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Facility Maintenance Decisions

One Strategy for Success: Follow the Money





By Dan Hounsell   Maintenance & Operations

In bits and pieces, the concept of quality improvement has been rattling around in maintenance and engineering departments for more than a decade. A department — or an organization, for that matter — might not have full-fledged program in place for achieving quality. But many managers have used one or more components of total quality management in trying to improve performance.

Whether the component is benchmarking, lean operations, continuous improvement or customer service, managers in the last decade or so have sought the benefits that quality improvement can bring to departments.

What’s the allure of quality improvement? In many cases, managers defined the goals of their efforts as increasing customer satisfaction, enhancing staff development or improving the efficiency of department operations.

These all are admirable goals, obviously. But one thing that wasn’t discussed in many cases was a clear, defined connection between improving quality and helping the bottom line.

The assumption was always there, I suppose, that making customers happier or enhancing department efficiency would translate into financial gains for the organization. The link seemed to be more implicit than explicit, though.

A similar scenario has been playing out in many facilities over the last five years or so relating to the issue of sustainability. Maintenance and engineering departments have undertaken or been involved in a range of efforts with the goal of minimizing the impact of facilities and operations on the environment. That result obviously is admirable.

But more recently, managers have begun asking tougher questions about the financial benefits to their organizations that also might result from their efforts. It’s an important question, and one that now has relevance to quality management.

Our cover article this month explores the efforts of the facilities services department at the Ohio State University Medical Center to improve customer satisfaction. Why the renewed effort? In part, because Medicare soon will begin making public the results of customer satisfaction surveys taken by patients of hospitals and medical centers nationwide. One goal of this program is to help patients make more informed decisions in choosing health care service providers.

In short, improved customer satisfaction with health care organizations can mean more money for the organization.

One lesson for managers — whether the issue is sustainability, quality improvement, or a similar effort — is to understand the link between the effort in question and the organization’s bottom line. And more specifically, they’ll need to understand the role maintenance and engineering departments play in helping the effort succeeds.


posted on 12/1/2006

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