— Guest post from our partner, LogCheck —
A strong maintenance culture separates well-run buildings from the rest. Understanding the human element of facility management is critical if you want your building to perform at its highest level. Ultimately, your human assets determine the success of any initiative, so it’s fundamental that you make nurturing a healthy culture a top priority.
If you don’t have a strong maintenance culture in your facility, it’s time to get to work. Culture is constantly evolving, and with the right direction, you can improve it dramatically. Both Bright Power and my company, LogCheck, have seen this happen time and time again.
We’ll show you what good maintenance culture looks like and how making some simple changes, starting with your routine inspection rounds, can make all the difference.
Why culture matters
A healthy facilities culture is built on good communication, between all stakeholders, and a sense of ownership. Teams with a strong culture take pride in their building and recognize how their actions impact it. They work proactively to prevent problems and are always looking to improve how things get done.
Good culture requires teams to truly know their building. The overall system must be the focus, and knowing how any individual piece of equipment fits into that system is essential. This allows you to make connections that result in benefits across a facility.
Without a strong culture, most facilities get stuck in a cycle of reactive maintenance: something goes wrong, they fix it. While fixing unexpected issues is obviously important, reactive maintenance alone doesn’t prevent future problems or promote long-term efficiency.
Reactive maintenance without preventative maintenance leads to costly issues like excessive energy costs, safety concerns, and shorter equipment life. This arrangement pits management and staff against each other: rising costs frustrate management, and staff feels stuck on a neverending treadmill of problems.
Mike Brusic, Technical Director at Bright Power, agrees. In his experience, cultural problems often belie the issue he’s brought in to solve.
Mike Brusic: “Sometimes energy problems are fundamentally human problems.
“It’s the same story over and over again: money is tight and there’s a huge backlog of deferred maintenance. Facility staff are stuck in firefighting mode. The facility manager is constantly getting angry phone calls and complaints. Nobody is happy. Live like that for a few years, and you end up with a culture of disenfranchisement. The consequences are severe, both for morale and for energy performance.”
Fortunately, culture isn’t set in stone. In fact, seemingly small actions can bring about profound culture change, as Bright Power has seen first hand.
Improving culture in unexpected ways
Bright Power originally integrated LogCheck into their energy management process to collect data. LogCheck replaces the paper logsheets used for routine inspection rounds and meter readings with a simple mobile app and web dashboard. Putting information in this format made it easy for Bright Power to:
- Quickly access relevant equipment and usage readings.
- Identify issues that may be overlooked.
- Learn how staff interacts with their building.
In order to generate this necessary data, facilities staff had to start doing rounds diligently. They walked through their building every day to inspect their equipment and take readings. LogCheck made sure facilities staff knew what needed to be checked and when. This clearly indicated what was expected, and because everyone could see what was or wasn’t completed, it instilled accountability that those inspections got done.
While the information itself was important, Mike quickly saw how committing to this process caused something to shift. Before long, one relatively simple change in routine – doing rounds – had a weird side effect of transforming staff culture for the better!
MB: “When we started out implementing LogCheck, we came at it from the perspective of energy managers. We weren’t interested in maintenance for its own sake – we just wanted the equipment to work, because you can’t optimize a broken air handler. So we set up daily rounds and preventative maintenance programs for our clients’ staff to execute. And we started to see this weird side effect – the staff were walking the whole building every day.
“Their managers saw how thorough the staff were being. When staff pointed out a leak or a broken valve or a stuck damper, it was there for everyone to see. It had to be responded to. And when the facility staff saw that their actions actually made things better, they started to take pride in what they did. There were fewer fires to put out and they had more time to spend on digging themselves out of that deferred maintenance hole. And eventually they did, and we at Bright Power got to focus on optimizing energy performance like we originally hoped. But along the way, we saw the culture totally change.
“Staff went from being reactive to being proactive and empowered. And that has far-reaching and profound implications for the performance of the building.”
This all makes perfect sense. When you force yourself to walk your facility, to get in front of your equipment every day, you know your building better. You start to notice things and identify ways to improve. Inspection rounds aren’t just about writing down temperatures and pressures, they’re arguably more about getting facilities staff to physically interact with their equipment and their building.
Since repeating this process with more facilities, the results have been astounding. Mike Brusic reports that three-quarters of the buildings where they’ve deployed LogCheck have undergone a profound cultural shift. No longer do they simply react when things break; these teams are finding ways to proactively avoid issues before they happen. These engineers and maintenance staff are proud of their facilities, and it shows.
Adopting and sticking to an inspections routine truly makes a difference. While you certainly don’t need LogCheck to realize the benefits of rounds, it can lower your barriers to success and make it much easier to stick to your plan. It has also provided a clear entry point for Bright Power to teach, correct, and help clients build complete maintenance programs.
Good culture doesn’t happen overnight, but sticking to a routine rounds process is a great start. Whether you want to be more resource efficient, maintain a safer facility, prevent future problems, or improve your building another way, addressing the human element of maintenance sets you up for success.
Bradley Short works for LogCheck, the easiest way to stay on top of routine maintenance tasks, inspections, and meter readings. To learn more, visit logcheck.com.