All Systems Go

by Nate Hunter

Road map to multi-service maintenance success.


For many retailers, designing a successful plan for maintenance of multiple services is an area of primary concern. The retail environment is crowded with vendors who all seemingly have the “best” system, the “broadest coverage,” and the “lowest cost,” but how can we identify what is the best course of action? In order to determine a solid strategy program utilizing technology, you must prepare for the challenges, potential errant paths, and many other important choices to make.

1. Identify Your Particular Needs

What are the needs and unique requirements of your facilities? For example, do you have 80,000-square-foot grocery stores in a harsh winter climate? Or do you have 1,500-square-foot in-line stores in an enclosed mall environment? The store type, layout, geographical location, traffic patterns, volume, type of merchandise, etc. all play a role in identifying the key requirements of maintaining a building and its systems in good working order. Identifying the appropriate maintenance/repair/replacement programs for each of your building’s components is the best place to start.

2. Establish Guidelines & Goals for Each Trade

Make a list of all of your building components and systems, and then identify the trade that will service them. For example:


Building Component                           Trade

Heating and Cooling Systems              HVACR

Roofing Systems                                Roofing

Floors & Carpets                                 Janitorial/Floor Care

Doors                                                Door & Locks

Interior Walls                                     Painting & Repair

Plumbing Systems                              Plumbing


Green-LightDecide whether you will be proactive or reactive with your maintenance program and design the program guidelines and goals accordingly. Company posture toward capital investment will have a large bearing on the program parameters. By forming general philosophies, you can develop a detailed scope of work for each trade and asset.

3. Analyze Your Past Budgets & Spending Trends

Along with corporate guidelines, outside factors such as the economy and company performance will influence the budget you lay out for your maintenance program design. Because the past is a good predictor of the future, carefully look at your spend in the various trades and asset categories. Be aware of what equipment and assets may be due for replacement or frequent repair and put in place a Statement of Work (SOW) and procedure that anticipates these needs. Establishing protocols such as “Not To Exceeds” (NTEs) for work order approval are key tools for controlling spend.

4. Establish Current Budgets & Spend Goals

Working within corporate financial directives, and using past data, you are now able to create the budgets for the current year, as well as years 2 through 5.

5. Possible Execution Choices

Now that you have done enough homework to think about how to execute these programs, it is best to ask yourself the following questions:

• Do you want to manage and dispatch with in-house project coordinators, which could lead to dealing with hundreds of local trade vendors?

• Do you want to design software to track and manage all of these assets and services?

• Do you want to license a third-party work order management system for your own coordinators to use?

• Do you want to retain an outside vendor to manage most of the data flow in conjunction with your coordinators?

• Do you want to outsource the entire function to outside vendors that provide both the software and project coordinators and deal with their own networks of trade contractors?

• For how long of a term do you want to sign any potential outsourcing contracts?

6. Research Your Choices

It’s time to begin the process of interviewing and evaluating potential software vendors, outsourcing vendors, trade contractors and project managers, depending on the path you want to follow. Establish a decision matrix in which you can evaluate all potential options side by side. Use a weighting scale to attach more significance to the attributes that are most important to you. Define what metrics and KPIs will be used to monitor vendor performance and achievement of internal goals.

7. Integrating and Making the Best Use of Technology

Depending on your chosen execution strategy, you need to decide what role technology will play in the overall programs that you implement. Do you have an in-house communications and work order software that will need to interface with external vendor systems? Are you and your vendors going to all use a third-party software system? Will you need to build bridges between disparate software systems? These are all important questions to answer and there may not be a one-size-fits-all answer.

The basic question is: What do you want the technology to do for you? It is possible to use one software package that runs all the programs in all trades, from soup to nuts. A single system can monitor the snow fall in a certain zip code, proactively dispatch a snow plow to a store, collect a verification that the vendor is on site and has done the work, attach a digital picture as proof, and then produce an invoice and pay the local vendor. Or several different systems, engaging with human beings in various stages, can accomplish almost the same result but in varying degrees of efficiency and success.

Once you have outlined and followed these steps, you have now designed and evaluated your maintenance program and the technology and methodology to accomplish your specific goals. What road will you take? It’s always helpful to reach out to your peers within the industry to find out what they have done and what their experiences have been. I hope it will be a safe and rewarding journey.







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