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Facilities as Assets: Aligning Maintenance for Long-Term Success

It is essential that the facilities department walks in lock step with the building owner from a business perspective.

By Darrell X. Rounds, Contributing Writer  

In the built environment, there are many different types of buildings where occupants work, play and stay. They could be the skyscrapers or office centers that dominate the metropolitan skylines or warehouses that create industrial parks within a suburban landscape. They could be hospitals, college campuses, or technical centers. 

Each of these building types has unique needs and issues. For one entity, it might provide a space for employees to do their jobs daily. Another entity might provide space for storing parts and distributing goods, while another might allow students to learn or to perform research or provide sports entertainment for the masses. 

Regardless of a building’s purpose or the organization’s business objectives, maintenance and engineering managers are responsible for its upkeep and maintenance, as well as ensuring that safety and regulatory standards are maintained. To optimize this function, it is critical that maintenance and engineering objectives align with the building owner’s business objectives. Let's take a closer look at the importance, aspects and benefits of aligning maintenance and engineering activities with the building owner’s core business objectives. 

Spotlight on maintenance 

Often the importance of maintenance and engineering to the success of an organization’s business plan is overlooked simply because facilities service is not directly related to the owner’s core business. 

For example, hospitals want to make sure that patients are cared for and rehabilitated properly. Colleges want to make sure that students are learning and that research is being conducted. In each of these cases, facilities concerns can be overlooked or taken for granted because the focus is on meeting the core business objectives. 

Only when the building does not operate as intended and impedes the organization’s business performance do operations and maintenance get a focus. For this reason, it is important that the facilities department walks in lock step with the building owner from a business perspective. 

12 areas to focus on 

Aligning maintenance and engineering activities with a building owner’s core business is essential for several reasons: 

Operational efficiency and effectiveness. Aligning facilities activities with core business objectives ensures these activities are geared towards enhancing operational efficiency and effectiveness. It is noteworthy to mention that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness, and for optimal performance, both should be present. 

Management consultant Peter Drucker put this difference simply: “Effectiveness is doing the right things, while efficiency is doing things right.” Effective teams are results driven, focus on the big picture, focus on doing the right things in the right way, and shift priorities as necessary. Efficient teams focus on getting maximum output with the least amount of time and effort, use a methodical work process, define and follow rules, and embrace standardization and automation. 

Facilities teams that optimize efficiency and effectiveness can provide great value in their support of core business with minimal disruption to business processes. The net result is smoother workflows and improved productivity for facility maintenance teams. 

Resource optimization. Aligning activities with core business goals means that resources such as time, labor and materials can be utilized more effectively, reducing waste and improving overall resource optimization. This approach can pay huge dividends, especially in cases when facility maintenance and operations are not outsourced and resources can be shared between facility departments and the departments performing core business works. 

Facilities technicians can be cross-trained to do core work and vice versa. Also, from a total cost of ownership perspective, inventory costs can be optimized as there might be an opportunity for facilities departments to share common repair parts and other stock items with core business departments. 

Cost management. Strategic alignment ensures that facilities-related costs are managed in a way that supports the financial objectives of the building owner. This includes optimizing maintenance expenses and avoiding unnecessary expenditures. In manufacturing settings this can be measured in cost per unit. In other settings this can be measured in cost per square foot. 

Understanding the way the cost of facilities engineering, operations and maintenance contribute to the bottom line allows organizations to optimize their total cost of ownership by preparing and executing their budgets effectively. 

Business continuity. Facilities aligned with core business objectives are better equipped to contribute to business continuity. From a facilities perspective, this involves proactive maintenance and planning to minimize disruptions and downtime. 

When facility maintenance teams understand the way the assets they maintain are critical to the entire operation, they can prioritize their maintenance plans accordingly, and they can provide the necessary redundancies to ensure continuity. The execution of core business objectives and business continuity depend on the building operating as intended. 

Customer and stakeholder satisfaction. A well-maintained and efficiently operated facility positively influences customer and stakeholder satisfaction. The facility's condition creates an overall impression of the business among tenants, clients and employees. The responsiveness of a facilities team to the needs of the core business stakeholders is integral to perception and customer satisfaction. 

Risk mitigation. Strategic alignment helps in identifying and mitigating risks associated with facilities operations. These risks include potential safety hazards, compliance issues, or disruptions that could impact the building owner's business operations. Some specific examples of this include fire protection, backflow prevention and electrical safety. 

The last thing a building owner wants is for the business to be harmed. When the facilities teams understand the criticality of detailed parts of the business, they can prioritize those actions that will ensure that risks of impeding performance are properly mitigated and eliminated. 

Strategic planning. Facilities maintenance and engineering activities should be integrated into the strategic planning process. This strategy ensures that facilities are aligned with the long-term vision and goals of the building owner. The approach is especially important as it pertains to life-cycle management and the total cost of ownership. Understanding this end game assists facilities teams by giving them the knowledge necessary to make investment and staffing decisions for building operations. 

Adaptability to business changes. Aligning facilities activities allows for greater adaptability to changes in the business environment. Whether the business expands, contracts or undergoes structural changes, facilities work can be adjusted accordingly. Proper alignment allows the facilities teams to be flexible in the way they staff their teams and adjust their work plans to support the business. 

Sustainability and corporate responsibility. Many building owners prioritize sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Proper facilities maintenance and engineering ensures that the building is optimized to support sustainability. Aligning facilities activities with these goals helps in implementing eco-friendly practices, reducing the environmental impact and meeting regulatory requirements, and it enables facilities teams to operate and maintain buildings in the most socially responsible way. 

Asset performance and longevity. Strategic alignment contributes to better asset management, extending the lifespan of equipment and infrastructure. This strategy can lead to long-term cost savings and reduced capital expenditures. Aligning the facilities asset sustainment plan with the overall budget plan of the organization ensures there is a robust strategy and plan for prioritizing the refurbishment and replacement of key building assets. A key by-product of this process is business continuity. 

Brand image and reputation. The condition of the facilities directly impacts the brand image and reputation of the building owner. Well-maintained facilities contribute to a positive perception, attracting clients, tenants and investors, and the facilities team is a key contributor to this enhanced image and appeal. 

Regulatory compliance. Aligning facilities activities with business objectives ensures the building owner remains compliant with relevant regulations and standards, avoiding legal issues and fines. Facilities staff must make sure that mandated inspections and maintenance tasks are addressed thoroughly and in a timely manner. 

Facilities teams also should ensure that successful relationships exist among the building owners, themselves, municipalities and other authorities having jurisdiction so that awareness is keen when it comes to compliance and adherence to regulations. 

Aligning facilities maintenance and engineering with a business entity’s core business objectives is integral to achieving operational excellence, reducing costs, managing risks and contributing to the overall success and sustainability of the organization. Facilities teams should make sure that the proper relationship exists with the core business organization or building owner, and they need to have awareness of their business objectives so they work to incorporate these aspects into optimizing service delivery and creating optimal spaces where people work, stay and play. 

Darrell X. Rounds, FMA, C.E.M., has had several leadership roles ranging from facilities management and contractor safety to diversity, equity and inclusion over the last 26 years. He remains a thought leader and advocate in the facilities management community. 

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  posted on 1/22/2024   Article Use Policy

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