How to spring into savings by tracking heating complaints this winter

Turkey day has come and gone which means that winter is coming…and so are the heating complaints.

According to a survey by Building Operating Management, 68 percent of facilities managers said that the most common complaints they receive from occupants are about temperature. And 16 percent of respondents said they field a heating or cooling request every day. Complaints can be disruptive especially when you have preventive maintenance or capital improvement projects to get to, but tracking heating and cooling requests over time can provide valuable insight into your HVAC system.

Tracking heating and cooling complaints from occupants

I’ll bet that you can think of a particular person in your building who is constantly complaining about the temperature. How do you determine if the problem is in your HVAC system or your occupant’s imagination? Well, tracking these and other heating and cooling complaints across your building is a good place to start. You may start to see a pattern. Perhaps other occupants in the same area are also reporting issues. Maybe this person is only experiencing issues earlier in the morning or maybe they only experience issues when the outside temperature drops below a certain point. Tracking this kind of data may help you to determine whether a complaint has some substance to it.

Let’s say you’ve received a lot of requests for a certain area and have determined that the temperature in those rooms is not within range. So you check your HVAC system, but it looks okay. Maybe your problem isn’t your HVAC system at all, maybe there’s a leak or poor insulation is allowing heat to escape. Because you tracked the complaints, you were able to determine that there was a hidden problem.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) like FMX can help you to track the frequency, location, date and time of heating and cooling requests.

Responding to complaints

Occupants want to be heard above all else. They will feel a lot better if you can show that you’ve heard them and are making an effort to solve their problem. If you are unable to solve their problem, offering them a kind explanation goes a long way. However, if you ignore complaints, occupants will often take it upon themselves to find a solution to their problems. In the case of heating complaints, occupants will often use personal heaters in their work areas. According to a report by the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), 60 percent of facilities managers said that their building occupants have brought in personal heaters if they were too cold. Personal heaters can be a fire hazard, cause power outages and can potentially make the problem worse.

A CMMS can improve communication between your team and building occupants. And with FMX, requesters are alerted when any progress has occurred on their request.

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Tracking maintenance activities

In addition to tracking complaints, you should also keep a log of your maintenance activities. That way if you experience similar HVAC problems in the future, you’ll have documentation on how you fixed it last time. Tracking maintenance activities should also give you an idea of which pieces of HVAC equipment are requiring more maintenance than others: maybe a particular model is underperforming, maybe all of the models from a specific manufacturer are under performing. Having this information documented will help you determine when to replace your equipment and with what.

FMX can help you coordinate HVAC repairs whether they are performed in-house or by a vendor.  You can also track how often you’ve had to make an HVAC system repair and to which pieces of equipment.

Tracking costs

Determining when you should make a capital improvement to your HVAC system can be a bit tricky, but it is worth it. You’ll need to know the amount of worker hours it takes to repair your system and whether or not they’ve increased over time (or the amount of time it takes for your vendor to complete the project and what their hourly rates are). It is also helpful to know your cost of inventory for each repair. This should give a basic idea of how much you are spending on your current system and whether or not it would be cost-effective to replace part or all of your HVAC system.

With the reporting and dashboard module in FMX, you can track labor hours/costs and inventory expenses, so that you can focus on convincing your boss to invest in capital improvements.

How FMX can help

FMX enables facilities managers to more efficiently and effectively track work orders, schedule resources, and plan maintenance. Our cloud-based solution features a calendar view simple enough for your team and your occupants to use to submit, track, and manage their requests. You can also use FMX to track equipment histories, worker hours, vendor rates and inventory.

 

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Allison is a product marketing manager at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not writing marketing content, she is likely hiking with her dog or cooking delicious Italian food. 


3 Ways to Avoid Facility Fiascos this School Year

Your school’s fresh paint job is drying, the floors are squeaky clean, and the classrooms are in tip-top shape for your students and staff. So, bring on the students, right? Not just yet! Phew, glad we caught you before you did anything rash. Now is actually the perfect time to start adding some to-dos to your list that will help you start the new school year off on the right foot. These tasks are a lot like the idea of preventive maintenance, which is the practice of performing routine repairs or inspections to prevent a future emergency and extend the life of your building. If you carry out these simple tasks now, it could help you avoid conflicts and costly surprises down the line.

1. Get your school’s staff onboard

Maintaining open communication with your school’s faculty and staff is paramount if you want your facilities to operate with minimal hiccups. A couple simple practices can be the difference between an educational facility that runs smoothly and one that constantly needs attention.

  • Get into the habit of explaining the reasoning behind any requests you make of your colleagues. By properly explaining why certain rules are in place, you can prevent misunderstandings that would otherwise result in disaster.
    • For example, you may ask your colleagues to keep their thermostats at 74ºF. In your mind, you know it’s to keep mold from growing and to cut back on cooling costs. However, a teacher may think you just like to make them miserable so one Friday, when they can’t take it anymore, they disregard your request and turn down the thermostat to 65ºF. Then, to make matters worse, they leave it on in the empty classroom over the long weekend! Unbeknownst to them, they just left behind the perfect breeding grounds for mold. How could this have been avoided? Next time, provide the “why” behind your request. Providing the context behind a request makes your staff feel like they are in the loop and helps the information stick when it matters most.
  • Sometimes emails don’t get read or announcements are tuned out, so take advantage of your empty school and arm your facility with adequate signage. Don’t want a door left open? Make a sign for it. Want to remind staff that lights should only be on during certain hours? Make a sign for it. Tired of students using the emergency doors to leave school? Make a — you get it. On your next walk through of your facilities, create a list of signs that need to be made. No need to be fancy, a simple word document can do wonders.

2. Start fresh

Just like a student gets a spiffy new haircut before their first day of school, tidying up your facilities will help you start the school year in style. When you’re focused on big tasks like facility remodels or repairs, smaller tasks, such as organizing your janitorial supplies and closets, can get pushed further down your to-do list. It’s not too late to set aside some time to get your department ready to take on whatever the school year throws at you.

  • Organize the little things. Start with your desk and surrounding office space, then move on to your supply closets, custodial closets and any other storage areas that may need a little TLC. Rally your staff to help cut organizing time in half. Depending on your storage spaces this may be a daunting task, but the first step is to set aside as little as an hour a week just to get started. Break it down into small, actionable steps. For example, start by disposing of old inventory or cleaning supplies and making sure all their usage and safety information is visible. If you want to go the extra mile, you could even replace your cleaning supplies with their environmentally-friendly counterparts. To encourage easy maintenance of your freshly assembled space, label items and ask that your team abide by your new organizational set-up.

3. Whip your workflows into shape

While summer may symbolize freedom for students and teachers, most of us understand that work never takes a break. However, since your facilities are emptier than normal, summer is the ideal time to usher in a new era of facility management for your building(s). Facility management software provides incredible value to schools and implementing one now could gain you many opportunities to save on costs and improve your facilities. A good facility management software keeps work order, vendor activity, and inventory information in one place. Ideally, a facility management software system should take the stress of keeping track of maintenance duties and following up with work orders off your shoulders. With the extra time gained from using facility management software, our customers managing school facilities have been able to take on initiatives focused on making their schools the best learning environments they can be.

  • Kick off your search by documenting and prioritizing your school’s needs and areas for improvement. Many of our customers in school environments come to us with an unstructured work request system and are overwhelmed with keeping track of vendor activity and maintenance requests. Do thorough research to find a software system that fits your school’s criteria. Make ease-of-use a necessity — the more people feel comfortable navigating through your software solution, the more people will use it. For more information, check out our eGuide on selecting a facilities management system.
  • If facility management software is out of the question, brainstorm ways to improve the efficiency of your current work order, preventive maintenance, and event scheduling workflows. What are your three biggest holdups?Are your work orders getting lost every few weeks? Can your staff’s efficiency be improved? Maybe it’s time to reestablish your expectations of your team. Find solutions that fit within your workflow and test them out to see if they have a positive effect. Taking the summer to establish these new practices gives you a good window to work out any kinks and develop the best way to instruct others on your new procedures.

How Facilities Management eXpress (FMX) Can Help
FMX’s simple interface and powerful capabilities like work order and preventive maintenance management, event and transportation scheduling, and reporting and analytics are providing value to schools around the nation. We work with onsite single sign-on and allow unlimited users, making us a great fit for schools of any size. Click here for more information and to learn more about how K-12, higher education, and charter schools like yours have simplified their facilities management with FMX.

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Riana is the assistant marketing director at Facilities Management eXpress. When she’s not creating content or running the FMX customer community, she can be found doing crafts and drinking copious amounts of green tea.

 

Sources:
https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2003/2003347.pdf