Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)

Managing the Maintenance Cycle

We are all very tuned into the many different cycles through which our facilities maintenance efforts pass. In order to properly and efficiently operate, we must keep a close eye on all the various “moving parts” of our plan. I often go back to the simple idea that practically everything we do requires a plan. Without a plan we are merely winging it, and most plans require a backup plan or two because as sure as there are 24 hours in the day, the first plan will inevitably hit a snag.

For the purpose of this conversation, we are going to focus on the routine and reactive maintenance as well as the preventive and predictive maintenance activities that we manage.

Routine and Reactive

Routine maintenance includes the work that we do on a regular basis but may not be “routine” enough to warrant being entered into the system as a preventive or predictive item. I equate these to our summer classroom maintenance activities. We know every summer we will go through each classroom and perform our hinge-to-handle maintenance activities (start at the door hinge, go around the room to the door handle and inspect and repair everything that requires it). This also includes the particular setup we perform in support of annual events.

Reactive maintenance, while often viewed as an improper way to manage, is a reality in all facilities. Reactive maintenance includes work orders submitted by faculty and staff for general repairs of all sorts; for lamps burned out (when not part of a larger relamping project), a saw blade breaking on a band saw in the shop, or needing to change a tire on the president’s car. If the equipment is not critical to the overall facilities operation and/or can easily be repaired with parts readily on hand, then this is not as inattentive as people may think.

Preventive and Predictive

Preventive and predictive maintenance are viewed as similar and nearly the same in many circles. However, they are dramatically different. Preventive maintenance calls for work to be performed based upon time (quarterly, etc.), runtime (x number of hours), or mean time between failures. Predictive maintenance requires we apply maintenance or repairs based on equipment-specific needs, such as replacing oil in a generator engine not based upon run time, but instead on a sample of the condition of the oil, or replacing filters in an air handler when the static pressure reaches a preset point.

Managing the maintenance cycle essentially means tuning in to the various jobs we perform and ensuring we have trained our employees to help us watch out for both the idiosyncratic maintenance items as well as the repetitive, routine or reactive items. For example, if a technician notices a specific pattern of failures on a piece of equipment, that technician may contact his supervisor or the work control coordinator to point out and review the work order history of the repeated issues. From this contact, an assessment can be made regarding how to proceed. Perhaps instead of this equipment being considered routine maintenance, data now suggest that it should fall under preventive maintenance and be given an appropriate cycle for ongoing maintenance and repair. In addition, adequate reviews of our work order history will help us accomplish what might not be that apparent. We can use our CMMS programs to help pick up on the repeats or anomalies in the equipment’s operational and maintenance needs.

Moving routine or preventive maintenance items to the predictive side of the program is more intensive and requires certain engineering and/or controls in order to manage the required points to call for maintenance. This can save time in the long run by ensuring that equipment is running properly.

Focus on Timing

In managing the cycles of maintenance, we also need focus on timing. If we are following preventive or routine maintenance timing, we should be certain that the timing is such that the downtime for maintenance and repairs will not negatively affect the continued operation of campus. In Florida we do our chiller maintenance in the winter over Christmas break so we do not inconvenience our customer, even though we often need our chillers year-round (sorry to everyone north of here!). Perhaps a better example would be performing boiler maintenance during summer months.

It seems as if we’ve barely scratched the surface on this topic. I leave you with this; over time, it is important that we continue to update our CMMS systems with information we gather as we perform various activities in the maintenance cycles. The information we add may extend the life of a piece of equipment and/or maximize the useful life of the parts being replaced in the process.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at Stegemik@berkeleyprep.org.

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