Maintenance and the Bottom Line
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How financially savvy are you? A decade ago, that question might have been a mildly interesting topic of conversation among maintenance and engineering managers. Today, it is a hot-button issue that managers ignore at their own peril.
Many institutional and commercial facilities have been hit hard in recent years as the nation's economy struggled, and no area of facilities has been hit harder than maintenance and engineering departments. Departments' activities usually fall outside a facility's core mission — whether the facility is a K-12 school, a hospital, or a government building — and they generally take place out of the view of most people who work in and visit these facilities. For these reasons, departments are more vulnerable to budget cuts than other areas. It's the dreaded "out of sight, out of mind" mentality.
One result of this changing financial climate in facilities is that more maintenance and engineering managers are becoming aware of the urgent need to protect their departments' budgets more than ever. Managers are developing a better understanding of the critical importance of showing that their departments — contrary to the traditional view of maintenance as a necessary evil — actually can make solid contributions to the bottom lines of institutional and commercial organizations.
What can managers do to demonstrate to facility executives that these contributions are real? They can clearly demonstrate the return on investment — and the long-term savings — of a chiller replacement. They can make financially smart decisions on whether to buy or rent aerial work platforms. They can work hard to win the support of top executives for technician training that will deliver increased productivity and labor savings. They can wring even greater efficiency — and lower costs — from the department's inventory-management process.
The common denominator for these decisions is savvy financial management. Managers who lack the skills and experience to make smart financial decisions — and who cannot speak the language of organization's CFO in explaining their decisions — are likely to find themselves and their departments on the short end of key decisions.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.