance Repairs

Keeping a record of all maintenance and repairs is often as important as the repairs themselves. On a spreadsheet, Davidson tracks the equipment name, its ID number, its location and the tasks that need to be done. Davidson says your records will reveal any patterns and prevent catastrophic problems. “If you see you’re continually replacing a starter contact in a motor or a belt on one of your air handlers,” Davidson says, “it could be symptomatic of a larger problem.

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