Staff Structuring and Assigning of Maintenance Tasks: Unit Maintenance

This week we begin a three-part series elaborating on various aspects of maintenance task assignment and staff structuring.

To begin, let's take a close look at a method of organizing staff and their maintenance tasks called “unit maintenance.”

Unit Maintenance Defined
Unit maintenance is employing self-contained maintenance crews to manage specific locations. For example, you might designate a particular crew to maintain a park. That team must maintain the entire park. Here are some pros and cons of using the unit maintenance method.

THE PROS

Pro 1: Staff Facility Familiarity
A maintenance team assigned to a specific park or facility quickly becomes familiar with it, including any quirks or special needs it may have. As a result, staff members can soon:

  • Identify and Address Routine Maintenance Issues on a Schedule
  • Prevent Problems by Predicting Maintenance Needs Ahead of Time
  • Determine When Equipment Needs Replacement
  • Recognize and Address Unusual Issues Immediately

Pro 2: Responsibility Tracking
When using maintenance personnel from many sources who perform work at multiple facilities, paper trails and job assignments can be difficult to track. Unit maintenance means only a certain group of employees is assigned to a particular facility. Therefore, it is easier to trace responsibility back to a particular staff member when maintenance processes go awry.

Pro 3: Director Control
If you are the director of a particular facility, you employ both the program staff and unit maintenance crew directly. As a result, you can facilitate coordination between the two staff groups easily.

THE CONS

Con 1: Maintenance Staff Requires Extensive Training
It is one thing to hire a specialized service, such as a tree trimming company. However, when you use unit maintenance, your staff members must wear many hats. They might need to handle overgrown bushes and trees one minute, electrical problems the next, and leaky pipes after that. The staff members also need to be trained in how to operate all equipment associated with each of those repair and maintenance tasks.

Con 2: Increased Maintenance Supervisor Responsibilities
To supervise a unit maintenance crew at a particular facility, you must take on many extra responsibilities yourself. It is important to learn everything possible about all equipment on the premises, as well as all maintenance tasks required. Staff members will come to you with many varied questions. You must have the knowledge necessary to provide the answers.

Con 3: Inefficient Equipment Use
Another potential pitfall of the unit maintenance method is inefficient equipment use. A unit maintenance crew needs equipment on hand all the time for the correction of issues relating to all aspects of the facility, such as electrical, plumbing, heating, planting, and so forth. However, not all of those tasks are performed all the time. Therefore, equipment is stored for long periods between uses.

Summing Up Unit Maintenance
Unit maintenance may be the right choice to maintain a particular entity, but only under certain circumstances. There must be enough work to keep the staff busy throughout the year. It is also important for the maintenance needs of the entity to be relatively straightforward. In such cases, unit maintenance staff members can become so familiar with each other and their surroundings that maintenance procedures are consistently performed with high efficiency.

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