As cities and counties across the U.S. struggle to stave off bankruptcies from overly optimistic expenditures during the housing boom, the last headache they need are unforeseen maintenance costs and capital outlay that could be easily avoided. From Harrisburg, PA to the latest debacle in Stockton, CA, budget cuts may be inevitable but it also behooves government officials to shore up efficiencies where possible in city and county department cost centers. Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) can be a great maintenance cost-saving ally.
Take public works for example. Whether air conditioners stop working in the summer heat or snow plows break down after a winter storm, malfunctioning machinery gets expensive. Maintenance teams in general tend to operate reactively, responding only after equipment no longer functions, so they are often in firefighting mode. One Director of Property Management in a northeast county public works department said that his group operated as if it was 1900. Not only were they without a maintenance plan or preventive maintenance schedule, but he was spending vast amounts of money on external contractors to do the repair work and the performance was not always adequate.
Imagine trying to manage maintenance for hundreds of air conditioning units of all different types and sizes in all the properties in your county and you don’t have the technology on hand to fix those units. You’re forced to call outside vendors and technicians for help, which translates into major expenditures…and a world of Band-Aids®.
No more costly outsourcing…
The need for outsourcing equipment repairs drops dramatically when public works departments use CMMS for data management. With CMMS, users can easily set up equipment preventive maintenance schedules as well as automatic work order dispatches to technicians based on their level of expertise. Bigfoot CMMS, for example, will track and manage all equipment repairs and prevent unexpected breakdowns while allowing preventive repairs to be handled in house. After switching from outsourcing repairs to managing maintenance with Bigfoot, governmental entities have reported up to 90 percent of repairs being done internally, and a cost savings of $1 to $2 million over five years.
One county property management department that uses Bigfoot takes care of more than two dozen sites, ranging from the county’s administration facilities, agricultural buildings, senior centers and nursing homes, a prison, 9-1-1 emergency services center, and more than 90 bridges! And the facilities have their own critical internal systems, including data center equipment, power supplies, and HVACs. Considering that many public works departments manage numerous facilities and equipment, saving several million dollars is nothing to sneeze at.
Bigfoot has helped government entities re-organize maintenance operations and staff, reversing their reactive maintenance approach to automated preventive maintenance mode. These organizations report logging thousands of pieces of equipment into Bigfoot’s preventive maintenance (PM) calendars.
Bigfoot then reminds maintenance teams when to check equipment and replace parts before problems cause a machine to malfunction or shut down altogether.
For example, when a generator shuts down in a county building, a work order goes to the maintenance operations manager who then dispatches a technician to fix the problem. The technician makes the repair and completes the work order by indicating what was wrong and what repairs took place as well as the date, time, and cost, plus any other pertinent details. The information from that work order is captured in Bigfoot’s database.
Over time, the maintenance department can see that a particular generator needs to have a new air switch replaced every four months, based on its work order history. Consequently, Bigfoot’s preventive maintenance calendar alerts staff to replace that part in the generator every 3.5 months. When that reminder pops up on the schedule, the preventive maintenance work can take place before the breakdown occurs – rather than the maintenance staff having to wait and react to a work order request from an irritated county employee.
If outsourcing is still warranted, outside vendor invoices can be scanned into Bigfoot which then tracks the repair work using a color-coded system that tells users when the vendor made the repair and what the cost was.
Tracking projects, parts and vendors…
In addition to scheduling preventive maintenance, Bigfoot also enables public works staffers to generate purchase orders, maintain a parts inventory, and track projects. When new windows have to be installed in a county courthouse, for instance, Bigfoot’s database keeps track of all materials used in the project, plus labor and costs. In another instance, after technicians replace a fan belt in an air conditioning unit, Bigfoot tracks the repair, showing exactly which unit received the new belt as well as when and where the repair took place. All of this information drives preventive maintenance schedules.
This detailed documentation of repairs and maintenance further serves as protection from liability claims, which can be particularly important for public agencies. Should the need arise, property managers can access repair history records from Bigfoot, rather than having to rely on their memories or incomplete written notes.
Bigfoot also helps county property managers budget for capital assets, like a new plow truck, which is the type of asset that needs ongoing maintenance. But because repair invoices are converted to searchable data by Bigfoot, users know how often the vehicle has repair work done, how much money is being used to maintain it, and whether or not it should be replaced altogether.
While our federal government needs new economic and job market strategies, smaller government entities managing public assets may need new maintenance strategies to manage more with less.