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K-12 Workflow Management Blog

7 Proven Strategies for Effective K-12 Facilities Management

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Look closely at any successful school and you’re likely to find impressive facilities management. It allows administrators to achieve some of their most important goals and initiatives, from keeping students healthy to staying within the constraints of a limited budget.

Unfortunately, many school administrators aren’t clear about what a good management system should look like. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of improving your facilities planning methods. More importantly, we’ll share seven tried and true strategies that will help you achieve safe and cost-effective strategic facilities management.

What is Facility Management?

Facility management is the process of creating safe, functional, and efficient buildings and environments. That requires attention to upkeep, energy management, and asset tracking. School administrators typically work with facilities managers and facilities management software to develop and implement plans for different aspects of their schools.

As the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) explains, facilities managers are responsible for ensuring that all the elements of a building — from sustainability to security — work together so that the people who use them can stay healthy and productive. The facility manager oversees in-house and third-party teams who ensure that schools operate without disruptions.

Benefits of Following a Strategic Facilities Management Strategy

Your facilities management strategy has a ripple effect throughout your school. A 2020 report in California revealed that schools in dozens of districts experienced temporary closures because of broken water pipes, heating system failures, mold, and other facility issues. These closures are expensive and extremely disruptive to student learning. As such, every facilities manager should make it their goal to achieve these benefits of strategic facilities management.

Provide a Safe Learning Environment

Providing students with a healthy and productive learning environment is a primary concern for all schools. While they’re in class, students might face threats from natural disasters, intruders, or the spread of illness. There are also proven facility impacts on student performance, so a poorly managed space could result in increased absences, lower test scores, and limitations on academic growth.

Retain School Assets Longer

Developing a sound facilities management strategy can also significantly extend the life of your school’s assets. IT assets, in particular, can quickly drain your budget if you don’t have a practical management system in place.

A March 2021 survey found that 90% of middle and high schools and 84% of elementary schools provide every student with their own digital device, such as a laptop or Chromebook. When those devices require frequent repairs and replacements, it becomes a major expense that hurts your bottom line.

Improve Energy Efficiency

According to a report from Energy Star, K-12 school districts in the United States spend more than $6 billion on energy each year. A strategic approach to facilities management can help cut those costs by increasing your energy efficiency. This not only benefits your school financially but also contributes to a healthier planet.

Enhance Operational Effectiveness

Without strategic facilities management, you might lose money due to inefficient practices and poor employee performance. When you implement better practices, your teams and technicians will be more productive and you’ll decrease work order completion times. This will keep spending down and decrease frustration among students and staff.

Make Better Use of Your Budget

In combination, lengthening your asset lifespans, optimizing your energy efficiency, and improving your school workforce creates significant cost savings. Reducing your operational costs allows you to stay within your budget and invest funds in areas where they would be more valuable, such as facility improvements and technology upgrades.

How to Create a Facilities Management Plan

Facilities management encompasses multiple aspects of your school, and making a plan that addresses all of them is challenging. These are the basic steps you’ll need to complete to create a facilities management plan:

  • Understand future state and goals: Before you can plan for the future, you need to know where your facilities currently stand. Do an honest assessment of the grounds, equipment, structural integrity, and assets. Identify weaknesses and create specific goals that address them.
  • Brainstorm and develop a progressive plan: Consider how a series of short-term phases can build on one another to achieve your larger goals. Make strategic purchases and improvements over time, looking for ways to spread out the financial impact of a bigger procurement. Look at different funding options and timelines that align with your district’s objectives and your school’s other needs.
  • Put the plan in motion: Go over the plan with your employees and provide any necessary training. For example, discuss the facilities maintenance plan with your in-house or third-party maintenance providers. Be transparent about how the plan will work and how you’ll measure its success.
  • Assess and improve: Just because your plan is in place doesn’t mean the work is over. Continuously monitor how things are going and seek feedback from students, teachers, and other stakeholders. No plan is perfect, so don’t be afraid to make changes if issues come up along the way.

As you write your facilities management plan, keep in mind that it’s about much more than just meeting a set of business goals, particularly for K-12 districts. Your plan enables better decision-making by administrators and creates a more productive environment for your community.

7 Most Effective Facilities Management Strategies

Facilities management looks different from one school to the next, so it’s crucial to tailor your approach to your precise needs. However, these strategies have universal applications for all K-12 facilities, regardless of their size, age, or location. Integrating these methods into your own management planning process can help ensure that your facilities remain in good operating order.

1. Prioritize Student & Staff Safety

Protecting the well-being of students and staff should always be a top concern. Parents trust schools to safeguard their children while they’re at school, and the only way to make that happen is through facilities management.

Use these protocols and procedures to identify and mitigate potential hazards in your school:

  • Visually inspect structures, surfaces, and equipment, including floors, sidewalks, and playgrounds
  • Install and maintain locks for doors and windows
  • Add security cameras
  • Test and maintain alarm systems
  • Optimize indoor air quality with filters, sensors, and upgraded HVAC systems
  • Clean bathrooms and other high-traffic areas that could spread illnesses

Including these and other items on a facility safety checklist helps your team stay on track. They’ll know exactly what’s expected of them and when they should complete each task.

2. Engage in Preventive Maintenance

Another core facilities management strategy is regular maintenance. Rather than waiting for a system or piece of equipment to develop an issue, you follow a set maintenance schedule. Studies show that preventive maintenance not only pays for itself but also results in substantial savings over time.

If your school relies on reactive maintenance, you’re probably wasting time and money on repairs and replacements that you could have avoided. Preventive maintenance, in contrast, extends the life cycle of your equipment, helps you achieve energy savings, and reduces the chances of expensive downtime.

For example, schools can’t operate if the air is unsafe or the temperature is uncontrolled. Regularly inspecting, cleaning, and maintaining an HVAC system helps optimize its performance. This helps keep your energy bills low and significantly reduces the risk of failures, which could cause unplanned school closures.

Creating a maintenance plan involves a series of steps, including:

  • Taking inventory of all your equipment and machinery
  • Prioritizing maintenance tasks, with an emphasis on systems that could cause major operational disruptions or are necessary for safety
  • Developing a schedule with specific maintenance tasks, including inspections, tests, and filter replacements

Depending on the needs of your school, you might also want to consider the value of preventive vs. predictive maintenance. Facilities that implement predictive maintenance use sensors to monitor system performance so that they can flag system errors and prevent problems before they develop.

3. Strategically Manage Costs

Schools across the nation struggle to stay within their budgets, and there are no signs of funding relief in sight. According to a 2021 study, the United States under-invests in school facilities by $85 billion annually.

As school administrators scramble for ways to cut costs, facilities management is one of the most important solutions. Carefully managing your school’s facilities budget can help keep expenses down across the board.

More specifically, these are some of the most critical ways to manage your costs:

  • Improving asset management practices: Using a system for tracking school assets can extend their lifespans and cut back on replacements, resulting in significant savings.
  • Reducing energy consumption: Installing energy efficient appliances and properly maintaining electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems can also keep spending down.
  • Streamlining operations: Look for bottlenecks or patterns of repeated issues in your facilities that might be driving up costs.
  • Negotiating better contracts: If you pay third-party vendors to take care of maintenance, cleaning, or other tasks, take a closer look at your contract and consider whether it’s time to go back to the negotiating table.

Whether you already have an established maintenance management system or are starting from scratch, be realistic about your facility’s needs and how to achieve cost savings. Don’t be tempted to cut back on critical services, such as alarm systems, to save a few dollars. Instead, target inefficiencies and opportunities for upgrades that might require an upfront investment but will boost your budget in the long run.

4. Foster Sustainability

As the world grows increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change, sustainability has become one of the most important facility manager goals. By incorporating sustainable practices into your facilities management, you can reduce your school’s environmental impact, cut operational costs, and create a healthy learning environment and workspace for students and teachers.

Schools can take big or small steps toward sustainability, with efforts such as:

  • Reducing waste through recycling programs
  • Minimizing reliance on paper products by using digital classroom and office solutions
  • Installing energy-efficient appliances and power systems that use clean energy sources, such as solar panels
  • Teaching students how to incorporate sustainability into their everyday lives

Depending on your budget, you might also consider bringing a sustainability specialist onto your team. A 2023 study found that hiring staff specifically dedicated to sustainability can save schools up to $1 million a year.

5. Lean On Automation & Smart Technologies

When it comes to technology, schools have seemingly unlimited options. You don’t want to buy gadgets just for the sake of keeping up with trends, but the right technology is a crucial resource.

This might mean using smart tech, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to monitor equipment performance. It could also translate as more subtle, day-to-day changes that use new technologies to improve your school’s workflows.

For example, Incident IQ’s school facilities management software allows you to manage work orders, track inventory, and analyze your response times. You can combine this solution with Incident IQ’s asset management software to track device ownership and extend your asset lifecycles.

6. Utilize Teams Effectively

Your school will only thrive if you establish a solid foundation of competent, qualified professionals. Remember that, no matter who you hire, your workforce is only as good as you make it. Providing your team members with education and resources is essential to your facilities management service.

Use these tips to help your employees meet their potential:

  • Develop a training program that provides specific information about your school and consolidates your institutional knowledge
  • Craft a thoughtful schedule so that your facilities management team doesn’t become overwhelmed or develop burnout
  • Consider outsourcing tasks for specialized areas, such as maintaining HVAC systems
  • Use a help ticketing solution to automatically route tickets to appropriate employees with the knowledge and skills to complete them

Moving forward, it’s important to stay open to feedback from your team. Give them the opportunity to express how they’re feeling about their work environment and whether they feel sufficiently supported. When they have questions or express concerns, reflect on how you could change your facilities management strategy to better serve them.

7. Monitor & Optimize Performance

Even if you feel that you have a strong facilities management plan, it’s still vital to keep a close eye on your equipment and technician performance.

Manually tracking performance metrics can quickly become a slog, so turn to automation and analytics tools to make everything run more smoothly. For instance, Incident IQ offers automated reporting that provides you with real-time data about the most important school maintenance KPIs, including:

  • Individual team member performance
  • Average time spent on work orders
  • Repeated issues
  • Problems in specific locations

When you have easy access to these and other data points, you can ensure that you’re meeting your benchmarks and staying within your budget. You can also make more informed decisions, such as whether you should invest in replacing a piece of equipment, if you need to improve your employee training, and when to revamp of your workflows.

Think Strategically with Incident IQ

Effective facilities management requires in-depth knowledge of your school and clarity on where you stand financially. In other words, there’s no single approach that guarantees your success. However, when you have a proactive and strategic management system that focuses on safety, promotes sustainability and efficiency, and relies on the right technology, you’re well on your way to optimizing your day-to-day operations and making all your stakeholders happy.

That might sound too good to be true, but Incident IQ can help get you there. Incident IQ’s facilities management software is an effortless solution that integrates with your existing processes. You’ll have everything you need to streamline your work orders and implement a solid preventive maintenance plan. When you combine your facilities management with Incident IQ’s school asset management software, you’ll also extend your device lifespans and simplify your asset deployment.

Incident IQ makes it possible to optimize your school operations with facilities and asset management in one platform. If you’re ready to maximize the benefit of your management, reach out to schedule a free demo.