The words ‘unplanned’ and ‘unexpected’ in conjunction with ‘costs’ are not popular in anyone’s business. They can be avoided with planning — in short, by good business practice.

Best practice in maintenance, as in any other sector, is all about looking at how things are done.

It is not necessary to do everything ‘better’ but rather to focus on those activities that provide maximum value – and doing them more effectively.

However, production and maintenance issues can appear to be at odds with each other.

Since the process of developing a maintenance programme can involve several different parties, it can become difficult to attempt to satisfy all these parties simultaneously, whilst trying to achieve the objectives of the company at the same time.

There is a need for a revised approach that treats maintenance as an integral part of business strategy and which incorporates key factors at the operational level to identify the most appropriate maintenance policy.

The maintenance of buildings is just one area where good business practice can bring many benefits, not least cost savings, over the period the life of a building.

Today’s building-management systems, with their 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week remote diagnostic capability, allow for constant monitoring of a building’s performance and provide the ability to adjust critical settings on-line at any time and, with the emergence of web-based interfaces, from almost any location.

A service technician should no longer arrive on site not knowing any details about the problem he has to fix.

Modern systems should allow technicians to identify the nature of the problem, and in many cases, make a fix — permanent or temporary, depending on the fault. If it is not possible to cure the problem, an educated decision can be made on the solution required.

Equipment can be serviced when service is needed. Action can be taken before problems arise, and the timing is optimised through the use of advanced diagnostics systems. Proactive maintenance programmes can be designed to minimise the time that the plant is shut down for preventive maintenance, so reducing potentially costly and inconvenient downtime and disruption.

Modern maintenance programmes employing ‘best-practice’ predictive techniques should be designed to take account of all aspects of the operation, including health and safety, plant life, plant performance, energy savings and environmental elements. Most maintenance organisations offer programmes built around these key facets.

Best practice is not prescriptive. What might be ‘best’ for one company at any given time might not work for another. However, the concept of ‘looking outward’ to see what is around that can add value is a very powerful tool for any business, whatever its aspirations.

CHECKLISTs points to remember

A maintenance programme can be established with the following goals:
* Help the laundry manager/supervisor establish a preventative maintenance programme.
* Reduce dependence on a crisis-management approach to maintenance through a programme of activities that increases the ratio of planned to unplanned maintenance.
* Sustain a level of maintenance that allows facilities to be used as intended, at the lowest possible cost.
* Reduce the frequency of component failures and building interruptions.
* Ensure facilities are maintained in a safe and healthy manner.
* Ensure that all major maintenance actions and capital renewal projects are based on lowest life-cycle costs.