5 ways to save on work order costs

Dylan Rogers

Even for smaller property portfolios, building a facilities management program could mean a serious investment of time and resources.

But no matter the number of locations or the length of time a business has been in operation, excess spending poses a significant risk to long-term financial health.

To safeguard against patterns of excess spending, we’ve put together five ways to save on work order costs within a facilities portfolio.

#1 Bundle work orders together

Think of your high-traffic locations. At any given one, you might be able to name a handful of maintenance problems.

Toilets leaking. Lights flickering. Floor tiles peeling. Doors not staying shut.

Each of these problems could potentially become its own work order. And each work order could become its own maintenance trip.

Especially at your more popular locations, it’s tempting to address new issues as soon as they crop up.

But maintenance trips also mean trip charges—and they can add up faster than you expect. Don’t let them cast a shadow on your budget.

The solution? Bundle work orders together in a single trip.

Make a list of mission-critical facilities items. If you’re a restaurant, for example, this means revenue-generating equipment like ovens and climate control units.

Anything not on that list can be strategically deferred. As non-critical items start to rack up, you can send just one technician to fix all those items in the same trip.

You’ll see savings from fewer trips and fewer billable hours.

#2 Improve first-time fix rates

If one of your associates enters your location and finds water pooling on the floor, they might be tempted to call a plumber.

And what if the plumber arrives and concludes that there’s nothing wrong with the pipes?

As it turns out, you’ve just paid an expensive—and unnecessary—invoice. So don’t call another plumber for a second opinion.

Instead, rethink your approach to diagnosing maintenance issues. With the right strategy, you’ll improve the chances of getting a problem fixed on the first visit.

Equipped with a troubleshooting checklist, your associate might have been able to conclude that the flood was actually caused by the rain from two nights before, which finally leaked through the roof.

To create a thorough checklist, work with your most experienced maintenance technicians and facilities management colleagues to make a plan.

Once you have a process to troubleshoot the most common maintenance issues at your locations, your associates will be prepared to dispatch the right person for any given problem.

#3 Recall faulty services

Mistakes happen, even when skill and good intentions play their part. But you shouldn’t have to suffer financially when things don’t work out the way they should.

Do what you’d do in any other situation: Get a refund.

To successfully recall maintenance services, you should put yourself in a position to do so. The details matter.

First, ensure that you’re working with service providers that offer a service guarantee. Sending a technician on a repeat visit is expensive and time-consuming. So when both parties are financially invested in proper service delivery, you’re also more likely to get services done right the first time.

And second, remember to collect proper records and documentation on the recurring problem. Doing so helps build your case, and it also helps the service provider understand what went wrong during their first visit.

#4 Keep accurate records

If you manage the facilities for hundreds of locations, you understand the importance of keeping excellent records.

But in practice, this tends to be a real challenge. After a quarterly audit, it’s not uncommon to discover that you’ve paid for an invoice either more than once, or not at all.

You might even find that you’ve dispatched services for work that was already completed but not updated to reflect that fact.

It’s deceptively simple. But having real time access to your facilities records will help you avoid the threat of financial facilities waste.

On one hand, paying twice for just one service is an obvious misuse of resources. And it can be time-consuming to contact receivables departments and work out credits and refunds for duplicate payments.

And on the other hand, not paying for invoices could expose you to late fees, account collections, and damage to your company’s reputation with industry providers. Over time, this could warp your understanding of your facilities budget.

The right tool can make all the difference.

A Gartner survey from 2016 found that up to a third of all facilities departments don’t use anything beyond paper notes or Excel spreadsheets to manage work orders.

And in this decade, that’s a deliberate choice—one you don’t need to make. A modern work order management system will give you instant insight into the state of work across your portfolio.

#5 Invest in preventative maintenance

Your assets are the lifeline of your business.

You expect them to be there when you need them, to work every time you hit a switch or turn a knob. It’s second nature. Many of them run when you’re asleep.

So it’s disorienting when they don’t respond like they should. What then?

The financial effects of asset downtime can be enormous. Consider the impact for a grocery store’s walk-in freezers—there’s risk to merchandise, to asset budgets, to location uptime, and to customer loyalty.

If you’re the unlucky facilities manager in that situation, there’s a good chance you’d be willing to pay quite a bit extra to make sure your freezers are back online before the frost begins to melt on that morning’s shipment of fresh seafood.

And experience shows that in these circumstances, you almost certainly will.

But by investing in a preventative maintenance program, you don’t have to be that unhappy facilities manager.

You can prepare by setting a recurring maintenance schedule for all essential assets. Since they’re scheduled well in advance, they tend to be much less expensive than on-demand services.

And make sure to keep detailed asset records. Make and model information, asset age, repair frequency, and warranty information should all be included. You’ll be better informed about your decision to either repair or replace an asset.

With a preventative maintenance program, you’ll have fewer sudden emergencies—and by extension, fewer high-dollar maintenance tickets.

Facilities management is a necessary investment for your organization. And while developing a program can be a complex and serious investment, excess spending should never enter the picture. Working with an experienced facilities management partner will give you the tools and knowledge required to develop new efficiencies and improve performance even as your business needs continue to change and grow.

Get in touch with SMS Assist: weknowFM@smsassist.com

What is SMS Assist?
SMS Assist is on a mission to transform the facilities maintenance industry by delivering unprecedented transparency and control. More than 186,000 commercial properties—like retail stores, banks, restaurants, and more—and residential rental properties leverage our cloud-based platform to connect to more than 20,000 service providers and our operations teams that are available every second of every day. It’s a new approach for an industry in need of a better solution.