Building a Stronger Budget Requires Solid Data
By Andrew Gager - November 2012 - Maintenance & Operations
One of the most time-consuming, nerve-racking, and quite frankly, frustrating times of the year is budget month. Budgeting for operations in institutional and commercial facilities is a basic responsibility for every maintenance and engineering manager. But not all managers have the essential experience or training to take an effective strategic approach to the budgeting process.
The budget is a manager's best means of controlling operations and watching the flow of money. The purpose of budgets is to allot the appropriate funds to the appropriate categories, with the ultimate goal of balancing the cash in with the cash out.
The process is rarely without incident. Consider the budgeting challenge in a more personal context: When my wife and I bought our first home, we purchased in late summer. Our heating and cooling bills averaged $50-$60 month. It might not seem like a great deal of money for a 1,200-square-foot home, but it was a great deal of money to us. That's why we started budgeting.
Then came a particularly cold December, and we had to turn up the heat in order to stay warm. The following month, the bill came for all that warmth — $366. Where were we going to find that much money? Simple: Pull it from some other budget category. Some refer to this tactic as paying Peter to pay Paul. This is exactly the situation managers want to avoid. Unfortunately, many do it routinely.
To avoid this approach to budgeting and management, the manager's challenge is to determine the correct amount to budget for each particular department category.
How can managers build a solid, accurate budget? How do we break down and analyze a budget to find opportunities for efficiency and savings, based on the department's specific needs related to equipment, staffing, and workload?