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Technology / Maintenance
August 2014 Maintenance Matters

Maintaining Multiple Buildings Efficiently

Software options to schedule and track needed building maintenance.

July 31, 2014
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Not even the banging gavel of a federal judge could silence the noise in the courtroom.

That job fell to Cardoza O’Neal, regional maintenance manager for H&T Enterprises, who led his team in locating excessive vibrations in the courtroom’s faulty air handler and stopping its loud sounds from interrupting legal proceedings.

Keeping HVAC systems from disturbing judges is only one of the challenges O’Neal faces in maintaining a six-story General Services Administration (GSA) complex in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which leases buildings to the federal government and houses courtrooms and post offices as well as offices for the FBI, U.S. Marshals, DEA and EPA, and four additional buildings occupied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Because H&T Enterprises offers complete on-site facilities management services, O’Neal’s team is responsible for everything from mechanical systems in 80-year-old GSA offices to sophisticated electrical equipment in NOAA’s wind tunnel building and weather balloon lab.

To help manage that broad array of responsibilities, his company chose a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that could be adapted for use in multiple buildings.

“We needed a flexible enterprise CMMS that could expand across a variety of facilities but was easy enough to train our technicians,” O’Neal says.

Database Detectives

While O’Neal’s team has entered more than 500 pieces of equipment into the CMMS database, some older machinery had little or no documented maintenance history, making it difficult to know what had been done to service those items in the past.

“We’ve used the CMMS database to track the work order history for all equipment so we can take a systematic approach to preventive and predictive maintenance,” O’Neal says. “We have to plan for problems that may occur, such as getting hard-to-find replacement parts for old equipment in our older buildings.”

Even the intricate instrumentation used in NOAA’s weather balloon and wind tunnel systems has been assigned several PMs.

The CMMS database also helped O’Neal’s team solve one maintenance dilemma that was difficult to detect through the spreadsheet his department used previously.

While repairing stained ceiling tiles, staff members discovered that some of the drip pans for trapping water were not working properly.

On occasion, excessive condensation in the air handler would collect in the drip plans and leaks would occur in the floor, office ceilings, etc.

By using the CMMS to analyze repair data, O’Neal discovered the drip pan problem at several sites.

“We kept seeing that drip pans were faulty in different locations,” O’Neal says. “When three of the pan repairs showed up in our CMMS, we discussed ways to get to the root of the problem. We found some pumps that were malfunctioning so we put in back-up pumps with a limit switch. Our CMMS helped us figure out the solution for that.”

Remote Tracking

Because federal workers are spread out across three buildings, totaling 250,000 square feet, in three different locations, O’Neal depends on the service requests submitted through the CMMS to keep him abreast of customer needs.

“I log into the CMMS first thing in the morning to check the PM alerts and any work orders generated from requests for repairs from federal staff that may have come in the previous day,” O’Neal says. “I look at trends from these service requests to see if equipment is breaking down more often than it should.”

Throughout the day, O’Neal also follows up with the on-site supervisor and staff members to review the service requests and discuss where repair problems cropped up and what was done to correct them.

And O’Neal can get the information he needs without having to visit the far corners of the vast complex.

“Our CMMS enables me to track equipment in remote locations and we can monitor facilities remotely,” he says. “I can determine what’s going on and what the technicians did to make the repairs. With that capability, we make sure customers’ needs are being met. We can stop by their desks to ask, ‘Did you get what you need?’ and we can follow up with them more easily.”

Staggered Maintenance Schedules

While meeting customer needs is paramount, managing the workload for the maintenance professionals on staff is equally important.

“We work with various members of our staff to balance the service requests with the number of field personnel who do the hands-on work,” O’Neal says. “For example, we don’t want all of the PMs for all of the equipment coming out at the same time, so we have to stagger the maintenance schedule.”

“There’s a responsibility on both sides to put all equipment in the CMMS with input from our field team and from the manufacturers,” he adds.

Continuous Improvement

While automating maintenance management has led to a higher level of customer satisfaction, O’Neal encourages his team to avoid being lulled into a false sense of security.

“We can’t get complacent,” he says. “Our customers are happy and have told us this is the best maintenance service they’ve ever had. But we have to stay on our toes. We have to continuously improve!”

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