Feature Article - October 2005
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One Stone at a Time

Tips for building your proactive maintenance plan

By Kelli Anderson


Building a team

Whether specialized crews or zoned, one universal ingredient makes for essential maintenance success: teamwork. Having maintenance staff members who know their input is wanted and their skills are valued will make a noticeable difference.

"You want a proactive tip that really pays off?" asks Jeff Walter, assistant director for student life facilities of McLane Student Life Center at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "Do lunch from time to time with the folks who take care of your building. They'll love you and your building for doing it. I want them to know the maintenance needs, but just as importantly, I want them to know me. Developing a sense of team with these folks has increased our effectiveness immeasurably."

Likewise, for the multiple-award-winning student recreation center at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.V., having a first-name-basis relationship with the maintenance staff and providing them with wellness programs have achieved results. The four-year-old-facility looks as if it opened yesterday.

"It's not an 'us' and 'them' mentality," says Dave Taylor, director of student recreation center. "We're a team. We hire people who take pride in their work. If they see a piece of paper, they'll pick it up because they care."

Communication

Whether it's doing lunch or signing off on checklists, communication is another key factor to going 'pro.' The better the communication from staff to management or from management to staff, the faster and more efficient the maintenance results. Before a problem can be tackled, everyone needs to know a problem exists. Communication can improve simply by scheduling a daily meeting with the head of maintenance. Radio, e-mail, voice mail, dry-erase boards, checklists—it's all part of making sure all the players know all the plays.

"I communicate with the physical plant personnel almost to a fault," Walter confesses. "All of my requests are recorded in their computers and can be referred to by day, date and time as well as by a work order number. They never say to me, 'When did you ask us to do that?'"

Although sometimes being reactive is inevitable due to unforeseen acts of Mother Nature or city sewer systems, it doesn't have to be the norm.

"Start with small steps," McLaughlin says. "Once you see that one thing works, keep building. You may not have all the resources, but you can phase things in by priority. I used to be reactive, but you can find a process to ease into the transition. It just takes a little investment to make the changes."