The Vitralogy Guide to Daily Building Rounds and Facility Maintenance

No matter the industry in which you’re operating, a facility is only as good as its daily maintenance rounds.

No matter the industry in which you’re operating, a facility is only as good as its daily maintenance rounds. From visual boiler inspections to testing fire alarms, these everyday reviews make the difference between constantly playing catch up performing expensive reactive maintenance or running a smooth ship.

Think about it this way: Reactive, aka breakdown, maintenance addresses failing or damaged equipment. To remediate, you’re looking at downtime, costly part replacement, and even overtime.

Developing a facility maintenance program is no small task, so we put together this ultimate guide to daily building rounds and facility maintenance to help.

Skyscrapers against blue sky

What is Facility Maintenance?

It’s the process of keeping a facility in proper operating conditions by performing routine visual inspections, component replacement, and even simple repairs (those which don’t require an on-site engineer). This will be different for every building, even within the same portfolio.

The goal of facility maintenance is to optimize operations and improve quality, thereby increasing productivity and profitability of the core business. When you don’t conduct regular facility maintenance, small problems can arise and large problems can get missed, leading to equipment downtime and other costly issues.

The best way to reach those goals is by performing daily rounds, checking on equipment, making ad-hoc repairs and adjustments, and noting all measurements and metrics, such as taking down your boiler’s PSI or inspecting the fire equipment.



What Are the Daily Rounds You Should Be Performing?

Picking and choosing which daily rounds you and your team should be doing to keep your facilities up and running largely depends on what equipment you have, what your maintenance costs are, and what your financial and facility goals are.

Your daily maintenance schedule is everything. It should be a run-down of everything your team has to do throughout the day, independent of service requests and ad-hoc reactive maintenance. The best means of doing this is to assign out daily rounds to each individual so there’s no overlap, no missed rounds, and no time wasted.

While there is no shortage of pre-made templates out there, the fact of the matter is that you should be customizing your rounds to your specific needs.

To figure out what daily rounds you should be doing, ask:

  • What equipment does my facility need in order to operate?
  • Where does my team spend most of its time?
  • Which equipment is most frequently breaking down?
  • How old is the equipment, and have I noticed a slowdown in operations?
  • Are there are local laws/statutes that mandate proper equipment maintenance?


What is Preventative Maintenance? What Are the Benefits of Preventative Maintenance?

Preventative maintenance is proactive maintenance, wherein you check on equipment during daily rounds, not just when there is a problem.

The benefits of preventative maintenance include:

  1. Decrease downtime
  2. Control your spare parts budget
  3. Minimize overtime
  4. Track trends to stop equipment failure before it happens
Engineer Taking Readings With Tablet

How to Streamline Your Preventative Maintenance & Daily Rounds Programs

No two days are alike when you are managing buildings. Stuff breaks and tenants complain. Lighting fixtures dangle. Not enough heat (or too much heat). 

Whether you’re a Property Manager or Building Engineer, “rolling with the punches” is part of your job description. Quick on your feet, with a wide-ranging knowledge of building operations, you've designed, administered, and enacted maintenance plans that solve the problem.  

This spontaneity and uncertainty of building maintenance will never go away. Your fast response time will always be a reason why your tenants love having you around. But, what will make them, and your clients, appreciate you even more is the behind the scenes work you do to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.  

So in this post, we will share ways to streamline your Preventative Maintenance plan and Daily Rounds program. That way you can slow the flood of work orders and spend more time strategizing about how to improve your operational efficiency. 

Streamlined Preventative Maintenance Reduces Operating Costs 

Streamlining your preventive maintenance and daily rounds processes will result in fewer equipment failures. 

It will also lower operating costs in a few ways:  

  • You spot problems early  before they become overwhelming and require more expensive fixes or full replacement.  
  • You extend asset lifetimes — or at least reach the expected asset life. 
  • You save time — by spending less of it organizing and performing repairs.  

So, let’s go over how to streamline your preventative maintenance plan and daily rounds.

Track As Much As Possible 

The maxim stands - You can only improve what you track. Therefore, you need a system to track and analyze your team’s performance. Whether it’s in a Mobile App or an excel spreadsheet, you want to track each action you and your crew take during your daily rounds and maintenance work.  

When you have this information at your disposal, you can ask questions like these:  

  • How much time are we spending on average doing documentation? 
  • How much time are we devoting to preventative maintenance work compared to reactive maintenance?  
  • Which steps do we routinely miss during our daily rounds?  

Answers to these questions will help you spot areas for improvement in your daily rounds and preventative maintenance process.  

Analyze The Health of Your Assets 

When you have a physical with a doctor, the first thing they pull up is your history. In essence, they are running an analysis on your health. And, using the trends they find, they can recommend preventative health plans. See where we’re going with this?  

Building engineers need to do the same thing with their facilities. Besides the current status of your assets, you should also be looking over and analyzing the history of those assets. This will allow you to spot trends and make predictions about the best ways to maintain your equipment, whether it’s a boiler with constant warning signs or an area of sidewalk that seems to be acquiring a new crack every month.  

When you have this historical data you can ask questions that will help you create the most effective preventative maintenance and daily rounds plan:  

  • How many window repairs have we done at 123 32nd street this year?  
  • How many pipes have burst in building A compared to building B over the last three years? And why is this happening?  
  • Which readings are consistently out of range?  
  • Are we doing chiller inspections as often as we should be?  

This need to make data-driven decisions is causing a lot of property managers and building engineers to ditch pen and paper for operations technology such as Smartrounds, which allows them to easily capture and analyze equipment data in a mobile app. 

Don’t Forget The Lower-Priority Equipment  

Most teams devote the majority of their preventative maintenance efforts to critical systems such as safety infrastructure and uninterruptable power lines. While this is crucial, it is important not to neglect your other lower-priority equipment. 

Jim Whittaker, Engineering Services Lead at JLL, says:  

Often, we find that non-critical base building infrastructure, things like HVAC systems, air handling units, fans, rooftop package units, and even sometimes electrical and plumbing systems, are ripe for deferring maintenance. 

And this deferment can be a problem. When these less-critical systems don’t get the routine rounds they deserve, they can catch you by surprise, breaking down and leading to immense costs. For instance, roofing and pavement are areas that often escape preventative maintenance plans, but if damaged, they can be extremely costly.  

Fewer Breakdowns Gives You More Time For Strategizing 

What sets the best building engineering teams apart from the others is their ability to strategize on how to improve their building operations. Of course, they need the free time to do this — something hard to come by in this line of work. That’s why streamlining is so critical.  

When your team has faster daily rounds and more effective preventive maintenance plans, you will spend less time putting out fires and more time brainstorming ideas, bouncing them off of your teammates, and implementing the good ones.   

Time to strategize will lead to a more efficient facility management team, and often, a more fulfilling and stimulating work environment.  

If you are interested in streamlining your maintenance process with mobile technology, learn more about how Vitralogy can help you achieve that.  



Why You No Longer Need Paper Maintenance Log Sheets

For as long as professionals have been performing maintenance rounds, clipboard and paper maintenance log sheets have been king. But that's inefficient and leaves too much room for error. Fortunately, there’s a much better way of maintaining log sheets: going digital with a CMMS.

Here’s why you should go digital.

 

1. Organize and maintain files easily.

With paper log sheets, you need to:

  • Print out blank sheets for every round your team performs
  • Develop a dated filing system divided by round type (e.g., Boiler Rounds March 2020, Chiller Rounds July 2019)
  • File and access your rounds in one physical location
  • Dig through old file folders for past rounds
  • Hand-calculate and manually track patterns in order to analyze your raw data

With a digital log sheet system, you can file your rounds automatically, using your phone, from anywhere. That means avoiding time-consuming trips to the office to file information. You can also set up your electronic system to automatically organize rounds based on date, round type, and more, depending on your team’s needs.

 

2. Physical location no longer matters—you can find what you’re looking for wherever you are.

With paper logs, recalling boiler pressure from two weeks ago or calculating the average PSI over the course of a quarter means locating the relevant logs, poring over the data, and doing manual calculations, which are prone to human error.

With electronic log sheets, you and your team no long need the physical paper on which you wrote the information in front of you; instead you can log into your CMMS and pull up the relevant information, looking both by equipment and by date. The right CMMS will also provide the relevant data for you. 

 

3. Track only what you want to.

There’s no shortage of log sheet templates online, but with generic templates cme tasks you don’t need to track. That means wasted paper and wasted time, either crossing out the rounds you don’t need or editing templates. With a CMMS, you can create custom rounds.

 

4. Identify patterns faster.

One of the main functions of log sheets is determining patterns to prevent breakdowns. For example: checking if the boiler pressure is higher than it was last week, or confirming if your chiller’s condenser and evaporator water flow is slower than it should be.

With paper log sheets, you have to manually dig through weeks and weeks of paper, looking at dozens of water flow and PSI readouts and doing calculations to determine if there’s a problem.

But humans make mistakes. Numbers get missed; handwriting is sloppy; and decimal points can be misinterpreted. With electronic rounds solutions like Vitralogy’s SmartRounds, you enter your rounds information into the app, and it automatically tracks patterns and analyzes data for you. You’ll be alerted to any disconcerting patterns, whether in the equipment itself or in team members’ performances.

That could mean the difference between finding an anomaly before it causes a problem, or only discovering the problem when the equipment breaks. That also means you can ensure your team is tracking things properly and in a timely manner.

 

5. Share information faster and more efficiently.

Just as electronic log sheets can help you track patterns more easily, they’re also easier to share with your team. When you use a CMMS, every staff member has access to data analytics. You no longer need to be in the same room to share pertinent information or scan a physical copy for distribution.

 

6. Keep your team in the loop.

With the ability to send out push notifications, alerts about overdue tasks, and even new assignments, a digital rounds solution means enhanced communication with the whole team, whether it’s all in-house staff, or a mix of staff and contractors. You never have to worry about whether or not your team is checking their inbox or if they missed a critical message about rounds.

Tall residential building

How to Manage Your Buildings During Shoulder Season

Shoulder season is that tricky period of the year when it’s warm during the day and cold at night, meaning your buildings have different heating and cooling needs, depending on the time. This can put undue stress on your facilities, so here’s how to manage your buildings during shoulder season.

 

 

Why should I be concerned about shoulder season?

This in-between period, where it fluctuates between hot and cold weather depending on the time of day, happens in both spring and fall. And it can have major consequences if you don’t maintain your facilities properly.

Temperature fluctuations mean:

  • There is a higher chance of mold, mildew, and other environmental problems, such as the growth of Legionella bacteria.
  • It can be challenging to figure out whether to heat or cool a building on a given day, and when, to maintain optimal temperature both for residents and equipment.
  • You need to be present to start up or shut off equipment, as needed.
  • Mechanical systems (including but not limited to HVAC systems and boilers) will be working overtime, increasing the likelihood of breakages.
  • You could lose money constantly switching from heating to cooling and back.

 

What can I do to protect my facilities during shoulder season?

There are several measures you can take to prevent shoulder season breakages and high costs.

 

Get in Front of the Equipment

First and foremost, increase your rounds and perform them daily. Engineers need to be physically monitoring the equipment to ensure the top performance of systems. The best way to prevent problems is to inspect the equipment firsthand, and feel the temperature and humidity yourself.

 

Real-Time Monitoring

Use a tracking app such as SmartRounds to customize and log your rounds. You can assign tasks and require team members to use tag technology to mark their presence so you know, no matter where you may be, that rounds are getting done. Further, you can keep track of important data when you use an app-based solution.

This means you can see what buildings are taking too much energy to cool/heat, and fix the problem before it costs you a pretty penny.

You may need to increase your rounds during shoulder season, but the biggest lift is done by the app, so it’s an easy transition.

 

Optimize Work Schedules

Instead of having team members perform rounds in the heat of the day, move relevant work on cooling- and heating-related equipment to early morning or evening hours when the temperature is cooler, to minimize costs.

 

Tracking Metrics to Suss Out Patterns

When you use the SmartRounds app, you can take a look at historical data that shows what time you start or stop a given system, what temperature fluctuations have looked like on similar days in the past, and whether a given piece of equipment is working properly or if it’s being overused and inching close to the breaking point.

 

Pre-Cooling Systems

By pre-cooling your systems, you can save money and avoid the risk of overworking your facilities equipment. This essentially means shifting cooling to off-peak hours. It takes less energy to cool your building when it’s still chilly outside, because the air is not being heated as you cool it. It subsequently becomes easier (and more cost-effective) to maintain a comfortable temperature during the heat of the day.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Reducing compressor degradation by minimizing its cycling
  • Taking pressure off of your boiler, cooler, and evaporator by reducing the number of cooling cycles you perform in a day
  • Operating at temperatures lower than during peak times, saving on cooling costs

 

With the right digital solution, you can universalize your shoulder season rounds, customize them daily to suit your needs, and assign as-needed tasks to keep your whole team on the same page.

 

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