The Road Map to Successful Facility Management: Part 2

January 15, 2014

Part 2: Building and Equipment Management

Jimmy Francis
Director, Student Recreation Center
CSU, Northridge

Editors note: This article is the second of a 3-part series. Part 1: Human Resource Management, Part 2: Building and Equipment Management, Part 3: Budget Management.

Stop two on our road map to successful facility management involves maintaining the actual building itself and the equipment inside of it. If you are in the field of facility management, you likely enjoy spending most of your time working around your facility tackling the operational and mechanical issues that arise. Let’s be honest, it’s often easier to deal with the building than the people! You can’t always fix a personnel issue with a wrench or duct tape, but I know sometimes you wish you could!

Core values that are often visible in a successful facility manager include someone who is detail oriented, cautious, and responsible. Ultimately your success is going to be determined by your ability to pay attention to the details. Even the smallest details can’t be left in your rear view mirror, but rather need to be attended to as soon as possible. As a facility manager it is also your role to be cautious by nature. You are often the person most responsible for identifying, reducing, and/or eliminating liability concerns in the facility. Safety should always be on the forefront of your mind.

Lastly, as a facility manager you must always be responsible for the condition of the facility, the staff’s performance, and the users’ experiences. If you are walking by trash on the ground, ignoring scratches on the wall, not reporting maintenance issues, and not holding staff accountable, who will? You must also be ready to step up in times of need and when emergencies arise. At times you, and you alone, will be the one who is figuring out how to fix the disaster that just occurred.1. Keep it Safe
As discussed earlier, the core value of being cautious should be a characteristic of an individual who manages a facility. Risk management and keeping a facility safe is the foremost responsibility and sometimes the most difficult for a facility manager. Not only does your actual facility’s design, construction, and layout cause challenges, but also so do the people who use it.

The most common defense you often hear when injuries are discussed is assumption of risk. As facility managers you can’t hide behind the premise that users assume all liability for their actions. What a smart manager will do is reduce or eliminate risk whenever and wherever possible by doing the following:

– Research industry standards — Stay abreast of what is occurring and what the common practices of your peers and sister schools are. Undoubtedly, a judge or attorney is going to ask, “What is everyone else doing?” or “How would someone else in the field have handled this situation?” It is wise to know the answers to those questions.
– Follow manufacturers’ recommendations — Manufacturers spend significant dollars on research and development for a reason. You should place quality, well maintained equipment in your facility and then hold users accountable for using it in the correct way.
– Supervise your spaces — Staff must be positioned strategically around your facility or instructed to make periodic rounds of the facility. They can enforce facility guidelines when equipment is not being used for what it is intended and they can also protect people from themselves.
– Inspect your equipment and activity areas — If you have not already done so, you should institute a routine system for checking equipment, activity areas, mechanical systems, restrooms, etc. The key is to document your inspections e.g. using checklists.
– Utilize proper waivers and disclosures when appropriate — Laws vary from state to state but a very important step to limiting risk for your facility is to contact attorneys and/or the insurance agency that represents your facility. Number one on your agenda should be to review any waivers that are in place for facility use and how those waivers are signed and stored. Opinions vary regarding how much waivers help in court cases but the majority of the professionals in our field tend to agree that having them in place is a good practice.

Keeping your facility safe will not be possible without also taking the time to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). This article will not describe how to create an EAP but rather simply stress the need for you to do so. An EAP is a set of written instructions, guidelines, tactics, and plans for how emergencies will be handled in your facility. A few examples of situations that should be discussed include:

– Bomb Threats
– Fire
– Severe Weather
– Major/Minor Injuries
– Earthquakes
– Active Shooters
– Power Loss
– Facility Lockdowns

As a result of the increased frequency in emergency incidents on college campuses, EAPs are now commonplace for university departments. The first step in putting together your EAP is to reach out to the appropriate campus contact who serves as the emergency management coordinator for the university. This individual is often found at the department of police services, public safety, or even on occasion, physical plant management. These contacts will be tremendous resources as you put your plan together.

Upon completion of your EAP the next step is to train and prepare your staff to execute and perform accordingly in emergency situations. A great way to prepare your staff is to host emergency drill days, periodic in-service refreshers, view American Red Cross training videos, etc. The crucial piece to remember is that without proper training and reinforcement your staff will have very little confidence when they are faced with an emergency.

2. Keep it Clean
Our profession’s “catch 22,” is if you are lucky enough to have a facility that is popular, then you are also cursed with the challenge of keeping it clean. When you are managing a large facility or a small one, keeping your facility clean is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a facility manger and a major key to your success. Cleanliness will help increase user satisfaction, retention, health, and safety. Keeping your facility clean will not only help it remain aesthetically pleasing, but also it will last longer. As we all know, users can and do contract diseases in facilities that are not properly sanitized and cleaned.

There are three important factors to evaluate as you create a plan for how you are going to keep your facility spotless and clean:
– Types of spaces and characteristics — What types of spaces do you have? This question can be answered in a number of different ways. Things to consider include flooring material, wall finishes, activities that take place, presence of bodily fluids, etc.
– Participation times — When can you actually schedule staff to clean spaces when they will have un-obstructed access to the area and users’ experience will not be negatively affected? Many facility managers tackle this problem by scheduling cleaning to take place during the middle of the night (i.e. third shift) or perhaps they periodically close spaces during down times throughout the day for work to be completed.
– Frequency of use — As you consider the types of spaces you have and the characteristics of those areas, you also need to think about how frequently they are used. This analysis should not end with physical areas, but also be extended to thinking about pieces of fitness equipment, furniture, lockers, pro shop equipment, etc. Use will dictate frequency and some spaces and equipment do not require the same amount of attention as others.

As you consider the items above there are also several other important factors to keep in mind as you work to keep your facility clean. You must staff the facility with the correct number of people at the appropriate times. If you have too few or too many people scheduled to clean at the incorrect times you will experience several challenges: budget overruns, poor results, overstaffing issues, etc.

Another tip to keeping your facility clean is to create cleaning checklists and schedules for your staff. Creating checklists in many cases creates accountability, as long as the checklists are routinely audited. These schedules should not only include routine/daily tasks, but also long-term planning for more project type cleaning needs (for example, carpet cleaning, high bay duct work, windows, etc.). Essentially, these tasks can be scheduled less routinely, but are sometimes overlooked if they are not pre-planned and assigned.

It is worth mentioning that as the facility manager you are ultimately responsible for having the most critical eye in the facility. If you overlook trash on the floor, dusty surfaces, mildew in the showers, etc. then how can you expect others to either report these issues or clean them? They are following your lead so it is best to set a good example.

Lastly, to set yourself up for success, make sure you are providing the right tools for the job, including the proper training. You can’t expect staff to be successful if they don’t have the necessary and appropriate cleaning tools to perform the duties for which they are responsible. For example, don’t expect them to have very good results if they are trying to polish the mirrors in your fitness areas with the same chemical with which they are disinfecting the toilets. Furthermore, if the staff is not trained in the specified cleaning methods by the manufacturers of your equipment and surfaces then your results will suffer as well.

3. Keep it Current
The last item to discuss along the road to successful facility management in the building and equipment management section of this journey is how to keep your facility “current.” Current, in the confines of this discussion, pertains to keeping your facility on the cutting edge of advancements in the field; don’t become complacent with your success, equipment, or programs. As a result of the nature of our industry, things change quickly and you must be open to new ideas, improvements, or technologies and be prompt enough to take advantage of them.

Keeping your facility current also means to be up-to-date with repair and preventive maintenance needs. If the paint on a wall is scratched, touch it up; if a light is out, replace the lamp; if a piece of equipment is broken, repair it or take it off the floor. You must plan to take care of your mechanical systems as well. The worst thing you can do as a facility manger is to ignore lingering maintenance issues. They will both perpetuate a poor attitude for the facility among your staff and also give users reasons to complain and/or feel less responsible for taking care of the facility.

Keeping a facility current is not an easy task and certainly can’t be done without the proper funding. In the last section of this article, budget strategies will be discussed. However, before doing so, listed below are a few suggestions for how to keep your facility current:
– In conjunction with maintenance professionals, create a preventive maintenance program
– Observe, inspect and repair by conducting daily inspections and documenting them
– Budget properly to replace equipment, renovate spaces, and repair damage
– Stay abreast of ways to keep your facility “green” and institute sustainability initiatives
– Ask the users what they think and what they have seen in other facilities
– Read about, travel to, and explore other facilities both in campus recreation and outside recreation sectors (e.g. Health Clubs, YMCA’s).

Part 3 in this series will focus on Budget Management

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