Decentralizing Maintenance

  April 19, 2010

I''m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today''s topic is decentralized maintenance.

Decentralization is gaining favor as a management strategy to extend the reach of maintenance and engineering departments beyond a central location.

Take the case of Northside Independent School District in San Antonio. The district has built a satellite maintenance facility that is garnering rave reviews inside the district. The facility lets the district cover its territory more efficiently, creates greater accountability, prolongs the performance life of equipment, and streamlines maintenance activities.

Besides the primary maintenance facility that has served the 12.8-million-square-foot district, the organization erected an additional building, Maintenance North, which houses three teams that each handle 12 different campuses. These teams are comprised of technicians well-versed in the latest building technologies, including plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems.

"That approach gives my organization a new level of accountability," says Bernie Morin, the district's director of maintenance and operations. "All of the technicians are there at that one campus, and they're being supervised by that one foreman on that campus. That foreman is going through, checking work orders for every trade and every craft. I've received rave reviews about this new program."

Aside from the 36 campuses Maintenance North covers, the maintenance and operations department features a typical structure that has technicians who maintain specific zones and schools. For example, a plumbing technician works independently from an HVAC technician, though they might be responsible for the same 10-12 schools. The team concept makes the satellite facility unique.

"We're trying to address anything that might come up,"Morin says. "We might not be aware of every problem area that exists on a campus. But I feel that by doing the smart team approach, we may be able to head some things off at the pass, so to speak, and be aggressive about handling problems."


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