Variable Repair Costs Slashed at Private School

Ursula Frayne Catholic College, Perth’s 113 year old, dual campus private school, has effectively slashed ad hoc repair costs and lost time due to equipment failure

3 Jan 2013


By year two the cost reductions in terms of the money spent on ad hoc repairs were evident and today I can say we have saved money –

Jody Cabalzar, Business Manager, Ursula Frayne Catholic College

According to the College’s Business Manager, Jody Cabalzar, the cost and time savings are significant but did not come as a surprise.

When Jody (pictured standing above left with AE Smith Service Technician, Joel Tebbenhoff) joined the college five years ago, he invited air conditioning specialist AE Smith to tender for a formal repair and maintenance contract on the basis of the company’s outstanding performance at his two previous schools.

“When I started here, the air conditioning program was more reactive than preventative,” Jody said. “Plus, a lot of the equipment was nearing the end of its useful life and running at far from optimum efficiency.

“Once AE Smith won the contract we went through the place, carrying out a stock take of all equipment and developing an action priority plan as part of putting in place the maintenance agreement.

“In the first 12 months we did not see an immediate improvement as a result of the legacy of the previous years. But by year two the cost reductions in terms of the money spent on ad hoc repairs were evident and today I can say we have saved money.”

Jody said that escalating electricity costs, a 25% increase in student numbers in the past six years and an increase in the school’s building footprint meant that his school’s energy bill was inevitably increasing.

However, AE Smith has been able to help keep the bills manageable while still delivering a practical solution and keeping students and teachers comfortable.

“I’m sure our 120 staff and 1300 children are glad there are nowhere near as many breakdowns on 40 degree days.”

Apart from maintenance, AE Smith has also won tenders to supply and install a significant amount of new equipment in recent years; going to great lengths to turn variable cost into fixed cost, and accept personal responsibility to use the right resources, to find the right outcome.

Jody says that although they are still contending with legacy issues, AE Smith are doing exactly what they said they would do. There are inherent problems when new and old buildings are mixed with new and old equipment.

“Our schools are on two separate campuses and both have buildings that are incredibly old. Some of the AC units, for example, may have been installed when funds were tight, put in to a budget rather than a specification, and have never been able to adequately serve the area. We certainly have areas where these units run at capacity in order to have an impact so it can be a challenge for the technicians.”

Jody, whose responsibilities extend from the financial management of the two schools to human resources, property and equipment, said that one of the real benefits of having professional and trustworthy suppliers such as AE Smith is that air conditioning and heating issues no longer consume his time.

Other than regular meetings, or when a new technician is coming into the school, he rarely has to worry, one of the reasons why he has used the firm at three successive schools.

“The bottom line is that they provide a very good service, which is equally as important as pricing,” he said.

Jody rates communication and high quality service as AE Smith’s top strengths. They take the time to hear what is important to him and Ursula Frayne.

“The attractions of the mining industry in the west are such there’s always a demand for good people so a lot of the trades we deal with have trouble getting and keeping staff.

“AE Smith must be doing something right. The people that come here are pretty good, carry themselves well and know what’s required to be on a school site with kids. Usually we get the same technician time and time again but if they have a staff change they will ring me in advance of the visit to let me know so that I can meet and brief the person.”

Jody said that particularly during the Building The Education Revolution period when a lot of different trades were on site, he would often have to speak to other service companies about language, dress, behaviour or smoking.

“I can say with complete confidence I have never had to challenge any of the AE Smith people. They must have the right training processes in place,” he said.