Planning ahead is a must in property management. This is doubly true for multifamily maintenance teams who are constantly stretched for time, people, and resources and require a plan to ensure each is being deployed as effectively as possible.
A preventative maintenance plan is exactly as it sounds; it's an agreed-up playbook that ensures teams are doing what's necessary to keep property equipment and assets in operation to prevent unexpected breakdowns. The idea is to perform the tests, upkeep, and maintenance while everything is already working, so techs aren't putting out fires at the last second.
The advantages to planning ahead are incredibly beneficial In a multifamily property, spotting and addressing issues before they grow into something bigger protects property values and mitigates breakdowns and failures that can negatively impact the resident experience. Moreover, setting a preventative maintenance plan increases productivity, contributes to lower operational costs, and reduces the overall number of service calls.
The Preventative Maintenance Basics
Preventative maintenance plans will often look different from one property to the next. They may cover the same overall systems and components, but variances in equipment age, size, and usage metrics will influence what each team prioritizes.
Getting started on your preventative maintenance plan? Consider the "PDCA model" as a solid first step:
Take stock of the property assets that are susceptible to breakdowns and failures (e.g., HVAC, electrical systems, utilities, etc.). Then, determine how they're used, how often they're used, common issues, repair histories, and when they typically require attention (refer to the manufacturers guidelines if available). This information is useful in planning when (and to what extent) they should be checked on by staff.
Now that you know what your preventative maintenance plan should cover, it's time to put it into action. Ensure your plan is kept up to date and accessible to all maintenance staff and that property management leaders have the means to track the progress of each preventative maintenance task (either digitally or via pen-and-paper) so that nothing falls off the radar.
Take the time to assess if your preventative maintenance plan is working. If the equipment is still breaking down unexpectedly or faster than anticipated, you may need to tweak your schedules and/or assigned roles.
Use metrics from your preventative maintenance activities to determine which building components require more and less of your team's focus and adjust your plan accordingly.
The PDCA model offers a streamlined approach to preventative maintenance. Still, the actual plan can be executed and managed in multiple ways (e.g., property management software or TRIMM Software). What ultimately matters is that maintenance teams have clear visibility into the daily, weekly, or monthly tasks required to prevent unwelcome surprises and keep everyone in the building safe and satisfied.
Common Preventative Maintenance Misconceptions
It’s logical to think that preventative maintenance measures will actually lead to more work orders and overload your maintenance team. After-all, isn’t doing nothing easier than doing something? The reality is that preventative maintenance is proven to reduce the net costs and number of work hours needed to keep your operations running smoothly.
Chad Moulin, VP Facilities for GK Management, conducted preventative maintenance research that was based on more than 350 communities with over 70,000 units. Here’s a summary of his findings:
- After one year of implementing preventative maintenance plans, service teams saw service request totals drop by an average of 13.4%.
- Repair and maintenance expenses were reduced by 8.8%
- Average time for teams to complete a service request improved by 17.1%
Here’s some advice from Chad on changing the status quo for dated maintenance processes, “You need to get baseline stats, formulate a plan or strategy and have a talk with your boss, whether that’s a community manager, a regional, a vice president, whoever it is that helps you take these steps. Know your stats. Make a plan. Know your property. Make a change. Repeat.”
One step ahead
The post-pandemic backlog is real and it's not going away. Many multifamily management teams have deferred activities and projects until “things get back to normal,” and while that makes sense given the additional health and logistical they have to deal with during COVID-19, it also means that maintenance work is piling up. Embedding a preventative maintenance plan now will keep that post-pandemic “to-do” list from getting bigger while giving staff a heads up on what to expect.
There will always be fires to fight in multifamily property management. The ones who come out ahead are those who make strategies now to save costly headaches down the road.