Maintenance programs benefit everyone

Maintenance programs are becoming increasingly standard with every major purchase these days, but what about those in our realm-electrical, security and communication systems? Maintenance programs in the field have not enjoyed as much acceptance as they should, but the topic remains a key issue in electrical contracting.

It is no secret that preventative and scheduled maintenance can help predict potential problems and thus lower the risk of major system failure. This translates into decreased down time and increased return on investment. The problem is that many end-users choose not to opt into such programs because they are unaware of the benefits and many mistakenly believe a warranty is all they truly need. This is where it is imperative for contractors to educate their customers so they can better understand the importance of maintenance.

According to Bob O'Meara, director of business development for McPhee Electric: “Ownership of the system starts on the turnover. Some people perceive their warranty is in some sense a maintenance option and this is wrong. The goal is to avoid failures all together.”

Maintenance programs are about system efficiency, optimal performance and operation. One of the most basic ways to help prolong system life is proper maintenance. Even those who do not routinely practice this agree that it is a key component in system operation.

Beyond the electrical system

Many stop at the electrical system when it comes to maintenance, and they really should not. Overlooking your voice, data, security and life safety systems may not be a wise idea. Some contractors understand this and routinely offer such services. McPhee Electric, of Farmington, Conn., for instance, provides preventative maintenance (PM) programs for fire alarm, emergency generators and UPSs in addition to electrical systems.

All systems benefit from PM programs, because all systems are critical to business operations. This means any downtime can be detrimental to business; it's not something that will make your customers happy.

One of the biggest benefits of a properly administered maintenance program is that it operates at scheduled increments, minimizing disruption. Because the systems in question will need to go down for a brief period during testing, it will be at a time that is convenient (and known in advance) for both the customers and the contractor.

There are some maintenance programs out there that require contractors to be part of a franchise. One such franchiser is nationwide and its contractor base is certified through the main company. Each certified contractor offers the same quality and level of maintenance.

Though there is something to be said for this type of consistency, many contractors have opted not to participate for various reasons.

You could create your own maintenance program for your customers. Many electrical contractors have found that this is a lucrative way to add to their bottom line. In fact, if you wanted to guarantee an installation project was not once-and-done, you would want to sell a maintenance program along with it.

Big business

By offering preventative maintenance programs to your customers, you can increase your overall business. Getting clients on board may take some time, but if you approach them in the right manner, you should have a fairly easy sell. Some firms offer full-service maintenance agreements with their proposals. This is done so that systems remain operational for many years, even after traditional warranties run out.

Most contractors provide system service in one way or another, but many do not have entire divisions within their organizations devoted to such. Looking into this may not be a bad idea. Since there are numerous systems within any given facility, the demand is there. Contractors need to educate both themselves and their customers as to what the benefits are.

Preventative maintenance programs can provide a steady revenue stream for contractors. In addition, by being on-site consistently, you place yourself in a prime position to be in the right place at the right time when larger projects come up. Talk about a win-win situation. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.