COVID-19 poses unique challenges for everyone, especially for the facilities and maintenance managers in charge of keeping people safe and assets running. We want to share ways you can protect both your team and organization during both full or partial shutdowns and then when things open back up. We’re going to look specifically at schools and campuses, but the information applies across industries.
The goals are still the same. Keep people safe and assets running. But there are going to be changes to how you do it.

Set up new sanitation schedules with CMMS software

In the past, you likely thought more in terms of keeping things clean. Mopping muddy floors and wiping down fingerprint-stained surfaces. But now, clean is not enough. The new standard is higher. Things need to be sanitized. Focus on surfaces that get touched regularly. These include:

  • Doorknobs
  • Light switches
  • Desks
  • Handrails
  • Keyboards and touchscreens
  • Elevator buttons
  • Toilet handles

The list will vary according to your facility. For example, most elementary schools don’t have elevators. But as a general rule, if a surface gets touched at any point during the day, sanitize it often.

The challenge is that this work is critical, easy to do incorrectly, and there’s no time for a learning curve. It needs to be done right, right from the start.

How can you ensure surfaces are sanitized correctly?

Use work order templates with CMMS software to consistently share important information

To ensure surfaces are being cleaned properly, build templates so you can easily copy over important instructions and information into new work orders. Remember, it’s not enough to have work orders for sanitation. You need ones that explain how to sanitize as completely as possible.

You can and should pack a lot of information into a CMMS software work order, including:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Customizable checklists
  • Digital images, schematics, and documents
  • Complete asset work order histories
  • Interactive floor and site plans

For work orders related to sanitizing, make sure to include instructions on how to properly prepare and safely use the products.

Mixing and handling

This one depends on the products your facility uses. In some cases, you’ll need to mix chemicals before using them. In others, everything comes premixed. Make sure work orders include information on how to prepare the products, including any required personal protection equipment. A lot of cleaning products are corrosive, and gloves and goggles or a face shields help protect against contact with the skin and eyes.

You should also include information on which chemicals to not mix. Technicians might be tempted to mix a bit of every cleaner into a “super cleaner,” but the results could be toxic. Mixing ammonia and bleach creates chloramine vapors, which can burn the throat and eyes. Mixing rubbing alcohol and bleach create chloroform and hydrochloric acid. Low levels cause dizziness, while higher levels cause damage to the skin, eyes, lungs, kidneys, liver, and eventually death.

Type, order of use, and contact time

Cleaners are not the same as disinfectants, and for the best result, you need to use the right products in the right order.

Generally, cleaners are used to remove grease and organic material before disinfecting. Once the surface has been cleaned, you can apply the disinfectant, which contains chemicals that kill germs. People often think using a lot of “elbow grease” is the best way to clean, but when disinfecting, you need first to give the products enough contact time to work.

How to safely mix and properly use cleaning products can all be covered in the work orders step-by-step instructions and customizable checklists in the CMMS work order. And by using templates, you can include all this information in every sanitation-related work order. When you need a new work order, start with the info-packed template, and then add in any additional information.

Some schools and campuses are creating new training materials for technicians to ensure they have all the information they need to work safely and effectively. But it’s a process getting everyone certified as trained, and not everyone is able to get trained at the same time. To work around this, you can check technicians’ profiles before you assign them tasks to ensure they’ve received the requisite training.

Accessing Technician information in School CMMS software
Adding a sanitation schedule is just one part of the solution. What else should you be doing differently?

Adjust your preventive maintenance schedules with CMMS software

Separate from new sanitation tasks, you should also increase parts of your existing preventive maintenance schedule. If you don’t have a program, now’s the time to start one. Generally, preventive maintenance delivers:

  • Increased uptime
  • Longer asset life
  • Easier inventory management
  • Improved efficiency
  • Increased safety

All of these are important, but with COVID-19, they’ve become critical.

Turn up some PMs

Organizations across industries are being forced to cut every possible cost. And that means maintenance departments are being asked to do more with less, getting by with a smaller number of technicians and a closer eye on costs. The last thing you need right now is unscheduled downtime on an important asset. Now is not the time for the boiler to stop working. To ensure everything you need stays online, increase the frequency and amount of preventive maintenance on critical assets.

Pause some PMs

At the same time, there are some PMs you might want to think about stopping altogether. For an elementary school, for example, there’s no need to periodically check the outdoor play structures. In most areas, they’re off-limits. On a large college campus, departments can pause scheduled maintenance on some of the assets in the cafeterias’ kitchens. Most idle assets don’t need the same level of attention.

Pausing PMs can also help with reports. At the end of the month, you don’t have to wade through a bunch of missed PMs you should never have done anyway. It can make more sense to pause them for now, freeing you up to use your department’s time in ways that better match the current situation. Think of it this way: you might have a schedule to water your lawn every Sunday evening during the summer, but it doesn’t make sense to follow the schedule when there was a thunderstorm Sunday afternoon.

Play or pause preventive maintenance tasks in School CMMS software
A good CMMS allows you to pause and play your PM schedule with just a few clicks.

Switch to neglected PMs

With more time to work with, you can finally catch up on all the preventive maintenance that was getting back-burnered. You have time to invest all those little projects that can add up to increased dependability and efficiency. You can also use the time to establish better workflows for the future. That can include adopting CMMS software. Even in the best of times, some maintenance departments find it challenging to maintain their regular work pace while also collecting and organizing data to implement CMMS software. While production lines are down and office space is not being used, you can set itself up for success for when things start back up.

Part of scheduling preventive maintenance is making sure you have the right parts and materials at the right time. If you’re scheduled to fix the projector screen in a classroom, you need the right parts on hand to do it. So, what’s the best way to manage inventory?

Secure critical supply chains with automated inventory management with CMMS software

The goal of inventory management is to have the right part at the right time and at the right price. When you miscalculate and don’t have the part you need when you need it, you can usually make up for it by paying a bit extra for express shipping. Generally, you might not always have the right part when you need it, but with some patience and money, you can eventually get it. But COVID-19 is putting new pressure on supply chains. More than ever, there’s no room for mistakes. With lead times increasing, you need to get orders in long before you run out.

It’s possible to do this with paper or spreadsheets, but CMMS software is easier. First, it uses the parts and materials associated with work orders to keep inventory counts up to date in real-time. Back to the projector screen example. As soon as the work order is closed out, the software removes the associated parts from inventory. You always know exactly how many you have in reserve. Second, as soon as that number dips below the customizable minimum, the software sends you an alert, letting you know it’s time to reorder. The purchasing module automates a lot of the next steps, making it easy to reach out to suppliers.

School divisions and large campuses with multiple facilities can also benefit from inventory sharing. From inside the CMMS software, they can easily check all the inventories. For the time being, going to be a lot easier to grab extra parts and materials from a second facility than it is to order from a supplier.

Planning work is one thing, making sure it’s done is another. You need a way to make sure your preventive maintenance schedule is being followed. How can you create transparency and enforce accountability?

Track work orders using categories and reports

Scheduling sanitation and preventive maintenance is the first step, but then you need to track tasks related to COVID-19 to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks. One way is by adding categories to on-demand and preventive maintenance work orders. If you’re working with paper, you can do something simple marking the date with a yellow highlighter. With spreadsheets, you could use a different color for the font. Then when you’re building reports, you can then more pull together all the critical work orders.

You need to look at

  • Number of completed PMs
  • Number of PMs completed on time
  • Percentage of PMs completed in time

It’s time-consuming with a paper- or spreadsheet-based system, but doable. With CMMS software and autogenerated reports, it’s much easier. Put all associated work orders and PMs under the same category, and the software can pull all the data, create graphs, and calculate KPIs.

Regardless of how you compile reports, it’s a good idea to increase the frequency. If there are gaps in your processes, you need to find and address them right away.

Work remotely with CMMS software

The need for social distancing is one of the greatest challenges. If your team is used to working close together, sharing information verbally, and being able to walk over and ask questions when they get stuck, COVID-19 is having a huge effect. It can feel impossible to work effectively when all those things we took for granted, being able to work shoulder-to-shoulder and talk face-to-face, suddenly go away. How can you organize your team when no one can do something as simple as dropping by your office?

You need to find new channels of communication that are clear and dependable. You need ways to standardize information so it moves easily between members of the team. On top of that, you need a way to keep everyone in the loop, to update information in real-time.

There are a bunch of options, including group emails and phone trees. If you’ve already been using them, you know all about the drawbacks. CMMS software backed by cloud-computing keeps your team connected, even from far away. All the department’s data is stored in one central database, where it’s backed up and kept secure. But it’s more than secure, it’s accessible. You and your team can log on from any Internet-connected desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Once you are inside the CMMS, it doesn’t matter where you are. You can:

  • Generate, assign, and track work orders
  • Schedule and track preventive maintenance tasks
  • Control inventory
  • Automatically generate reports

Everything we covered, you can do remotely.

Hippo CMMS and you

It feels like the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, and everyone is trying to deal with a lot of uncertainty. But one thing will never change. We’re always going to be here to help. If you have questions about CMMS and educational facilities, or about any other industry, now’s the time to reach out and connect with us. 

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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