There is never a wrong time to start getting physical with your assets making sure that you know what you have, where it is and its condition. As well as its statutory and mandatory compliance.
Since the recession hit the UK market the investment in physical assets has significantly reduced. But also the monitoring of the same pieces of equipment. The potential risk of major failures has increased significantly due to the shelving of things like asset surveys.
Out of sight may leave things out of mind until something significantly fails. Several examples of equipment failures have brought about surveys in recent years. From a call centre that had no UPS system at all, to generators not switching on in power failure due to parts being removed for replacement several years earlier and not replaced.
These are failures more importantly in processes rather than the Assets themselves. The failure relating to the generator was down to a change of contract and no asset survey being undertaken for condition by the incoming FM company. The UPS system not being installed for a call centre was down to the company not ever carrying out a survey at all and this was an FM company themselves in their own building.
The value of physical asset surveys begins with receiving the data gathered. But prior to gathering that survey data you should be asking what do you want out of the survey to begin with. Did you just want a count of assets for an idea of what you have on site then filling in the gaps with onsite engineers? Do you want a survey where you know where and what every asset is as well as its lifecycle and compliance? although it all normally comes down to budget the reality is that you need to know at a minimum what assets you have then start building a picture from it.
Asset lists are the beginning of a contract, everything relies on that information from budgets to what skills are needed to who you need for the contract and how many. As well as which contractors are required to maintain specialist equipment. Without it you are running many risks from legionella to business failure risks.
Which is why its important to get physical with your assets and get your asset data not only up to date but build the processes to keep them up to date and educating staff on why its important. Designing entire processes for not only success but failure, an example of this was in a shadowing exercise with engineers I asked how they update the data in the asset register. They said they have been trying for years but it always gets kicked back and the wrong PPM’s are sent regularly. This is a failure and the problem with the engineers and their managers was the reliance on the call centre which was simply not updating the information because they didn’t have the authority to do so. Having a company champion responsible for the asset register they can become the central source of information but also the main point of contact when things aren’t working. This allows them to assess the situation and see how things can be adapted to make sure the asset register(s) are kept up to date.
Showing why its important to keep the information upto date is also extremely important. An example of this is regular failures of equipment. You could have a £200 motor that shuts down every week due to some internal fault. It is much cheaper to replace it than constantly having an engineer going to reset it. Simple things like this save contracts money but also allow data to show why the client should be replacing pieces of equipment due to lifecycle and also regular failures.
The new App we have produced pretty much does everything you would want from a survey from software. After surveying myself for nearly a decade I can understand the frustrations of poorly thought out or programmed software. Part of that problem normally comes from the developers not actually “surveying”. As such what they see as logical and easy can be awkward and time consuming for a surveyor.
Even taking a photograph takes time which is why I tell people to assess if they actually need the photos in the first place. With a camera on a recent contract it could take as long as a minute. This was down to a delay in the camera starting up, delay for flash to charge, delay for the camera to store the photo. Then transferring a photo number to paper and then adding to a spreadsheet later. Doesn’t sound a big issue to just “take a photo”, but when you add that photo to 2000 assets that is 33.5 hours just to take those photos. Which is why I always ask the question “what is the added value?”.
So with that in mind and many other issues as you can see from the App it already has most of the problems solved. The rest come from adjusting your choices of data collection and methodical working. As the data collection of this App simplifies everything else.
We carry out condition surveys on all buildings, primarily for Mechanical and Electrical equipment. Although we have carried out condition surveys for housing association stock previously and “Fabric” of commercial buildings.
What is the advantage of a condition survey? The first thing you will receive is a status of your assets. E.g. you may have an air handling unit in very good condition but the maintenance on its motors have been run to fail. As such the condition of the motors is in a far worse state than the air handling unit they serve. Highlighting this issue allows you to pre-plan replacements or take a look at your maintenance regime to see if you need to improve maintenance.
The important thing here though is you get a better overall perspective of all your assets and equipment on site. As a Facilities Manager this could mean approaching your client and explaining that some maintenance needs improving and more investment. As a client you can pass judgement on if that investment is required or should you continue with running things as they currently are.
The 2008 recession seen a lot of maintenance cutbacks and they are beginning to show in equipment in recent years. As such I highly recommend getting a condition survey if you are unsure of the condition and what assets you currently have. Adding to this if you have a full asset survey undertaken with condition and age you can build a forward maintenance program for the upcoming years.
I carry out M+E and fabric surveys and although this is a bit of a plug i will also explain what a condition survey is to those who are unaware.
When carrying out a condition survey its main focus is in identifying the condition of assets. In the Mechanical and Electrical condition surveys (M+E). This could be identifying things like has the maintenance been carried out and to an acceptable standard. Is the equipment operational and in good working order. How soon would the equipment last before it needs replaced.
Does the equipment sit in or out of scope? E.g. a contract may say all things are in good working order but you discover many items are failing or outside of compliance and regulations. E.g. an electrical isolator may be 50 years old but its replacement would also lead to an entire rewire from where it was originally fed. This needs to be identified as a risk and to be removed from scope or an adjustment in budget to cover its costs.
Fabric is similar because although its not pumps, motors and air conditioning. It does have things like periodic refurbishments and repairs. This means things like mold that can cause paint flaking and health issues are a problem. As well as ground movement cracking walls etc. which can often see written into a contract what is defined as a chargeable crack and what you should expect to absorb within the contract at no extra cost.
All these things affect building a contract for maintenance and as such its a critical part of renewing a contract or setting one up. It gives a realistic view of the business and all its assets as well as identifying any assets that are missing from the system completely.
In all honesty I think that due to the reduced number of people coming through with relevant qualifications and experience the opportunities have increased.
When I began in building surveying for housing associations I often found many of the staff were lacking relevant skills to carry out the work. They are often internally recruited and as such often struggle in the roles due to a lack of experience. I found many people left due to stress, sickness or in several cases alcohol abuse problems.
All of the above are still relevant today in leaving posts open for those with the right background. Also adding to that often the jobs advertised are of the perfect employee and not from the batch of available people. This is why if your looking for a surveying post I highly recommend going in via an agency on a temporary basis initially as often you may not have their “perfect” requirements at hand.
But once working for them and showing your more than capable of doing the job you will no doubt get offered a permanent position. Salaries aren’t normally great but its a starting point for many who want to move into other things later on. Also good due to the hours for carrying on with your college course in the evenings which also shows to the company your committed and looking at this as a long-term career move.
What I do find though the salaries between Private and public sector vary considerably and its why I am often found working in the Private sector more than public myself. I do like a mix of both though to be honest as I find that the government work is more varied and you meet a lot of interesting people and problems.
There are multiple reasons housing associations carry out condition surveys not only for incoming and outgoing tenants but also for new and old stock. Several of these key areas are explained below.
With old stock properties bathrooms, kitchens, windows, boilers not only have standards to adhere to for the home to be liveable but also legally have to be compliant with changes in regulations. For example you will find heating boilers have moved in many homes and this is primarily for safety to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although most people in the general public don’t follow these strict guidelines and often unaware until their boiler breaks down, housing associations and other organisations in a position of trust and responsible for others will always have to adhere and often ahead of government changes.
Bathrooms and kitchens in ex services quarters are often well maintained but extremely old and outside of an acceptable standard for housing associations. So upon ownership transferal there is a need to rip out bathrooms, toilets and kitchens which normally have already seen a life of 35 years far beyond what is acceptable even if in good condition.
We have a standard that is nationally set and need to comply with it where possible. Even if we cannot carry out the repairs and upgrades at that time a program will be set for the replacements for the near future.
On hand overs between tenants though its often a different reason as tenants can and do change things without informing the housing association first. Many a property I have found walls missing, new kitchens, altered bathrooms etc. etc. All seems a good idea at the time by the tenants until they want to move out or exchange homes. The housing associations are often flexible in these types of situation as long as an acceptable standard has been met. Only issue normally comes around is when things need to be ripped out to be put back to fit for purpose e.g. a kitchen that has been fitted by a tenant that cannot be maintained by the housing association or that the tenants have made something dangerous.
All in all though the condition surveys carried out by housing associations are to the benefit of all parties to not only make sure the building is in a safe and liveable condition but also its maintained to a level that can be sustainable and often improved upon.