We've come a long way baby!
Paul R. Fredrich
Buildings and Fleet Division
Department of Public Works
City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Remember when a soda cost 12 cents and you got a dime back on the empty bottle? Or when Saturday mornings meant early chores, anticipating a day of adventure on your old friend parked in the garage—that cobbled-together, balloon-tired horse with high handle bars, banana seat and sissy bar? Too soon it was supper with the whole family and TV afterwards, when fights broke out because it wasn't your turn to change the channel, and the thud-hiss-thud-hiss cadence of the knob echoed behind the yell of "Not so fast, you'll break the darn thing" from Dad. Then a little fiddling with the rabbit ears and voila, "Bonanza" appeared (with some snow, but hopefully not much). Off to bed then, up chilled stairs racing to slide into crisp, cold sheets, breathing hard into your covers cocoon while the goose bumps calm and Mom turns down even further the thermostat dial above the mantle. Yes, those were the days my friend and we've come a long way baby!
That was then and this is now, with near limitless technology and the power to do things never before imagined. Our Wi-Fi-ing, HD-ing, e-mailing, iPodding, downloading, flatscreening, CD-burning society is wrestling with understanding and applying the best technology available. Let's look at one area where this techno tsunami has impacted our public building operations in an ever-increasing realm of decreasing budgets.
As landlord for nearly 200 aging and physically challenged public buildings, we in the Operations Division of the City of Milwaukee DPW have a condition common in major metropolitan municipalities known as BDDD: Building Deficit Disorder Disease. Combine that with the "other" BDDD (Budget Deficit Disorder Disease) and you have a condition that can be terminal without the proper administering of building operations technology. Our remedy to ease this condition is Proteus, an Automated Building System Technology that addresses maintenance issues and work orders.
One major component of Proteus is an electronic work order system which manages Demand Maintenance (DMs) orders requiring immediate attention, and Preventive Maintenance (PMs) of equipment required to prolong the useable lifetime of our building systems. This took a number of years to integrate, debug, train and roll out. Since 2001, a seamless system of initiating, identifying, designating, completing and closing out work orders has been in place.
As you can imagine, so many buildings with so many problems require so many dollars and so many workers. So many of our needs have been addressed with Proteus to streamline the work order process and maximize the productive task time. We now know what needs to be done, who's doing it, when they're doing it, and how much is getting done.
The first step in this PM system is quantifying; every mechanical and electrical component of the building(s) is identified in the database. The recommended maintenance schedule of all these components is integrated and work orders are automatically generated. This has two benefits.
First, we are now proactive rather than reactive. We address needs before they become emergencies. Equipment life is extended and efficiency of equipment operation is increased. Second, we have minimized the downtime associated with planning, scheduling and assigning tasks every work shift. More time is actually being spent "doing" maintenance than deciding what has to be done. The work orders are printed right in the maintenance office and the building mechanics respond regularly. The orders are right there; just take the order off the top, go do it, and repeat.
Below is a chart depicting "work order hours expended" on PMs over a four-year period for the Milwaukee City Hall Complex. The average age of this three-building complex is nearly a century old. As you can imagine, the maintenance and custodial requirements of public buildings this old are considerable as is the efficiency of the work order "system." The staff-hour statistics supporting these graphs cover custodial, electrical, carpentry and building maintenance technicians.
One can surmise from the rise in hours associated with PMs that equipment is beginning to reach its useable lifetime. As you can see, there is a direct correlation with the capital investment of new chillers and other mechanical infrastructure work that was done in 2003 versus all the PM work that had to be done on the old systems in 2002. It also forecasts that in 2005 we required more major work, based on the increase in PMs in 2004. This trending feature has proved to be true and reliable and is extremely valuable when establishing capital equipment budgets.
During the budget process, verifiable facts must be presented to the legislative body of the City. The Public Works Committee and full Common Council must see and understand concrete evidence of need. With the statistical histories and forecasting ability provided by the Proteus system, we have that information from which to make our case for budget line items.
On the DM side of things, Proteus provides for an orderly and precise work order system. A routine scenario goes something like this: A "too cold in the conference room" call comes in; a work order with the pertinent information is entered; a DM work order is printed out; and the building mechanics react and close it out. In the past, the quantifying aspect of DMs was difficult and we really didn't know just how many of these calls came in every day. Below is a chart showing just how many do come in annually, and as our system efficiency increased, so did the amount of responses. Again, these statistics are from the aging City Hall Complex.
This tool is wonderful in motivating building staff by showing exactly how effectively they've worked. Additionally, it is of great benefit when evaluating staffing levels. We now have the documentation to assist in the decision making concerning requests to fill. We can show the actual DMs and PMs completed and forecast the upcoming annual demands. We can prove the increased efficiencies of our workforce by verifying the quantity and time-to-complete orders and compare present to past performance. Everything or anything you want to see—graph, printout or PowerPoint—is a click or two away.
However, the most pleasant surprise of this automated work order system is that it has brought out the natural competitive nature in people. We can see who's assigned, how long it takes them and how efficiently they've worked. As this information is compiled and tracked over time we graph out and share this with the workforce. At quarterly staff meetings, review of the individual histographs has created this competition—who will do the most the fastest with the least amount of callbacks. This also assists in annual performance reviews and motivates the workforce in a positive fashion. Win, Win, Win...
In conclusion, we finally have in place a system we can "hang our hat on." The technology has been applied properly. Hopefully, twenty years from now we can say once again, "We've come a long way baby."
Paul R. Fredrich can be reached at (414) 286-0637 or Paul.firstname.lastname@example.org.