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Emergencies Are a Time for Maintenance to Shine

Effective reactive maintenance is critical to an organization’s resilience

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor  

Maintenance and engineering managers have heard and preached the mandate for decades: Prepare. Plan the work, work the plan. Prevent. Predict. 

Few issues in institutional and commercial facilities have gotten more attention than the benefits of moving maintenance departments away from reacting to problems and toward preventing and predicting them. The logic is sound: Finding and fixing small issues before they become major crises is more cost-effective, and planning maintenance work improves technician efficiency and productivity. 

The flaw in this highly structured approach is that facilities are unpredictable. More accurately, nature doesn’t care about plans. Managers can prepare all they want, but nature bats last. 

Managers can fight this reality, or they can embrace it, which means understanding that successfully reacting to a crisis is not failing at maintenance. It is succeeding. I was reminded of this mindset recently during a conversation with Joe Kovolyan,director of landscape services and botanical gardens at the University of Missouri. As we were discussing the benefits of working with equipment dealers to prepare for emergencies, Kovolyan offered this insight about responding to emergencies: 

"Whether we're in landscaping, construction or emergency services, that's our time to shine or fail. The challenge comes when we didn't expect that water main break or when didn't expect that storm that took down 16 trees across campus.” 

In such situations, organizations turn to maintenance for answers, and savvy managers have known for years that agile, robust, effective reactive maintenance is critical to an organization’s resilience. And in its own way, it’s a type of planning. 

Managers who provide the tools, materials and support so staff can react effectively when a crisis strikes have prepared their departments. They’ve acknowledged the unpredictable nature of facilities, and they've given their departments the opportunity to shine. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor for the facility market. 

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  posted on 7/8/2024   Article Use Policy

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