Getting Tough, Again, on Deferred Maintenance
A decade ago, the wailing and gnashing of teeth over deferred maintenance — mostly in the nation's K-12 schools — began to die down.
Maintenance and engineering managers had achieved some success drawing attention to the need to invest in regular, ongoing maintenance, and a healthy economy had enabled many institutional and commercial institutions to allocate a few extra dollars to repair leaking roofs, replace aging plumbing systems, and upgrade failing HVAC systems.
So the problem is solved, right? Hardly.
Right now, nobody outside of maintenance and engineering departments is saying much about deferred maintenance. More pressing problems — economic stability and remaining employed, for example — dominate conversations within facilities. But any who believes deep cuts in maintenance and engineering budgets in the last few years haven't created a new wave of deferred maintenance projects is ignoring reality.
Events of the last few years have created a perfect storm of challenges for managers. Staffs are thinner, budgets are leaner, aging facilities need more attention because of these pullbacks — and building owners are both distracted and tired of hearing about it.
My response? Tough.
Managers have no choice but to go on the offensive and do everything in their powers to help owners understand — yes, again — that ignoring building maintenance does not save money. It costs even more money. Document the problem with statistics on work-order backlogs. Provide photos and videos of aging, neglected and failing facilities. Project the bottom-line impact of waiting to address the problems until some other, presumably better, time.
Managers' best efforts might fall on deaf ears the first time, but maybe not the second or third time. Deferred maintenance won't rest in taking its toll on facilities. Managers can't afford to rest, either.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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