That Loud Thumping Sound Cannot Be Good

Aug 22, 2011

Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith


I was at my son’s school for open house the other night on a very hot and humid day here in Florida. After getting out of the car at the far end of the parking lot, I immediately heard a loud thumping sound that sounded like a an out-of-balance washing machine except it was 1,000 times louder.

Approaching the walkway to the lunch hall, I noticed that the sound was originating from a monstrous cooling tower for a chiller unit at the back of the school. I may not be an engineer but I know when a piece of equipment is not on the receiving end of a quality school maintenance management program.

School Budget Crisis is Not an Excuse

Most of us are aware that schools around the nation are facing budget shortfalls with every department expected to take a hit. However, not all cutbacks are created equal. This is especially true when school maintenance budget cutbacks result in the accelerated failure of assets that may costs several hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace.

“School districts perpetually struggle to budget appropriately for operations, maintenance, and capital projects. High-dollar capital projects are the first to go when budgets are cut, and trimming maintenance expenditures is more palatable to school boards than cutting instructional staff. ”

Source: Energy Star

The key to change is convincing school board members and administrators to make better long term asset and maintenance management decisions. In the modern world, there is no excuse for not making use of technology solutions such as an EAMCMMS system to properly maintain school assets.

The Cost of Major School Asset Failures

Getting back to the loud thumping noise, whatever is making the sound will eventually break. Before it breaks, the school will have higher energy costs as poorly maintained equipment needs more power to operate than properly maintained equipment.

“The result is an accumulation of deferred maintenance, which leads to higher energy costs and more equipment malfunctions. Lack of preventive maintenance reduces the operational life of building equipment, hastening the need to invest in costly capital retrofits….Increasingly, facility condition is being recognized as an important factor for student learning. Lawsuits regarding inadequate funding for education in dozens of states have shifted the focus from spending per school or per student to the condition of school buildings ”

Source: Energy Star

When the unit does fail, it will either result in an expensive temporary fix such as a temporary unit plus labor or require the asset to be replaced. The cost of replacing the unit can range from $100k-$500K (noting that the cost of equipment is only a fraction of the total cost). Even if the unit is rebuilt the cost is still significant.

Other costs of the units failure include, liability from students suffering from the heat and humidity and a more than a few angry parents. It will be parents that any elected school board should fear. Upset parents will start asking the logical question of how many teachers, clubs or activities could have been funded with that money? More importantly, they can vote out short sighted administrators.

The EAM CMMS Maintenance Solution

School asset and maintenance management should be planned as well as approached with common sense. Breakdown management is not answer it is just an obvious sign of not thinking through the consequences of mismanagement. An EAMCMMS can help school systems by giving them the tools to perform proactive asset and maintenance management.

By initiating a proactive maintenance management plan, school systems will see substantial expense reductions as the result of:

7 Reasons for a School EAM CMMS
  1. Assets lasting longer through preventive maintenance.
  2. Automated work management including work orders, work requests, inspections and rounds.
  3. A reduction in energy costs as equipment performance is optimized and door/windows are better maintained.
  4. A reduction in capital expenditures as equipment breaks down less often.
  5. A reduction in labor costs as maintenance staff is able to do more work with the same amount of resources.
  6. Long term asset management that results in standard operating procedures across schools as well as better vendor and contract management.
  7. Fewer liability claims that result from accident caused by asset neglect.

An EAM CMMS software solution is just a tool. The first step is for School Boards to recognize the need to for better asset and maintenance management both on a short-term and long-term basis.

Stuart Smith

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