Deferred maintenance is a tired, old issue that nobody wants to discuss anymore, right?
Nobody cares about it except maintenance and engineering managers, right?
Well, not exactly. The answer to the first question undoubtedly is, “True.” For years, managers have heard the groans and seen eyes roll skyward when they bring up deferred maintenance.
But the answer to the second question, which at one point was no doubt “True”, is more often becoming “False.” Anyone with doubts about a shift in the discussion can listen to Eric Barron, president of Florida State University.
Barron told the university’s board of regents last month that funding problems are hurting efforts to maintain existing campus buildings. Here’s where the issue gets real: The problem of funding for deferred maintenance also is hindering the university’s efforts to crack the top 25 in rankings of public universities.
A student body representative put the problem bluntly: “You can’t expect an amazing education and recruiting amazing students if you don’t have facilities to provide for them.”
That’s the bottom line, literally. Aging, outdated campus buildings mean fewer high-achieving students and faculty members, which means less money coming into the university. The idea that funding deferred maintenance is a smart long-term strategy is not a new idea, even though it’s undeniable and ignoring is a strategy for higher costs later.
What is new is a top executive of a major U.S. university stating so clearly that a lack of maintenance is jeopardizing the organization’s ability to achieve its goals. People in facilities do not want to hear or talk about this message, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. And it represents a big potential problem for organizations that choose to continue ignoring it.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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