Maintenance Pays Its Way for Brisbane School

Quality suppliers school’s secret

31 May 2013
 

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The maintenance agreement that we have with AE Smith is a cut above the rest and you could argue, in fact, that it pays for itself

With buildings dating back to the 1880’s on a sprawling campus catering to 800 students, including 150 boarders, St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School could easily be a maintenance nightmare were it not for a planned, considered approach to the problem and to the suppliers.

When Facilities Manager Kathy Wane joined the Ascot, Queensland, school three years ago she realised that maintenance was a major issue and that the key to keeping abreast would be the quality of the school’s suppliers.

“One of the school’s attractions was also the problem, namely the age.

“The school’s 116 years old and with that comes a lot of maintenance and compliance issues,” Kathy said.

Kathy set about systematically and quietly examining the schools 20 or so regular suppliers and contractors.

She watched and interacted with them and sought feedback from the school’s maintenance team and staff.

“Over 12 months I considered their communication, presentation, work standards and compliance issues. I didn’t come into the position with a negative view, but I was certainly ready to scrutinise them closely.”

In her second year Kathy assisted the current Director Business & Operations, Toni Williams, to weed the wheat from the chaff, changing things around, negotiating different suppliers and varying contracts.

During this period it became obvious to Kathy and the school’s Director Business & Operations and Project Manager that the key to containing costs and developing effective budgets and forward plans, particularly with regard air conditioning and heating, was to gain an overview.

“Because it’s an old school there are many different types of air conditioners of different ages and designs. It was a nightmare and budgeting was difficult because we never knew what was coming
next.”

The schools air conditioning and mechanical services contractor, AE Smith, one of the few suppliers whose methods and work practices had impressed Kathy from the outset, offered to do a whole of school audit- also known as a Condition Report- and from these findings develop a maintenance and programmed replacement schedule.

“With air conditioning, very few companies are interested in ongoing maintenance. They all want to do the install and the warranty period, but that’s it. AE Smith stood out straight away in this regard.”

Kathy says that the Condition Report has proven so effective it is essentially a model for all areas of the school now.

“There is no doubt that putting in place preventative maintenance programmes and scheduled checks saves money in the long run. The maintenance schedule keeps costs to a minimum.

“We are now able to budget 10 years ahead. We know which units will need to be replaced and when and because we have a maintenance programme we can almost bank on those predictions.

“The maintenance agreement that we have with AE Smith is a cut above the rest and you could argue, in fact, that it pays for itself.”

Kathy says that too often suppliers in schools think only of how they relate to the person who’s their first point of contact. They fail to realise that their input impacts on the areas of responsibility of the entire executive – the finance manager, bursar, principal, HR manager and facilities manager.

“AE Smith’s people tick all of the boxes for me. I know that when they arrive on site I don’t have to worry about them.

“They provide me electronically with a detailed report every time they are on site. It shows what rooms they were in, what they worked on and the status.

“Among our contractors there are a couple who stand out, and AE Smith is one that really stands out in all areas.

“The level of expertise among their people is excellent and whenever someone from their company visits our site they know what they have to do.

“I find their whole structure impressive from their presentation and safety standards to their work ethic, effectiveness and reporting.

“I have never had to challenge any of the AE Smith people. They obviously are doing something right and have the right training processes In place,” she said.