For businesses all over the world, big and small, the events of 2020 were a shock to the system. COVID-19 changed the way the world lives, works, and thinks about the future.

And with 2021 just weeks away, one of the few certainties we have is that we’ll be taking a lot of the same challenges with us into the new year.

While 2020 saw us reacting to change and uncertainty as it happened, the challenge of 2021 is going to involve forecasting in spite of impending uncertainty.

And while there’s no way to create an ideal budget for an uncertain future, you can still prioritize for greater cost control and more efficient operations throughout your portfolio.

We’ve put together a quick guide to doing more with less for your facilities in 2021.

Become better acquainted with your technology

Your technology is only as useful as you equip it to be.

And especially as you prepare for a near future of stricter budgets in the first quarter of 2021, you should be taking advantage of tech solutions to help you track—and predict—maintenance activity. 

First, ensure that any maintenance requests that occur throughout your portfolio actually make it into your work order management system. Make sure you know the answers to the following:

  • What kind of maintenance is being requested?
  • Which assets are affected?
  • Who requested the work, and when?
  • Which service provider was scheduled and dispatched?
  • When did the provider arrive and depart?
  • What costs were billed for labor and materials?

In addition to the basics of building a cache of consistent work order information, you should rely on your work order management system to translate this information into useful reports.

With a little time, you’ll see clear patterns of maintenance activity across your portfolio.

To best control spending in an uncertain 2021, you should pay special attention to the locations that receive the most maintenance requests, the kinds of work being performed there, and whether the assets being repaired would better serve your budget by being replaced altogether.

You should also invest in other forms of relatively inexpensive technology to improve your understanding of your portfolio’s specific needs. Consider installing customer traffic sensors near the entrances of your locations. As you gather data on customer behavior, you’ll better understand how to prioritize maintenance at different locations.

Under a stricter budget plan, your more popular stores should naturally receive the bulk of your maintenance attention—not only due to the effects of ordinary wear and tear, but also in light of increased customer scrutiny on your brand.

Focus on preventative maintenance

Reactive maintenance is understandably more expensive than scheduled maintenance.

When critical assets like HVAC units or revenue-generating equipment go offline, it makes sense to pay the premium to get your locations back on track.

But as you prepare and forecast your facilities needs in the uncertain business landscape of early 2021, it just makes sense to make an effort to limit the frequency of reactive maintenance needs for your critical assets.

Consider the data and insights you gained from an enriched relationship with facilities management technology, suggested above. After assessing patterns of the most pressing maintenance needs at your locations, you’ll be prepared to create a strategy for preventative maintenance, as well.

There can be serious downstream consequences to avoiding a sensible preventative maintenance strategy.

In a grocery store environment, for example, you depend on an entire network of assets in constant use in order to keep the business running: Coolers and refrigerators and walk-in freezers, plumbing and electrical systems, HVAC and climate control units, and even automatic doors are all subject to continuous strain.

Without a preventative maintenance plan to guard your locations against potential downtime and lost revenue, you risk spending much more than you budgeted for in reactive maintenance costs—to say nothing of the possibility of lost revenue in light of dissatisfied customers.

Defer work orders, then bundle them in a single visit

Should you log every maintenance request in your work order management system?

Yes. Should you address every work order on an equal basis?

No. Especially not when you’re budgeting for uncertainty.

Think of the long-term consequences. Though it can be tempting to address every new maintenance request at your higher-traffic locations, it’s a surefire way to use up your reactive maintenance budget with expensive on-demand maintenance tickets and costly trip charges.

Certain maintenance needs can wait. A broken floor tile, an unresponsive light fixture, or a door that hangs imperfectly in its frame are, in almost every case, uncritical maintenance needs that can be put off for another day.

And when that day comes, you can schedule a service provider to handle all those smaller work orders in a single visit.

Tap into a strong provider bench

In conditions of uncertainty, it’s a worthwhile budgetary decision to award work to your highest-ranked facilities service providers.

Assigning maintenance work to your most qualified providers—those with the deepest skill sets and the broadest possible trade offering—greatly increases the likelihood that a work order is done right on the first trip.

In turn, a better first-time fix average results in fewer return trips for the same reactive services, and potentially longer-lasting benefits from preventative maintenance.

And that means far fewer interruptions and inconveniences for your customers, who’ll be even happier to support your business—a concrete benefit in less-than-definite circumstances.

2020 changed the landscape for business all over the world, and you’ll be taking many of this year’s challenges into the next. In 2021, it’s likely that facilities decision-makers will be making do with compressed budgets and uncertain operating procedures. You’ve done more than your fair share of hard work this year. In the new year, consider working with an established facilities management partner—one that’ll set you up with the technology and expertise to ensure tactical scale, ensure greater performance, and discover new cost savings opportunities. Shoot us an email to learn more:

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