Relamping Team Cleans up University's Lighting Clutter

By Dave Lubach, Associate Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Western Michigan University Relamping Team Brings Efficiency to Maintenance DepartmentPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Success of Lighting Team Leads to Program ExpansionPt. 4: University Takes Another Step to Improving Lighting Efficiency

The responsibility of changing light bulbs originally fell upon the 160-person custodial crew at the university. But somewhere along the line, that task shifted to the maintenance department’s 15 electricians.

“The immediate response I got back from the custodial services was, ‘We don’t have the time,’ and if we’re going to do light bulbs, what are we not going to do?’,” Sankey says. “In my mind, light bulbs were part of their duties and responsibilities.”

Keeping hallways and bathrooms clean took priority for the custodial staff over replacing light bulbs. Even when the custodians found burned-out bulbs, replacing them sometimes presented a challenge.

“They had to figure out exactly what bulb goes in because we are constantly going through a transition from the old T-12s to T-8s, incandescent to compact, compact to LED, different sizing, different manufacturers, different fixtures,” Sankey says. “They’re all different.”

To address the confusion and streamline the lighting maintenance efforts, the custodial and maintenance staffs created a light bulb crew, which received assistance from zone maintenance electricians for any technical issues. Training a new two-person staff to meet the campus’ lighting needs seemed easier than training the entire custodial staff.

“Prior to my taking over this position, the energy manager who kept changing out light bulbs provided a cheat sheet in every custodial closet that said, ‘For this room it’s this, this area is this’,” Sankey says. “Can you imagine the time it would take to update that because you’re constantly updating fixtures on campus?

“I said, ‘Let’s take all that away and consolidate it into just a handful of people who understand what lights go into what buildings.’ We were carrying this large inventory of lights in custodial closets. Some of them were obsolete. We were buying light fixtures but not using all of them. That was one of the other reasons to take it away — to clean up the closets and consolidate it into a handful of custodial people that truly immerse themselves every day and understand what light bulbs are needed and start a procedure of ordering light bulbs that they actually need and discontinue the ones that aren’t needed.”

Cleaning up the storage rooms took longer than anticipated.

“That took about two-and-a-half years to turn the ship around,” Sankey says. “I use the analogy that working at a university is like a supertanker that’s almost at full speed, and if you want to change directions, god help us all. Not only does it take 5 miles to stop, but to turn around or even change directions takes time. It took all that time to clean up the satellite stock rooms. We do have a centralized stock room, but we created these mini-stockrooms on campus.”

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  posted on 1/29/2015   Article Use Policy

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