Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences.
When the editor of Parks and Rec Business and I were discussing the topic for this issue—facility maintenance—I realized the definition of a facility is a matter of interpretation.
I suggested I address maintaining shade structures; she preferred an article about maintaining indoor facilities during the winter.
In my mind, any amenity covered by a shade structure is a facility that needs maintenance year-round; in her mind, a facility has four walls, indoor features, and operating systems that need maintenance. We were both correct.
No matter how a “facility” is defined, maintenance is required. Whether it’s a sports complex, an aquatic center, a community center, a skate park, or a shade-covered playground—everything needs maintenance.
According to Roger Warren, Phillip Rea, and Scott Payne, the authors of Park and Recreation Maintenance Management, maintenance means keeping facilities and areas in their original state, or as nearly as possible.
To achieve a high level of facility maintenance, parks and rec professionals must be true multi-taskers.
In the book’s preface, Warren makes the point that “The knowledge needed to solve park and recreation maintenance problems must be learned from a wide variety of disciplines if park and recreation administrators and maintenance superintendents are to manage the areas and facilities under their jurisdiction.”
Indeed, 21st-century park professionals must be jacks-of-all-trades in fields one might not ordinarily associate with maintenance, such as hydrology, engineering, forestry, ecology, technology, and personnel management.
“Maintenance managers don’t have to be experts in all of these fields, but they must have some knowledge of each,” Warren writes.
He also notes that knowledgeable managers know when to seek advice from experts and must know enough to have constructive discussions with these experts.
An effective preventive-maintenance plan enhances safety by ensuring that critical systems and equipment function satisfactorily, thus reducing risk to the organization.
A well-thought-out plan also ensures compliance with regulatory agencies on systems that require that level of attention.
There was a time when a maintenance manager needed to store paper records in numerous filing cabinets to try to keep up with the multitude of systems that need preventive maintenance. Technology companies now offer an abundance of computer software or web-based programs to document preventive-maintenance cycles and automatically alert managers when something needs attention.
In today’s environment of reduced budgets and manpower and no reduction in assets or customer expectations, recreation-facility maintenance managers really need all the help they can get.
Computerized Maintenance Management Systems
Chapter 3 of Park and Recreation Maintenance Management is devoted to “Technology in Park Maintenance.”
Payne notes: “Customized and packaged software programs known as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) have become readily available to local government agencies. A CMMS can fundamentally be viewed as the automation of a paper-based preventative-maintenance model.”
“In today’s maintenance world the CMMS is an essential tool for the modern facilities maintenance organization,” says Dan Sapp in an article on the National Institute of Building Science website (www.wbdg.org/om/cmms.php).
The November 2011 report provides a comprehensive assessment of the potential capabilities a CMMS can provide a manager. Among the points Sapp makes in the article, one in particular stands out. He emphasizes that a thorough management evaluation of the CMMS is required before it is purchased.
“Not all maintenance organizations require the use of a complete set of CMMS modules,” he writes. “Those that have implemented CMMS programs without a complete study typically fail to use the capabilities incorporated in the software, and may eventually view the program as a failure.”
While CMMS capability has been around for a while—especially in the manufacturing and fleet-maintenance management arenas—incorporation into local parks and recreation maintenance operations may not be as prevalent.
The systems have become more mobile and user-friendly in recent years.
“Web-based systems have become more widely accepted, especially for municipal and county maintenance practitioners,” says Rona Palmer, Marketing Director at Emaint, a New Jersey company that specializes in CMMS for all applications.
“With web-based systems you don’t need to buy computers and servers or maintain them, and you don’t have to be in the office; the systems are mobile to serve staff in the field,” says Palmer.
“This model has been particularly helpful for the smaller or even individual user.”
Most contemporary systems can be tracked on cell phones, smart phones, laptops, or other mobile devices. So, no matter where a facilities manager is, any time of day or night, he or she can keep tabs on assets.
But the best CMMS in the world will not be successful without well-trained staff members who are committed to the program.
Bringing all of the staff in on the front end of planning for a CMMS system will make them part of the process, and ensure their needs are met.
Most of the systems on the market provide various staff-training options in package deals with the product. Managers should carefully research these options before making a final decision to ensure they and their staff members receive initial and follow-up training.
Training can be on-site or in face-to-face classes with instructors for key staff members, who will then train the remainder of the staff. Or, it might be a distance-learning process over the Internet or another option.
Managers must ensure the training meets current and future needs to make maximum effective use of the system’s capability.
So, whatever the season, regardless of how one defines a park and rec facility, establishing a forward-looking preventive-maintenance plan will help establish a budget to keep the facility in top-notch shape.
Roger Warren, Phillip Rea, and Scott Payne. Parks and Recreation Maintenance Management. Urbana, Ill.: Sagamore Publishing, 2007.
National Institute of Building Science. www.wbdg.org/om/cmms.php.
Randy Gaddo served for 15 years as a director in municipal parks and recreation after retiring from 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He developed, wrote, administered, and presented maintenance plans as well as recreation master plans during that time. Gaddo earned his Master’s in Public Administration and now lives in Peachtree City, Ga. He can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email email@example.com.