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Management Insight: Michael Cowley

Part 1: Survival Requires Tough Choices on Maintenance Department Structure

Part 2: Which Model is Best: Decentralized or Centralized?

Part 3: Choose Wisely Which Department Structure Model to Use


Survival Requires Tough Choices on Maintenance Department Structure

By Michael Cowley - May 2014 - Maintenance Solutions Columnists


Since the nation's financial collapse in 2007, top executives of institutional and commercial facilities have been looking for ways to lower the operating costs related to maintenance and engineering management. They seem to view this function as the source of their financial shortfalls.

In many of these organizations — city and state governments, military bases, school systems, and universities — multiple maintenance teams manage the facilities' HVAC plants, office buildings, classroom buildings, and student residences. The questions upper management asks in these situations include these: Why do we need two, three or even four separate individual maintenance organizations and structures, each with a full complement of equipment and processes, including fleet, tools, equipment, replacement parts, supplies, and support staff?

The question is logical and valid if your management team is engaged in the process at even the most basic level. The problem is that many managers are not engaged until they wake up and realize they are in survival mode. But by then it might be too late to turn the ship around and fix the process of managing and leading the organization.

Recently, I have seen a rising trend in organizations related to the question posed earlier regarding the possibility of consolidating maintenance services within the organization in order to save money.

Many such organizations are universities, and the typical medium-sized to large university has at least three maintenance groups. One oversees the physical plant — major heating and cooling plants, water and waste water systems, roads and paths, and the electrical grid for all facilities. Another group manages the classroom space and student residences. Still another group manages sporting venues.

The potential problems these groups present is compounded by the fact that the outsourcing industry is constantly approaching top facility executives and building owners with promises of streamlining the organization and lowering costs. In many cases, the outsourcer proposes combining the maintenance, custodial, and food businesses into one organization.




Management Insight: Michael Cowley

Part 1: Survival Requires Tough Choices on Maintenance Department Structure

Part 2: Which Model is Best: Decentralized or Centralized?

Part 3: Choose Wisely Which Department Structure Model to Use


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