Maintenance and Operations, Training

Establishing Strong Procedures for Facility Management

There’s no area of facility management that isn’t guided by one procedure or another—from attending to an endless stream of work orders to fixing a faulty HVAC unit or ordering a new batch of spare parts. Procedures are fundamental in facility management, but to do justice to this post, let’s start by briefly distinguishing between “process” and “procedure.” Though both words are often used interchangeably, these terms are distinct—yet inseparable.

Process and Procedure: Why Do They Matter?

A process describes an orderly sequence of activities that collectively lead to the achievement of a particular goal. In other words, it’s a big-picture overview of the actions that make up a particular task.

Alternatively, a procedure details precise instructions on how to complete each step in a process. They provide workers with step-by-step guidelines for fulfilling assigned tasks. 

In essence, processes describe “what” we are doing while procedures describe “how” it will be done.

For example, while creating a work order is a process, assigning a technician to execute the job is a procedure. 

Why Do Facilities Struggle with Procedures?

Many FMs can relate to the struggle of getting their team members to execute procedures as intended.

It’s a common challenge because:

  1. There’s a recommended way to do things.
  2. The staff has a way that they’d rather do things.
  3. There’s a way it eventually happens.

Many facilities face the above combination of issues in one form or the other. The end result is confusion and weak procedures that are difficult to enforce and eventually get forgotten.

Unfortunately, when procedures continue to fail, the staff almost immediately get the blame—leading to more micro-management, less productivity, and more stress all around. Yet, there’s a better way to resolve this challenge.

With that said, here are a few steps that can help to establish strong procedures with a higher chance of success:

Use Only Well-Planned and Structured Procedures 

Never rush into establishing procedures. Whether the FM is recommending a major maintenance policy overhaul or simply modifying steps in a particular procedure, planning and research are vital. Especially when the procedure is a new one or it’s much different from what was previously in place. 

This needs to be a thoughtful and well-planned process. In addition, before implementation, test the procedure. Get your more experienced staff to double-check the practicability of the procedure by walking through each step. They are in the best position to notice any loopholes and provide valuable insights.

Also, avoid the pitfall of trying to tackle too many procedures at once. Instead, start with the ones that:

  • Can impact key performance indicators (KPIs) the most
  • Are exceptionally time-consuming
  • Are used most frequently
  • Are outdated
  • Pose the biggest challenge for staff

Automate with Technology

Modern facilities are busy places—from the resumption of work until the close of business, facility management teams have their hands full. If staff can use technological tools and solutions to get the more repetitive parts of their work done faster and better, there’s a better chance that they will follow through. In addition, automating helps to minimize the organization’s exposure to the risks of human error. Some tasks that come to mind here are updating spare parts inventory records and other data entry jobs.

Incorporate Staff Feedback

Always ask, “What’s in it for the staff?”

Clear communication between facility managers and their team is essential. Procedures might look like they offer multiple benefits and they may even appear great on paper. But, if there are some particular issues or steps in a procedure that staff have complained about in the past, don’t continue to ignore their input. Instead, take a step back and seriously consider how to incorporate their feedback to improve the procedure.

Try getting employees that regularly use a procedure to write down at least three problems they saw in the procedure and what improvements they recommend.

Standardization Is Vital

To maintain operational efficiency, a successful facility has to run on processes and procedures that are completed over and again according to a schedule. That schedule could be daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. However, regardless of how often these activities occur, they require rules every single time. These rules will define the scope, quality, and methods applicable while performing the task—even more so in organizations that have facilities spanning multiple locations. Standardization will save time, improve quality, and reduce human error. This ensures a seamless workflow throughout the enterprise and uniform quality of results achieved over and over again.

Standardization helps to decrease ambiguity and guesswork, especially when onboarding or training new staff.

Additionally, in the event that something still goes wrong, it’s easier to troubleshoot and identify what happened and where it happened if a standardized series of steps were followed from inception.

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately, procedures are an integral part of facility management. Making them stronger will lead to better outcomes like better service quality and cost savings. Strengthening FM procedures will also free up much of the time that key staff has to spend trying to work around an inefficient system. Again, it’s important to emphasize that though facility managers and other leaders set the tone for these kinds of improvements, those doing the work often have the best ideas and their contributions are vital at every step.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.