Reducing maintenance operations without compromising on efficiency during the COVID-19 period

Adrian Lim • 4/15/2020

Reducing maintenance operations without compromising on efficiency during the COVID-19 period

Building owners have had to review their maintenance strategy during the COVID-19 outbreak period because they have either reduced their operations or stepped up operations because their facility offers mission critical services.
Either way, the situation heightens the importance of putting in place a set of maintenance standards that provides equipment reliability in operations, as well as allowing for a sound understanding of equipment condition and critical operations. Having these standards gives facilities management teams the technical knowledge and confidence for a robust maintenance plan to achieve equipment reliability, services and cost efficiency to clients on the revised strategy in this pandemic.
As a result of COVID-19, circuit breaker measures have put some pressure on manpower. In Singapore, movement control measures by neighbouring countries have temporarily cut off the pool of technicians servicing the facilities. With the change in manpower resources on C&W Services client sites, managed sites have relied on maintenance standards to re-plan maintenance regimes to perform regular daily rounds inside and outside facilities that have been vacated. 

Key to this is the ability of the team to understand the difference between required regular maintenance and essential maintenance and prioritise the completion of work orders.

Prioritising Maintenance Tasks

With the reduced occupancy, building owners have had to scale back on operations. It is critical for the FM team to have a sound knowledge of the condition of the equipment, something that is paramount in decision making for proposing changes in maintenance strategy. It is also important in order to be able to prioritise maintenance works and knowing when to schedule preventive maintenance with a reduced technician labour pool. 

If half of a building’s air conditioning is to stop operating for three months, the FM team must be able to make a call on whether monthly maintenance for the aircon system is still required. Having a robust set of maintenance standards will help technicians decide accurately on how much to scale back – either a monthly visual inspection checks or a quarterly maintenance schedule to ensure equipment operational readiness, timed with precision to ensure a smooth resumption of business for the tenant. 

This is where technology plays a part. Security systems and fire protection systems can reduce potential property damage by leveraging technology like webcams and IoT sensors to detect out-of-the-ordinary motion. Coupled with revised building maintenance strategies, teams can quickly revert to normal operations.
When a tenant’s facility has minimal occupancy or is closed, FM teams must ensure critical systems are maintained at a level that enables the smooth resumption of business at the earliest possible time. Applying rigorous maintenance standards on M&E systems helps businesses to make the transition. Checks have to be built in to fire protection systems to ensure sprinkler valves are in an open position, that debris and ignitable liquids are removed, and to closely monitor any welding or other “hot work” taking place on the property. We should also not overlook other essential services such as pest controls, mosquito breeding, rodent infestation and cleaning services during this period.
Conversely, it is an ideal time to perform overdue maintenance and close the work order back logs resulting in a “reset” in deliverables, whether it is repairing expensive machinery or fixing a small roof leak that, if untreated, could delay client’s reopening and return to profitability.

FM standards in a Post COVID-19 World

 With a set of maintenance standards, FM industries will be better prepared to make decisions in equipment maintenance strategy, reactive works and life cycle plans, with facts and data to support these strategies.
In the past, many FM teams were reliant on manufacturer’s recommendation which varies between different vendors for the same equipment type. For example, different suppliers may recommend different maintenance frequency standards, resulting in a myriad of best practices which can lead to some confusion. 

For example, it is common practice for one manufacturer to propose oil changes bi-yearly while another may propose changing oil yearly. With the maintenance standards the FM team will have a systematic set of guidelines to make decisions based on a reliability vs cost decision matrix for this particular task. 
Therefore, with maintenance standards that leverage country statutory regulations, code of practices, subject matter expert SME knowledge and best practices, we have a rigid yet robust maintenance set of standards to give building owners confidence in maintenance operations and strategy.
Here are important benefits of a properly operated preventive maintenance programme:

  • Equipment downtime is decreased and the number of major repairs are reduced
  • Better conservation and increased life expectancy of assets, thereby eliminating premature replacement of machinery and equipment
  • Reduced overtime costs and more economical use of maintenance workers due to working on a scheduled basis instead of a crash basis to repair breakdowns
  • Timely, routine repairs circumvent fewer large-scale repairs
  • Duration driven maintenance plan to drive technician productivity
  • Improved safety and quality conditions for everyone

During these challenging times, it is important to pay attention to the underlying facilities operational risks that continue to impact an FM Team’s resilience. Facilities with a robust maintenance strategy and process managed by a team that stays vigilant and adaptable to the pandemic dynamics are more likely to succeed in getting client’s facilities back to business at the earliest opportunity.

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