Staffing Issues? 5 Best Practices To Streamline Maintenance Operations with Online Work Order Management Software

February 19, 2024
5 min

In our post-pandemic world, many industries have been forced to do more with less, whether that means a smaller budget, fewer materials or a smaller staff. In the world of facilities management, labor shortages remain a top concern, particularly as some remote workforces return to their offices and those spaces require regular building maintenance. It can be challenging to keep up with an influx of work orders when teams are shrinking and tighter budgets simply can’t cover the costs of outside contractors.

When teams are smaller, having enough coverage when workers are out sick, recovering from an injury or taking vacation time poses additional challenges. To streamline maintenance operations, the right processes and tools must be in place and used by the entire organization. Best practices in planning for staff being out of pocket center around communication and collaboration to avoid any delays due to staffing.

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The State of Maintenance Staff

Unplanned downtime costs businesses approximately $125,000 per hour, and over 66 percent of industrial companies experience unplanned outages monthly, if not more frequently, according to a 2023 global study from ABB. If techs aren’t available to service or repair broken equipment, businesses lose money and the onus falls on maintenance teams and their supervisors.

Maintenance director and thought leader Shawn Foran advises facility management to embrace technology like computerized maintenance management systems to attract younger maintenance technicians as those nearing retirement opt to exit the workforce earlier than ever.

“As they leave the industry, their wealth of knowledge and expertise departs with them, leaving property managers scrambling to find replacements,” Foran writes.

Having a single source of truth for training resources, equipment manuals, repair history, warranty information and work order status available through computers, tablets and smartphones will significantly ease the burden of a strained workforce. It will help younger and newer technicians understand what they need to do so they can dive into their work confidently. 

When staffing and labor shortages become major hurdles, management can rely on their CMMS as a secret weapon for redirecting and reprioritizing tasks as needed. A unified platform with unlimited users empowers everyone to access the same information with minimal friction or back-and-forth.

maintenance managers can improve operational efficiency with a computerized maintenance management system that includes asset management for property management, inventory management for health facilities and more

Below are five hand-picked best practices for utilizing your CMMS to keep facilities operating smoothly when you’re short-staffed.

1) Prioritize Compliance Over Daily Maintenance

When you are down a team member or two, the first way to cut the potential for letting tasks slip through the cracks is to narrow your focus. Using your CMMS’ preventive maintenance feature allows you to identify upcoming inspections and audits and check the status of any compliance-related activities. Focusing on any imperative inspections or audits during periods of staff shortage may not seem intuitive, but the last thing you want is to have operations shut down because the focus was directed elsewhere.

The beauty of a CMMS is that you can set preventive maintenance schedules well in advance, and you’ll be notified when specific tasks need to be completed. This breaks down potentially daunting projects into smaller steps on manageable timelines so reduced teams can tackle individual tasks and work as a group to get it done.

Moving smaller or less consequential maintenance requests down the priority list lets your smaller team successfully manage big-ticket items. You can then review your work order list and determine what can be rescheduled to a later date when you have more manpower or what you may have the capacity to knock out quickly today.

2) Identify and Allocate Resources With Task Management Tools

Since employee retention is another challenge maintenance and facility managers face, it’s important to assign work to specialized maintenance personnel. Make sure you identify team members with similar skill sets or who are cross-trained to maintain multiple aspects of your maintenance operations. Keep an employee database or list of employee contact information, roles, skills and responsibilities so you can identify available staff who can fill in when a colleague is out of commission.

This benefits the organization as a whole because you can be sure the work is being completed by a knowledgeable expert, and employees won’t hit a wall of frustration trying to learn a skill on the job because they’re covering for someone. A CMMS will give you a clear view of every work order and task so you can assign it to the right individual as soon as the request is submitted. 

Built-in task management features allow you to:

  • View your staff resources on a given day

  • Assign and reassign maintenance requests quickly

  • Communicate task assignment changes to your team with notifications sent to their phones

  • Get a clear view of asset management to determine what resources you have and need

3) Streamline Communication with Maintenance Work Order Software

Using a digital work order management system built into your CMMS facilitates communication and collaboration between facility patrons and maintenance staff. For example, if your team is outside handling weather-related tasks like deicing sidewalks or blowing snow, and your building’s furnace breaks down, the individuals inside can quickly notify your team and include pertinent details via a simple work order request form. You can redirect your staff to tackle the HVAC issue and keep the requestor informed about the status.

The key is keeping all the information your team needs available and accessible with limited effort. You can also use asset tracking in your CMMS to keep equipment information like work history, serial numbers, parts specifications, upcoming scheduled maintenance and other details compiled in one place.

When this information lives on the cloud and is accessible via both desktop and mobile apps, your team can get the information they need immediately rather than running back and forth to the maintenance office or having to take time to call or message colleagues for details.

The centralization of information also is important when working with vendors. Maintaining a database of supplier contact information and corresponding product details will help team members communicate efficiently if they need to order parts or negotiate pricing.

The bottom line is that when you have a smaller team working to achieve the tasks intended for a larger team, keeping communication consistent and constant is key to efficient operations.

4) Leverage Reporting and Analytics To Track Performance 

A five-person team produces different outputs in a day than a three-person team produces, plain and simple. Time constraints, workload and employee skill sets are all factors that play into how much work gets done in a day. 

Rather than extending the labor of the team you do have, paying a fortune in overtime and potentially losing great workers because they’re overexerting themselves, you need to analyze where you’re at, what needs to improve and what can be shelved for later.

Using reporting and analytic tools of your CMMS helps you to identify trends in productivity relative to who is working in a given timeframe and how many maintenance tasks are being completed. Watching response times, completion rates and costs help achieve your goal of streamlining operations within a decreased manpower budget. 

With the right data, you can plan and find ways to offer additional support when needed. An important part of optimizing and streamlining facility management and maintenance operations is having the right information from which to make decisions.

5) Work With Your HR Teams 

Though your priority is keeping your facility maintained and operating smoothly, you need to check in with your employees and ensure their needs are being met. Foran says investing in mentorship and career development opportunities for employees and offering competitive pay and benefits builds loyalty among maintenance technicians. 

It’s worth noting that in 2023, the American Institute of Stress estimated that one-million Americans miss work each day due to stress. This mental health-induced absenteeism from work costs U.S. businesses $51 billion per year, as well as an additional $26 billion in treatment costs.

With stress, anxiety and depression accounting for more than 50% of illness-related work absences, checking in with your team and doing what you can to create a low or lower-stress environment will help your team and your operations. 

Empowering your team with the knowledge and tools to confidently complete their work may not solve all staffing challenges, but it can help ease a significant amount of stress. Utilizing your CMMS to streamline communication, prioritize maintenance tasks and report on progress will benefit your entire team — and, hopefully, shed light on opportunities for expanding your workforce.

Try Our Maintenance Work Order Software Today

The first step in implementing best practices and optimizing your maintenance operational efficiency is to find the right CMMS for your team’s needs. Maintenance Care offers tools to schedule preventive maintenance, track your asset details, manage maintenance tasks, get custom reports and much more. Book your free demo and see how the right tools, like work order management software and inventory management, can help you do more with less.    

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