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University of Arkansas - Maintenance Program Reorganization

Fayetteville, Arkansas

  INDUSTRY: Higher Education
  SERVICE AREA(S): Performance Analysis

The Challenge

As part of a campus-wide series of program assessments, the University of Arkansas engaged Draper & Associates to conduct a comprehensive Review of Physical Plant Operations.  Emerging from this review was the recommendation to reorganize the maintenance program.   Draper established a project to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Renew focus campus-wide on facility stewardship by establishing an appropriately sized and staffed organization dedicated to building maintenance
  • Increase customers’ perception of service
  • Improve response time to “hot and cold” calls
  • Increase operating efficiency/reduce downtime
  • Foster ownership of and increase familiarity with building systems and components
  • Facilitate renewed focus on Planned and Preventive Maintenance
  • Establish a framework that correlates staff deployment and work order assignment with the type of maintenance performed and level of skill and experience required
  • Allow for close coordination between maintenance and custodial staffs
  • Reduce the total cost of ownership of campus facilities

The Draper Approach

At the onset of this reorganization project, Draper & Associates found that the maintenance organization was structured into the traditional trades-oriented construction model.  The Associate Director for Operations & Maintenance was responsible for the maintenance, repair, preventive maintenance, renovation, and in-house construction of all campus buildings, utility systems, landscape, and grounds. The department provided day-to-day management for Carpentry, Paint, HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing, Power Distribution, Labor, and Grounds shops as well as Solid Waste Management/Recycling, Environmental Compliance, and Environmental Health and Safety.  The trade shops were each organized in the traditional manner with a foreman, supervisor(s), and workers and helpers.  This model tended to focus internally rather than on the external customer. 

As a result, the balance of resources devoted to the long-term stewardship of the building assets versus the provision of customer services was at odds with the mission of the University. Consistent renewal and maintenance of the building assets needed to take a much higher priority.  Construction/renovation services and other customer demanded services reduced the focus on facility portfolio asset management.

Over the past ten years there has been a major shift in the structure of maintenance organizations supporting universities and colleges from a process-oriented centralized trade structure to a customer-oriented decentralized multi-craft structure.  A zone-based maintenance structure has been implemented at a number of universities and colleges with resulting increases in productivity, reduction in response time, improvement in quality, increased customer satisfaction and a more motivated work force.

Results Realized

The key difference between the original organization and the resulting organization was the establishment of maintenance zones.  Each maintenance zone was assigned a team of personnel organized in a Zone Maintenance Team with geographic responsibility for a section of the campus.  The Zone Maintenance Teams represented a commitment of resources dedicated to a preventive maintenance program designed to ensure the University maximized its facility investment. 

Five provisional maintenance zones were established.  Building Function and Campus Sector were the lead criteria used to determine the zones.  Each zone was comprised of approximately 539,000 to 784,000 square feet of space.  The Zone Maintenance Teams were composed of five to eight tradesmen representing the various building trades.  The density and mix of tradesmen on each team was sufficient to provide the resources necessary to accomplish Level 1 and 2 preventive maintenance, based on a zero-based build-up of equipment in each Zone, and emergency maintenance and repair needs on a daily basis.

The zone concept was also directed at improving employee morale.  This was accomplished by zone maintenance personnel developing a sense of ownership for their facilities and by empowering crafts people to make decisions on what should be done.  The craftspersons’ loyalties shifted from their parochial trade shop to their multi-skilled zone maintenance team and its building-specific, customer-specific mission.

The effectiveness and efficiency of the zone maintenance concept is well documented at universities, colleges, school districts, and other governmental agencies throughout the country.  It is derived from the need to provide a customer-oriented quality maintenance product at a competitive price.  The decision to follow this well documented path of improvement at the University of Arkansas was in keeping with the University’s continuing pursuit of excellence.

" Draper & Associates has been of great assistance in helping us to determine the level of service and the corresponding mix of resources and level of expenditure that is appropriate in managing and maintaining the University's facilities. Their analytical work is allowing us to more clearly define and quantify our facility requirements as we pursue an accelerated growth strategy for the campus. Their integrated approach to organizational and program planning is positioning us to gain synergies across projects ranging from routine maintenance to renovation and new construction. As a result, we have a clearer indication of what we are getting when we make capital expenditure decisions and a higher confidence in our ability to generate a bigger bang for the buck."

Dr. Donald O. Pederson
Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration
The University of Arkansas




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