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The top 5 facility management challenges

By Tim Cool

An article published by Corrigo, Inc. — specialists in work order and time-tracking solutions — shares the findings of a survey devoted to identifying the top five facility management challenges. Based on the feedback of 1,200 respondents, the results for commercial markets bear similarities to the challenges faced by church facilities managers.

CHALLENGE #5: VENDOR MANAGEMENT — allocating work to the right vendors

Outsourcing is a big challenge; namely, companies trying to figure out their strategy for the amount of work they self-perform versus the amount they manage through vendors.

While this topic hasn’t disappeared, it’s not the driver behind operational change. According to the Director of Facilities at one restaurant chain: “Outsourcing work is a given — we know we’re always going to do it to some degree. It’s dealing with the changing amount of work, and the churn in our pool of vendors, that’s the challenge.”

Summary from survey: Improved vendor management increases the control you have over your operations. By implementing price controls, you can reduce your costs.

What facility managers are doing:

  • Making vendor decisions based on accumulated performance feedback
  • Recording and comparing information on vendor pricing
  • Maintaining searchable records of vendor certifications

Conclusion for Challenge #5: There are a many details to address when considering vendors and the real cost of using outside vendors, as well as staff resources. Also, be vigilant about the insurance.


About 30 percent of survey respondents consider the capture of reliable data as one of the top two pressing needs in their organizations. This proved to be the case for both larger and smaller companies, although for somewhat different reasons.

Facility managers and directors of larger firms expressed the need to capture relevant historical data across all facilities and vendor types to make strategic decisions and to report out accurately on maintenance and repair spending.

Summary from survey: Capturing — and then using — the information associated with all your service and maintenance work equips you make informed, effective business decisions.

What facility managers are doing:

  • Comparing spending trends across their organizations to target areas of waste
  • Using historical repair data to inform new equipment and warranty purchase decisions
  • Monitoring real-time progress on important repair work

Conclusion for Challenge #4: Historical and real-time data is critical to the understanding of past costs / trends, downtime and projection of costs for our ministry facilities. Develop or buy a system that can track this kind of data, or partner with someone who can do this for you. An Excel spreadsheet won’t likely work unless you have a very small facility.

Be proactive, and don’t “guess” about the past, current and future costs required to maintain the resources and tools God has provided.


For nearly every company surveyed, increased workload was among the top three concerns. Given these belt-tightening times, it’s no surprise.
One factor contributing to the increased burden on facility management teams is the reduction in field technician staffing. This might seem counterintuitive; however, as budget cuts move more work to vendors, the burden of vendor recruitment, selection and management falls to the facility management organization.

Summary from survey: Doing more with fewer resources isn’t a temporary situation; in a competitive market, you’ll always have pressure to keep operational costs as low as possible. To succeed in this environment, you need tools that extend your reach and productivity.

What facility managers are doing:

  • Moving away from ad hoc communications by phone, fax and email
  • Sharing a common platform with their clients and vendors to electronically process work requests
  • Automating vendor job routing via intelligent systems

Conclusion for Challenge #3: Develop, buy or subscribe to a system that allows you to communicate with your vendors (not as the only form of communication) and tracks their ETA, pricing, insurance and performance.

Analyze how you will address the need to get more done with less — and if outsourcing is an option that can reduce cost and give you — the professional facility manager / administrator — the time to be strategic, not tactical.

Finally, don’t be lulled into thinking your vendors will never go out of business or stop wanting to serve your facility. Remember: the only constant is change. Be prepared.


It’s not just operational budgets that are being squeezed — capital expenditures are down substantially, as well. This translates to keeping existing equipment and assets up and running longer. For nearly 60 percent of survey participants, extending the life of existing assets was the #1 or #2 concern.

By way of analogy, consider healthcare. One could submit to a daily series of full diagnostic lab and physical tests, and this would undoubtedly help identify potential health risks as soon as they occur — but, at an untenable cost.

“The trick is to find the ‘sweet spot’ of how much testing and tweaking you need to do,” says one facility manager from the grocery industry. For example, do you need to pay to have your HVAC drive belts checked once a month to avoid a potential expensive repair? Once a quarter? Once a year?

Summary from survey: Spending the right amount on preventative maintenance, and being able to back up that decision with accurate data, can turn a facility manager into a cost-saving hero.

What facility managers are doing:

  • Comparing preventative versus repair costs on all asset types and adjusting preventive maintenance (PM) spending accordingly
  • Using accumulated repair data to implement intelligent, predictive maintenance schedules
  • Applying proactive maintenance on mission critical equipment

Conclusion for Challenge #2: Preventive maintenance — rather than corrective repairs — is a far better approach to caring for the resources God has entrusted to us. These are real dollars: be good stewards of these dollars and resources. This means you must be proactive to understand the facts, and not just make assumptions.

Become a wise steward of your facilities. Like anything in life worth having (like our spiritual life), it takes discipline, hard work and planning.


Topping the list of concerns for this year was (without a doubt!) saving money.

When asked how they would like to accomplish this objective, the facility managers surveyed tended to fall in to one of three
general categories:

1) Call avoidance — “I’m not sure how many unnecessary service calls we’ve paid for this year,” says one facility manager. “But, the number is greater than zero, and that’s too many.”

The logical first place to look for repair call savings is to avoid them altogether — or, at least, as much as possible.

2) Warranty work management — This category represents “low-hanging fruit” for the facility manager looking to save money: don’t pay for work that’s under warranty. As simple as this sounds, tracking the warranty coverage on the large number of complex assets and equipment is a complex task.

3) Price control — While planned maintenance work, by definition, can be budgeted with some degree of accuracy — and prices can be prearranged for regularly scheduled services, such as janitorial and landscaping — it’s also possible (and highly recommended) that facility managers set pricing guidelines with their reactive repair vendors.
Just because repair work is unpredictable and unscheduled, that doesn’t mean you don’t have control over it.

Summary from survey: Facility Management might be considered a cost center, but it also holds tremendous potential to impact a company’s profitability. A dollar saved by a facility management team goes directly to the bottom line. That’s why cost savings is a bottom-line concern for facility management professionals.

What facility managers are doing:

  • Avoiding unnecessary repair costs through client self-help systems and knowledge bases
  • Flagging all assets and equipment under warranty to prevent unnecessary payment
  • Establishing and monitoring not-to-exceed pricing agreements with vendors

Conclusion for Challenge #1: In today’s economy (and frankly, it should be the standard in every economy since we’re stewards of something that doesn’t belong to us), we’re looking for ways to save money. Sometimes we can’t see the obvious items that will allow us to be more efficient and effective. The principles addressed in this segment are right in front of us. They aren’t rocket science, but they do require several things:

1) Understanding of what costs we’re incurring
2) Tracking and maintaining records of items covered by a warranty
3) Being diligent to document warranties for all work when applicable
4) Establishing processes and procedures that will save you time and money through an NTE process.

Again, these are not rocket science — but you do have to be intentional!

Tim Cool (@TLCool) is founder of Cool Solutions Group and has assisted nearly 400 U.S. churches (equating to more than 4 million square feet) with their facility needs. He has collaborated with churches in the areas of facility needs analysis, design coordination, pre-construction and construction management, as well as life cycle planning / facility management. Cool Solutions Group is also the developer of eSPACE software products, including Event Scheduler, Work Order Management and HVAC integration.

Cool has written three books: Successful Master Planning: More Than Pretty Pictures; Why Church Buildings Matter: The Story of Your Space; and Church Locality, which is co-written by Jim Tomberlin, as well as a manual series entitled Intentional Church.


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