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The array of challenges and problems facing maintenance and engineering managers can seem endless. If it's not personnel or technology creating headaches, chances are regulatory compliance or inventory management are doing the job.
But one challenge tops them all. Ironically, it also is the element that underlies each issue: the budget.
Everything a manager does affects the department's budget and, in turn, the bottom line of the entire organization. Misguided personnel moves, faulty technology, regulatory noncompliance, and mismanaged product specification all put a dent in the budget, some larger and some smaller.
Sure, most managers go through the day with finances in mind. It's nearly impossible and highly inadvisable not to. But how many actually have taken the time to properly dissect, analyze and understand the budget, both its operating and capital components? How many have a long-term strategy in place for effectively and proactively managing their department's budget?
In many cases, time is probably the biggest obstacle to proper budget management. Few managers in institutional and commercial facilities have any empty spaces in their daily calendars that would allow them to delve into their budgets. Facilities these days rarely give anyone in the department a chance to rest and breathe.
Properly managing the budget also probably does not seem especially rewarding. The phrase "doing more with less" did not become so widespread for no reason. To most managers and their staffs, it probably seems that no matter how much they cut and save, the budget gets cut anyway the next time around.
But as columnist Andrew Gager points out in this month's Management Insight column, managers put themselves and their facilities at risk by not devoting enough time and energy to properly managing the budget. Why? For the very reasons stated earlier: The budget is woven deeply into every decision a manager makes and every action a front-line technician takes.
Managed poorly, a budget becomes a roadmap for disaster, both for the managers overseeing them and for the facilities they are supposed to support.
Managed effectively, though, the budget enables managers to maximize the financial resources the organization has allotted to the department. And it forms the basis for strategies and tactics that ensure facilities operate energy efficiency, cost-effectively and safely.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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