Maintenance for parks and recreation is all the work that keeps these public spaces open, safe, and enjoyable, and one of the best parks department directors is Ron Swanson, from the TV show Parks and Rec.
But even though we love him, we have to ask ourselves "Is any of his advice actually good?"
First, some basic introductions.
What is maintenance for parks and recreation?
Maintenance for parks and recreation is all the hard work that goes into helping people in the community take it easy. The roots of the word recreation are "renew, create again." It's where people get back to nature and unwind.
But for the maintenance team, there's plenty of work to do.
Types of parks maintenance work
Because there are many different sites and facilities, there are many types of work. So, you have everything from collecting trach on playgrounds to repairing the pavement in parking lots. There's maintenance on the lights along the hiking trails to repairs on the basketball hoops.
Larger parks include restaurants to restrooms, which means lots of upkeep on plumbing and schedules for disinfecting.
Types of parks maintenance challenges
Many facility and maintenance managers can tell you exactly who uses the assets and equipment they maintain and repair. In fact, they can likely even tell you their names. At manufacturing plants and health care facilities, for example, it's always the same group of operators using the machines.
But for places open to the public, you're never sure who's about to test your assets' limits. That group of teenagers seeing how many times they can get the swings to go all the way around. That big family reunion seeing how many cousins they can jam into the picnic tables.
It might even be that family of raccoons chewing on the electrical wires.
On top of the extra and unpredictable wear and tear on your assets and equipment, there's also the fact that assets are so spread out. One of the reasons people love parks is because of the wide open spaces. But for the maintenance team, that means big distances between where they need to do their inspections and tasks, making it hard to ensure smooth communication and that the right people with the right inventory get where you need them.
When a maintenance tech arrives onsite without the right tools and inventory, or they have a question about what to do, it's a long, frustrating trip back to the maintenance office.
Who is Ron Swanson?
He is the stuff of legend, and his achievements echo down through the ages.
According to local lore, he didn't cry until he was seven, and even then, it was because he had been hit by a bus. At nine, he started working at a sheet metal factory, and he was running the floor by the end of the second week. He followed that with a quick stint at a tannery before attending high school prom at the age of 12.
More than anything, Ron is famous for his extreme views on life and the often incredible lengths he goes to stay true to his beliefs.
But when it comes to how they apply to maintenance, some of his ideas are great while others are truly awful.
What are Ron Swanson's terrible ideas for parks and rec maintenance?
For all his insights into everything from maintenance to the human spirit (and the deep connections between the two), Ron Swanson does have some awful ideas.
Assume that everyone knows what you know
"Give a man a fish and feed him for the day. Don’t teach a man to fish... and you feed yourself. He’s a grown man. And fishing’s not that hard."
This one deserves a bit of context, because although it's bad, it does sort of make sense, but only if you're Ron Swanson. The idea is that nothing is more important than being self-sufficient. In fact, Ron once claimed that "people who buy things are suckers." And part of being self-sufficient is being able to work things out for yourself.
When it comes to the maintenance team, though, it's terrible advice. One of the keys to efficiency is making it easy for the team to share knowledge, so they're not wasting time endlessly re-inventing the wheel. Once someone develops a quick, effective workaround to a common challenge, you want everyone to know it.
Make your own rules and don't worry what anyone else says
"It's up to code. The Swanson Code."
If you're talking about a code of honor, you can make your own and stick to it without worrying about what anyone else says. But for government regulations, making up your own code is the type of bad idea that's so bad it's illegal.
That time Ron tried to get the inspections and permits for his workshop fast tracked, he quickly ran into problems, all of which could have just as quickly snowballed into serious accidents if not for the help and patience of a good friend.
Ignore problems until you can't, then ignore them some more
“I have a hernia. I’ve had it for a while, and I’ve been ignoring it successfully. But uh, this morning, I made the mistake of sneezing. But as long as I sit still and don’t move my head or torso, I’m good. I got this.”
No, Ron. No, you don't. The whole point of maintenance is finding and fixing small issues before they have a chance to develop into big problems.
The same rules apply from hernias to leaky faucets: the sooner you solve it, the better.
What are Ron Swanson's great ideas for parks and rec maintenance?
Sure, he's not always right. In fact, sometimes, he's really wrong. But when Ron Swanson is right, he's perfect.
Have a plan but keep fine-tuning it
"I've been developing the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness for years. It's a perfectly calibrated recipe for maximum personal achievement."
When Ron finds himself coaching a kids basketball team, he wants his players to learn how to win the game, the game of life. So, he shares the fruits of his passion project, the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, where he's packed insights into everything from cabins to haircuts, property rights to meats.
For the maintenance team, the collective passion project is their preventive maintenance plan. And just like Ron, you and the team should keep going back and improving it over time.
Make sure you share good instructions
“Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait … I worry what you heard was, ‘Give me a lot of bacon and eggs.’ What I said was, give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Do you understand?”
Not surprising from a man who believes there's nothing good breakfast food can't fix. But the important part here isn't the eggs and bacon, it's how Ron makes sure to be perfectly clear he needs all of them.
When you need to be sure the team does the right work the right way, clear communication is critical. You can't rely on people knowing what you want. You have to tell them.
How can the right CMMS help Ron Swanson and you?
If you want to do the absolute opposite of Ron Swanson's bad ideas while also implementing his good ones, you need a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) with a mobile app for parks maintenance.
While traditional manual methods have you constantly shuffling paperwork or searching for lost spreadsheet files, a modern CMMS puts all your data in one place, where it's safe, secure, and accessible by everyone on the team. Now, instead of passing papers back and forth or endlessly emailing spreadsheet files, everyone on the team can access the same maintenance data from any Internet-connected device. And because everything is in the same database, it's always up to date. And because everyone is working from the same data, they're always in the loop.
Teach everyone to fish
So, you don't have to worry about only one person on the team "knowing how to fish." Once you have all your SOPs and best practices inside the software, everyone on the team has equal access to that knowledge.
Follow all the right codes
But it's not just how to do things. The software also helps you make data capture much more reliable, which makes passing audits a lot easier. You now have instant access to accurate records of what the team did and when they did it.
Make the perfect plan
And it's not just what you did. A good CMMS also helps you plan out and track what you need to do, with a robust preventive maintenance plan. Instead of waiting for disaster to strike, you can efficiently plan inspections and tasks that keep up a step ahead. Just like Ron, you want to keep going back and improving your system. With accurate data and the automated reports module, you can track maintenance metrics and KPIs to see what's working and where you can improve.
Get all the bacon and eggs
Finally, you can get all the eggs and bacon. A modern CMMS makes it much easier to communicate with the team because you can pack work orders with everything techs need to close out efficiently, including:
- Comprehensive asset maintenance and repairs histories
- Digital schematics, images, O&M manuals
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Associated parts and materials
You can even include interactive site maps and floor plans.
Parks and recreation maintenance is the combination of inspections and tasks that ensure people can access and enjoy these public spaces, which can include everything from parking lots to playgrounds, hiking trails to picnic areas. One of the main challenges is the distance between assets and equipment, making it hard to keep open lines of communication between members of the maintenance team. The most famous parks and rec director is Ron Swanson, from the aptly named show Parks and Rec. Ron was something of a maintenance prodigy, and over the years has developed strong opinions about how to run his department and live life in general. Some of his advice, though, is terrible, including forcing people to be independent and only paying attention to his personal safety codes. But he can also set a great example. He works hard at setting up and fine-tuning perfect plans and always tries to communicate clearly with people. A modern CMMS solution for parks and rec can help you avoid his bad advice and follow his wisdom.