Reactive maintenance—the act of repairing an asset after it has malfunctioned or broken down—is a defining characteristic of any facilities management (FM) program. A recent poll suggests 66 percent of facilities managers report that more than half of their maintenance efforts are spent on reactive tasks.

While reactive maintenance serves a valid purpose, servicing assets when (and only when) issues occur can lead to extended equipment downtime, part and labor shortages, and long-term asset complications. If reactivity has become your FM program’s modus operandi, you may find yourself dealing with an endless feedback loop of deferred maintenance and backlogged work orders.

Pros and Cons of the Reactive Model

Taking a reactive approach is sometimes unavoidable; in fact, it’s the simplest way to solve an immediate problem. There is typically no upfront cost associated with reactive maintenance, and it doesn’t require advanced long-term planning.

However, a reactive-only outlook can put stress on your FM program and quickly drain your facilities budget. Because equipment breakdowns can be unpredictable, spare parts may not be readily available when you need them, causing you to pay a premium for expedited shipping, travel time and urgent, after-hours support.

Reactive maintenance often leads to a whole host of other issues, including:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Work order backlog
  • Increased risk of safety issues
  • Higher energy costs
  • Reduced asset lifespan

Shifting from a Reactive Mindset to a Proactive One

Transitioning from reactive to proactive, or preventive, maintenance requires a different way of thinking, acting and managing your facilities. This change will not take place overnight, but it all starts with a shift in your organization’s mindset.

One way to make the transition easier is to adopt an integrated approach to your facilities program. Integrated facilities management (IFM) is a holistic solution that works well for large multi-site organizations seeking to get more out of their existing assets and labor force. A comprehensive IFM plan will not only account for preventive maintenance measures, it will use predictive technology and analytics to better assess your assets’ current condition.

Understanding the nuances of your equipment, such as repair history and expected lifespan, can save you time, money and energy in the future. For example, if you know your HVAC unit has a lifespan of roughly 15 to 20 years, you should plan ahead and consider replacing the unit by the time it hits the 15-year mark when the need for costly repairs will likely increase. It may sound risky or expensive to replace old equipment before it’s officially ceased to function, and it’s certainly not necessary to do this will all of your assets, but proactively replacing or rebuilding components or entire units can save serious capital in the long-term. This practice will also boost productivity and reduce equipment downtime.

Reacting to equipment glitches and maintenance crises will always fall to your company’s FM team, but there are steps you and your facilities manager can take to reduce the frequency of these incidents and the impact they’ll have on your daily operations. With all of your asset and operational data at your fingertips, you can feel confident that the decisions you make about your property and facilities are informed by sound strategy.

Leveraging data is necessary for businesses seeking to perform at peak efficiency. For more, download Harnessing the Power of Data to Optimize Your Facilities Management Program.

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