For some reason, maintenance generally has not been embraced by contractors in their product offerings. Even though maintenance is a perfect value-added-service opportunity, many contractors do not actively pursue this type of work. This column is the first of an ongoing series devoted to maintenance.

In any given installation, maintenance on systems, equipment and components can be tacked on as a vital final function. More importantly, it is ongoing work (and an ongoing revenue stream potential), since it intends to keep systems running at peak levels of performance. Contractors, perhaps better than others, understand all of the nuances associated with their complex industry, which secures their position to offer routine maintenance.

Some customers may opt for a no-maintenance approach only to be sidelined when things go wrong. Routine, preventative and predictive maintenance can keep customers from encountering shutdowns or failures—problems that can cost customers their bottom line.

Contractors should sell their services by helping customers understand the importance of maintenance agreements.

Contractors can find a steady revenue stream by offering maintenance agreements for all systems installed. Not only does this keep contractors in the minds of their customers, but it gives them the opportunity to provide ongoing work.

Introducing maintenance agreements should occur early in negotiations, but can also be added later if need be.

Preventative vs. predictive

Confusion still lingers over the difference between preventative and predictive maintenance. Though relatively the same, slight differences do exist, and since certain customers may require one or both, it is important to understand how the types differ.

Preventative maintenance is the scheduled service of equipment and systems and is the simplest form of a maintenance arrangement. Contractors who are not currently providing any type of routine service could easily implement this option.

Predictive maintenance is essentially preventative maintenance aided by technology. By using software, predictive maintenance considers various factors—such as age of system components, past performance measures and usage—to forecast when potential problems may occur, and then allows for maintenance prior to any system difficulties.

The construction tie-in

Though it may seem that maintenance is an after-installation or -construction consideration, it should be offered to customers as early as possible. From the contractor’s standpoint, there should be maintenance agreement options offered with all systems work, including design projects, installations and repair work on existing systems.

Contractors involved in new construction or renovation projects have an added advantage of making maintenance an upfront consideration.

It has been widely reported that 15 percent of all new construction projects have missing components that were originally called and accounted for during the design phase. Contractors working on-site should keep this in mind. By ensuring that their work is complete from the beginning, their maintenance contracts will flow smoothly.

It is also important for contractors to pay attention during the design phase of construction projects, since maintenance may be affected by physical design elements. Check the location of all system components and equipment so when it comes time to actually perform maintenance on those elements, they are readily accessible.

Turnover time

Turnover concludes any construction project. It is the point where all systems and electrical work, including operation and maintenance, become the responsibility of the building owner.

One way to alleviate the pressure put on internal maintenance staff is to offer up a maintenance agreement or arrangement at this time. Since most in-house facility staff is taxed with added responsibilities, especially during turnover, they are generally the most receptive.

Keep in mind that all talks of maintenance contracts should be done before turnover. In construction, it is common for one contractor to perform maintenance on a system that another contractor installed. Therefore, negotiating a maintenance agreement before turnover helps ensure that the contractor who did the work can continue the working relationship. However, this doesn’t mean a contractor should be limited to maintenance of installed systems. Those who have the ability to do so can offer maintenance on any system, whether or not they were involved in the design or installation.

The maintenance game has many intricacies, and it takes time to understand just how that game is played. The first step toward making maintenance a permanent part of your business is to try to understand the niche. You can start by continuing to read this new column. EC

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