Simple Preventive Maintenance Leads to Sustainable Practices

January 31, 2014, Department, by Ted Mattingly, CFM

NRPA’s director of facilities and administrative services shares advice on how to forestall problems and promote sustainable actions with your facility’s equipment and operations through simple prevenAt 5 a.m. on a cold winter morning, your first-shift maintenance technician calls, alerting you to the fact that one of the dry pipe sprinkler pipes froze and burst overnight, causing hundreds of gallons of water to pour into your facility lobby. Half an hour later, you open the front door of your facility to assess the damage. With a sinking feeling in your stomach, you think, “What could I have done differently to prevent this? I thought I had all my bases covered!”

In today’s economic environment, seasoned park maintenance managers, supervisors and technicians are keenly aware of the need for a strong, proactive preventive maintenance (PM) program. PM programs are in place to ensure that our hard-fought-for park facilities, infrastructure and grounds are properly monitored, maintained and operational to support our mission of providing first-class recreational opportunities to the public. PM programs can vary in scope and complexity depending on the size of the organization and of course the budget factor; however, even a basic program (when properly implemented and managed) focuses your attention on four key areas that provide opportunities to give your organization a leg up in extending the useful life of equipment and resources as well as promoting sustainable practices in your operations and maintenance organization. These key areas are:

1. The annual facility audit/inventory/condition assessment process 

2. Regular maintenance 

3. Identifying and sustaining operating efficiencies 

4. Data collection through CMMS/maintenance management software (see November 2013 article "Integrating Innovation" to learn more)

Annual Facility Audit

The annual facility audit provides critical details of asset/component conditions and acts as a key planning tool for developing annual maintenance work plans, budgets, maintenance schedules and capital replacement requirements. It forces your team to touch, inspect and document existing conditions and deficiencies, which allows you to better identify potential points of failure and plan accordingly before critical components fail and affect business continuity. The audit also gives you the opportunity to assign estimated costs associated with repairs or replacement and can serve you well in developing lifecycle cost analysis to justify component retrofit or replacement. In addition, walking around to identify asset conditions forces you and your team to get out and observe how your facilities are functioning. The audit also serves as a checklist, year after year, to document progress and effectiveness of your maintenance program. For all of these reasons, you can see that the annual audit is a key component in establishing and fostering sustainable operations. 

Regular Maintenance

The main goal of a PM program is to promote reliable, efficient and cost-effective operations while extending component life and significantly reducing capital outlays. However, simply put, effective PM programs are necessary to forestall unexpected equipment breakdowns. A PM program can help to plan away at least 75 percent of your typical problems and 90 to 95 percent of your critical component issues. PM on your equipment should be based on the minimum maintenance requirements identified in the manufacturer-suggested schedule, guidelines and warranty conditions. You must then determine the proper staffing, schedule, maintenance activities, inventory levels and service contracts to effectively manage your specific program. PM is critical to the bottom line because the resources and assets maintained and managed by operations and maintenance (O&M) organizations are typically the second-most costly component of the entire organization’s budget and one of the first to be scrutinized. PM programs are also a central factor in reducing overall energy consumption in an organization, further emphasizing its importance as a key component in sustainable practices. 

Identifying and Sustaining Operating Efficiencies

The annual facility audit and PM plan help to develop a roadmap for carrying out effective O&M operations. The goal is to utilize these valuable tools to further identify opportunities to improve operations and implement sustainable practices that will minimize the impact on our work and natural environment. Ed Hamer, CFM, who works as the director of O&M at the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, agrees that sustainability and preventive maintenance are interconnected. He points out, “They both require a commitment to operate the asset in the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly manner as possible.”

The best place to begin your evaluation is with your existing operating procedures. Complete a thorough review to make sure your Standard Operating Procedures are current, that your staff is aware of and properly trained in executing the SOPs, and that your operating procedures are promoting sustainable outcomes. For example, how are you monitoring the handling, storage and disposal of chemicals? Are you using low-VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesives and paints? Are you properly monitoring your waste stream to prevent recyclable and/or harmful materials from leaving your facilities and making it to the landfill? Is planned maintenance that might affect indoor air quality (IAQ) being scheduled after hours to minimize impact on staff and operations? Do your material/supply purchasing procedures promote the sourcing of products from sustainable supply chains? The point is that opportunities to promote sustainable practices are really around every corner if you look — your team just has to look for them and implement accordingly.

On a broader scale, you must also account for energy and water consumption in your facilities. These are two of the most obvious areas for implementing conservation efforts. With regard to electrical usage, you can:

  • Conduct an energy audit 
  • Ensure your utility has your electrical service on the proper rate schedule (having an incorrect rate schedule could be costly depending on the type of facility and your usage, so contact your local utility to get a copy of your current schedule and compare alternatives)
  • Monitor your electrical demand (how do you have your pumps, motors and other equipment scheduled for operation?)
  • Identify vampire or phantom power loads in your facilities, as plug loads can account for 10 to 15 percent of commercial power use. Make sure any equipment that can be turned off during unoccupied hours is powered down: coffee machines, exhaust fans, task lighting, computers, etc.
  • Adjust building operating schedules to set back during nonoccupied hours (adjusting your HVAC start-up and shut-down schedule by one hour or alternating start-up of large motors can significantly reduce energy consumption)
  • Install motion sensors, timers or central switch banks to manage lighting more effectively, and consider using LED lighting vs. compact fluorescents. Your parking lot lighting is a potential candidate for retrofitting with LED lamps. 

Also, strongly consider the process of commissioning new facilities and equipment to ensure they operate per design specifications. It takes extra time and money initially, but it will save you in the long run by providing for more efficient operations and extending the life of the equipment. Please make sure to include your O&M staff in the process so they understand the new systems and are properly trained on operations. Remember they have to live with and maintain it once it is turned over!

To better manage your water consumption, ensure the obvious steps are taken: 

  • Monitor basic water use (review water bill)
  • Confirm irrigation controls are programmed properly and a rain sensor is utilized
  • Landscape with native plants that require less water
  • Install low-flow aerators (.5 gpm) on your bathroom faucets

Most importantly, add a water-fixture inventory (leak-detection audit) to your annual facility audit. This provides the opportunity to check all of your fixtures and systems (plumbing, irrigation, cooling towers, sprinklers, etc.) to ensure they are not the source of unnecessary water consumption. Even a minor leak can add up if undetected. According to the American Water Works Association, a leak at a rate of one to five drips per second can yield eight to 43 gallons per day. That can add up to nearly 15,700 gallons per year. A typical review of your practices and implementation of conscious water conservation efforts can reduce your consumption by 15 to 35 percent (Commercial and Institutional End Uses of Water).

To further encourage sustainable practices at your facility:

  • Implement green cleaning initiatives
  • Check your exterior doors and windows for proper sealing (and don’t forget door sweeps)
  • Reduce wattage in your fluorescents from 32 to 28 watts (make sure you have the proper ballast in your fixture)
  • Set water heaters at 120 degrees for commercial applications and check for proper insulation on your tanks. If you have a recirculating pump, turn it off during unoccupied hours if freeze conditions do not exist.

Data Collection (CMMS/Maintenance Management Software)

The ability to have operational and benchmark data you can use to measure performance year after year is critical to the success of every O&M department. Without this valuable information, O&M staff cannot effectively plan, budget and justify operations, let alone make appropriation requests for retrofits or new equipment to decisionmakers. O&M dollars are scarce, and in order to make significant investments, departments must be able to show a clear Return on Investment as well as document operational efficiencies. A CMMS system provides the ability to track and prioritize schedule and workflow (labor, inventory, work status, etc.) and gives you a clear picture of your available resources, which helps enhance work coordination, optimize planning, reduce downtime and improve overall performance. Data collected from your operations and PM programs that is properly recorded in a CMMS system, such as SchoolDude, creates the most reliable resource for O&M departments to make their case in support of robust and proactive sustainable operations. Remember, “knowledge is power,” and even a basic CMMS system greatly enhances the power of your data!

There are many opportunities to implement best practices and improve efficiencies in your operations plan. It is simply a matter of looking at your process and procedures and making a conscious decision to ensure your actions promote sustainable outcomes. 

O&M organizations must have a champion within the ranks to promote the importance of proper maintenance and cost-effective sustainable operations to key decisionmakers. That could be you! 

Ted Mattingly, CFM, is NRPA’s Director of Facilities and Administrative Services.