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Dan Hounsell: Bridging the Gap on Maintenance Misconceptions
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If anyone needs a clear example of the disconnect between the public and the challenges facing maintenance and engineering managers in institutional and commercial facilities, an exchange between a television reporter and a maintenance supervisor provides it.
In a video that went viral in July, the reporter tells viewers that Grand Rapids (Mich.) Public Schools still uses a 30-year-old Commodore computer to control its schools’ HVAC systems, even though voters had approved millions of dollars in bond money in 2011 to repair and upgrade schools.
“Why weren’t those funds used to replace this?” the reporter asks, in a tone that suggested skepticism at the department’s priorities. The response from Tim Hopkins, the district’s maintenance supervisor, couldn’t have been more direct or revealing.
“There are a lot of needs in the district, so there are other priorities that we have to put in place ahead of this,” Hopkins says. “And this system is still running.”
Most managers in facilities nationwide that rely on public funds understand Hopkins’ situation. Sure, it would be nice to upgrade everything in facilities, but that’s not realistic. Taxpayers and school boards rarely approve a manager’s capital and operating budget requests. More often, they cut maintenance budgets.
So while it would be nice to upgrade an HVAC control system that still runs, managers know that any dollars they receive instead must go toward leaking roofs, inefficient boilers, and faulty plumbing. The ongoing challenge for managers is to dispel the misconceptions that get in the way of progress on maintenance by communicating with whoever will listen about the true state of facilities and their departments’ priorities and achievements.
To view the video, go to http://ow.ly/Qbyid.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities. Agree? Disagree? Have something to say? We want to hear from you. Visit myfacilitiesnet.com/danhounsell, and start a conversation.