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The whole idea of preventive maintenance is that it's always easier to fix small issues before they grow into big problems. 

But for that maintenance strategy to work, you first need to ask yourself, "How can I find all those little issues so I have a chance to fix them early?" 

Facility inspection checklists are an important part of your answer. 

What is a facility inspection checklist? 

Before looking at the checklist, it's worth moving back one step and asking, "What is a facility inspection?" 

Facility inspection 

There's more than one answer because there can be more than one kind of facility inspection. Depending on your facility and focus, the list of possible inspections is theoretically endless. But for practical purposes, it likely makes the most sense to focus on ensuring the people in the facility can accomplish their goals both safely and efficiently. Your inspections help you find anything that's increasing unnecessary risk or decreasing productivity. 

Productivity here has the broadest possible definition. If your facility is a manufacturing plant, it means getting finished products out the door. For office space, it's having meetings and finishing reports. For a residential facility, being able to relax after a challenging day at the office.   

So, you can have inspections related to health and safety issues, including everything as sophisticated as checking fire suppressions systems to as simple as installing mirrors at corners to deal with blind spots. 

You can also have a facility inspection focused on supporting people's efficiency, including checking the HVAC, plumbing, lighting, and soundproofing. 

Facility inspection checklist 

Once you know what you need to find, you can start to think about the best ways to look for it. 

And it's not as obvious as you might first think. There are a lot of different ways to look for things. Take clues at a crime scene, for example. 

Investigators can use one or a combination of various search methods, including: 

  • Zonal 
  • Strip 
  • Line 
  • Grid 
  • Spiral 

It tends to depend on what they're looking for and where they're looking. Zonal is best for large open areas. Strip is good when there are already rows in the search area. For example, rows of desks in a classroom. Spiral works well when there are few obstacles. Looking in a room tightly packed with furniture? Don't use the spiral search method. Grid is your better bet. 

When it comes to finding things as part of a facility inspection, checklists work well. Here, it's a bit different than a crime scene because you already have a clear idea of what you're hoping to find. But the theory is the same: you need a formal, reliable method that you can follow to ensure you're not missing anything. 

What are the benefits of a facility inspection checklist? 

A good facility inspection checklist helps you ensure the maintenance team isn't accidentally missing anything. 

And it's easy to miss things. Just think of the mental checklist you run through every morning when you leave the house to head out to work. Likely right around the front door, you mentally check that you have your: 

  • Keys 
  • Phone 
  • Wallet 

Even though it's a short list, we've all left home only to slap our forehead halfway to work before driving back to get our phone or wallet. Sometimes, it's the phone and the wallet. 

Using checklists ensures the team isn't forgetting anything. And using checklists also ensures the team is checking things properly. Again, it might seem simple, but remember that we're looking for little things, hoping to catch them before they have a chance to grow into big problems. So, it's not enough to just look. You have to look the right way, for the right signs of early trouble. 

How can you get started with facility inspection checklists? 

There are different ways, but they all tend to focus on making lists. At this point, you're not making checklists, though. It's just lists. 

Pick your spots and assets 

You can start by listing all the major assets in your facility. Or you can start with areas, for example all the rooms in the building and all the structures outside it. 

Remember, the basic idea behind checklists is that it's hard to remember things. So, when you're making your lists, it pays to walk around and take good, long looks at your facility. If you're making a list of things to include on the parking lot checklist, you should be outside in the parking lot while you do it. 

Think safety first 

When deciding what to include on your lists, start with safety. If something could pose a potential risk, make sure to include it. One of the big ones is preventing trips, slips, and falls. 

But don't rely just on your intuition. There are lots of regulations, both state and federal, related to keeping facilities safe, and you want to ensure you're in compliance. 

Then look at criticality 

Safety is critical, but it's not everything. People still need to use the facility to reach their specific goals, which could be anything from working in an office space to relaxing in a swimming pool. 

One way to think about what to add to your list is to ask yourself, "What, when it breaks down, prevents the most people from reaching their goals?" That puts plumbing and electricity at the top of your list. Right under them is HVAC. Further down, you have things like the pool heater. 

Consult the owner's manuals 

Once you know what you want to include, you need to start thinking about how you want to inspect them. If you need to check the foundation for cracks, that's likely a visual inspection. But, if you want to check the lights, you can't just look at the light switch and decide everything's OK. Instead, you need to test them a few times. 

If you don't have a lot of experience with an asset or piece of equipment, you can get help from the current experts, the people who designed and built it. The owner's manual likely has suggestions on what to look for and how often to schedule inspections. 

But trust your team and records 

But if you've had something for a while, you're now the current expert. You know that asset or piece of equipment better than the people who designed and built it. 

It's basically the same with people. When you're young, your parents know you best. But after a couple years of marriage, your spouse knows you better than anyone. 

So, when you're setting up your checklists, make sure to talk with the maintenance team. They have direct experience and know what to check. But remember, here too, you don't want have to trust anyone's memory. Go through all your existing maintenance and repairs records, looking for common or recurring issues. If the sink in the second-floor bathroom has a history of clogging, you know you have to add more specific and frequent checks. 

What are examples of facility inspection checklists? 

Your facility inspection checklists are closely tied to the type, condition, and location of your facility. A brand-new hotel right on the ocean in California is different than a 20-year-old correctional facility in Nevada. At the hotel, you need to check the HVAC for damage from the salt air. At the prison, you're more concerned with finding holes in the surrounding fences. 

That said, here are some general examples that line up with many different types of facilities. 

General grounds 

Here, you're relying mostly on visual inspections. 

Check: 

  • Exterior sidewalls for damage or wear 
  • Parking lot pavement for uneven sections or cracks 
  • Gates or other security fencing for holes, overall integrity 
  • Windows for cracks and window frames for gaps 

You can also inspect all the fire exits to ensure they open properly and are free of obstructions. 

Foundation 

Foundations develop cracks for many different reasons, including everything from tree roots to shifting soil. In some locations, after a facility reaches a certain age, cracks are nearly guaranteed. 

Even though there's really no such thing as a good crack, some are not all that bad. Advice varies, but generally, you should worry more about long horizontal cracks, especially when you can also see bows in the wall. Cracks that suddenly get much longer or wider are also a strong sign of trouble, so part of your checklist process should be taking reliable measurements of the existing cracks. It's the only way to know at the next inspection if they're worse. 

How does facility management software help you create, assign, and track inspection checklists? 

It's possible to create and use facility inspection checklists using paper or spreadsheets. 

It's possible. But it's also painful. 

Every time you want to do a new round of inspections, you have to print out a bunch of forms. But before you do that, you have to track down the right files on your computer. If you have pictures of the cracks in the foundation from the last inspection, you need to find those, too. Next step is getting the forms into the right hands, which means spending more time tracking down whoever is doing the inspections.  

Once you or the team has completed the work, there's more paperwork to shuffle. Everything has to be checked and sorted before going into the filing cabinet. 

You can make your life a lot easier using facility management software. 

PMs with templates 

Once you have your checklists worked out, the last thing you want to do is manually copy them over every time you assign a new inspection. With facility maintenance software, you create a reusable template, which you can add with just a few clicks to any new work order. 

If you need to update the checklist later on, you only have to make changes in one place, the original template, and every new PM moving forward has the newest version. 

Reliable records 

Modern software solutions leverage cloud-computing to make it a lot easier for you to capture data and then keep it safe, secure, and accessible. Instead of having all your data scattered across slips of paper and random spreadsheet files, everything is in one place, a central database located in the cloud. 

You and the maintenance team access all your work orders from the same system, so every time someone updates the data, everyone can see the changes in real time. 

When you assign an inspection, the techs can receive an instant notification on their mobile device. And when they close out a work order, you can see it right away from inside the software. 

Site maps and floor plans 

Your checklists tell the maintenance team what to check. But a good facility management solution goes an extra step. 

Hippo Site Map Floor Plan-1

When you generate a new preventive maintenance work order with a checklist, you can associate it to a specific location. When the tech opens up the software and accesses the built-in site map and floor plans, they can see exactly where they need to go. 

You need them to do walkthroughs, not walk in circles trying to find the right room or asset for their checklist. 

Next steps 

Ready to take control of facility inspection checklists with modern facility management software?

Hippo's here to help you get the solution that works best for you, including answering your questions about facility maintenance software, helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial.  

Quick summary 

Preventive maintenance works if you have a reliable system for finding and fixing small issues before they become big problems. Facility inspection checklists help you ensure you're looking at the right things the right ways. To get started, make lists of the infrastructure and assets you need to inspect at your facility, including everything related to safety and anything with a high criticality. Consult both O&M manuals and your team for ideas on what to look for. Although it's possible to do everything with paper or spreadsheets, they're exercises in frustration. Modern facility management software makes it easier for you. You can create checklist templates that are easy to share and update. When you generate a new inspection PM, you can even associate them with locations on interactive maps in the software.   

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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