Managing Assets Proactively
Inside Facility Maintenance at Atlanta International Airport
With a regularly scheduled assessment cycle and robust preventative maintenance policies, facility managers can maintain a high level of reliability despite budgetary challenges.
By George Fragulis, P.E., PMP, CEM, BEMP, LEED AP, M.SAME
In the past, a reactionary approach has been adequate to facility management. With resource strains, mission readiness expectations, and today’s budgetary climate, that is no longer sustainable.
Adopting existing tools and strategies from other industries has become necessary. More empirical data can help determine where budgets should be spent. When the total building square footage is in the tens of millions of square feet, algorithms need to be employed to organize and rank restoration and maintenance work. Existing tools like BUILDER and maintenance and reliability policies and procedures utilized by other industries can help facility managers and base civil engineers maintain a high level of reliability in their facilities. Because by increasing reliability, you can better plan and predict equipment replacements before major failures impact preparedness.
The increase in reliability today thanks to technology advancements saves time and money, but also requires close adherence to the regularly scheduled maintenance required by equipment manufacturers. This is often referred to preventative maintenance. Given limited funding, increasing preventative maintenance and inspections should enable equipment to last longer than expected.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has proactively put in place principles and practices to ensure greater reliability. With a regularly scheduled assessment cycle and robust preventative maintenance policies, the world’s busiest airport has been able to maintain a high level of reliability while utilizing a majority of the same equipment that was installed originally. The high level of reliability is maintained through several key measures:
- Established preventative maintenance schedule specific to each equipment type.
- Established inspection/assessment schedule.
- Adherence to work plans developed by assessments.
- Data collection to find root causes of failures.
Take an air handling unit as an example. Hartsfield-Jackson has a rigorous maintenance and inspection policy to ensure preventative maintenance on the unit is being completed. Work orders are automatically submitted to the maintenance staff using an enterprise management system and the unit is fully assessed every three years.
Utilizing a work plan and prioritization strategy is the key to doing more with less. This ensures the money spent is on items that will have the greatest effect on the overall system reliability.
Adherence to this maintenance philosophy allows the airport to do more with less. Over the years, repair and maintenance budgets have been reduced while the expected reliability has increased. This push-pull required the airport to rethink its operating strategies. The key to success is a thorough recurring facility assessment. The results of the assessment is used to create a work plan that will focus the resources and efforts of the maintenance staff.
Utilizing BUILDER to assess mission critical items like HVAC, plumbing and electrical distribution systems has enabled the airport to create an actionable work plan it is implementing to prevent outages.
Developed by the U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, BUILDER is a web-based software tool that utilizes empirical and statistical data gathered from government building systems to analyze and predict the service life of in service equipment.
Through the use of an objective assessment approach, the software gives an accurate determination of the existing service life of the equipment being appraised. When the air handling unit at Hartsfield-Jackson is assessed, for instance, it is done so through an objective process that looks at all the components. The motor, coil, valves, insulation, control devices and bearings are surveyed individually. The condition of the parts gives an accurate condition of the whole. Breaking the equipment down into the separate parts also allows the assessment to be more objective, without taking more time.
Once the condition of all the building systems is known, the assessor and building operator can then develop a prioritization strategy based on any number of factors. These factors can include funding limitations; funding sources; areas of focus (specific systems or buildings); condition; and service life.
When all the prioritization strategies are in place, the system will develop a work plan. The work plan can be for the entire installation or for a specific building.
Utilizing a work plan and prioritization strategy is the key to doing more with less. This ensures the money spent is on items that will have the greatest effect on the overall system reliability. The costs of conducting preventative maintenance and conducting assessments is small when compared to the budgets associated with restoration and maintenance. The assessment increases the effectiveness of the restoration and maintenance budgets and over time will reduce the amount of money that is set aside for emergencies.
If the air handling unit at Hartsfield-Jackson is not maintained or assessed, then after a period of time two things will happen. The remaining service life will start to reduce exponentially; and the failure of the unit becomes unpredictable. An unpredicted failure causes capital budgets to be strained, and creates a reactionary culture that reduces the effectiveness of the maintenance staff. Planning for major repairs or replacement allows for a more controlled procurement process, which allows for better pricing for the repair or replacement.
The information in the work plan is kept “live,” so as projects are completed or as priorities change, the plan can be updated. As an installation (or airport, campus or other property with a large number of facilities) works through the plan, the systems and equipment within it are also being aged. After a year of improvement and repair projects are complete, and the work plan is updated, it will reprioritize based on the current condition predicted in the software.
When the air handling unit is repaired, replaced or inspected, the remaining service life is updated. Based on the priority rules applied in the work plan, when the work is re-run, the air handling unit’s location on the list of projects is adjusted.
Building managers previously were responsible for submitting to an installation manager or facility supervisor all the projects that should be addressed on a particular building. All the lists were compiled and an open meeting or debate would be scheduled to prioritize and budget for all the projects. On smaller, well-maintained installations, the maintenance team could stay ahead of the curve. But with larger areas and a wider range of facility types, this becomes more and more difficult to conduct effectively.
Understanding the condition of all the pieces allows for a better understanding of the condition of the whole assembly. Today, the technology and tools exist to allow facility managers to achieve this.