The Electrical Contractor study, Contractor’s Roles in Scheduled/Preventative Electrical Maintenance, yielded some surprising results. For example, those electrical contractors routinely involved in maintenance likely understand the benefits of offering maintenance as part of their service offering. And the market is growing.

Renaissance Research & Consulting Inc., New York, conducted the survey. More than 500 subscribers responded, which yielded 402 results. Of that number, 312 said they performed scheduled or preventative maintenance.

To understand the survey and its results, parameters need to be set, defining what maintenance means. Maintenance is an ongoing process that can be performed day-to-day or scheduled far in advance. It is preventative and predictive, staving off unexpected problems and costly repairs that may occur. While it is impossible to prevent all equipment problems, proper maintenance helps systems perform better and last longer.

The survey and the results focused on the maintenance aspect and how contractors are playing a role in these day-to-day functions. The survey provided data that contractors perform maintenance on a wide array of systems, such as lighting (fixtures and controls), entire building electrical, motor controls, low-voltage, security and life safety, power quality and generators, automated building controls, and mechanical.

Building specific

The survey found that 75 percent of those surveyed perform scheduled maintenance on more than one building type. Breaking it down, both large (more than 10 employees) and small firms are involved in maintenance of commercial, institutional, industrial and residential buildings. It was found that large firms were more likely to perform scheduled maintenance on commercial, institutional and industrial facilities, which can be contrasted with small firms who are more involved with residential and commercial buildings (see Figure 1).

Small firms that perform maintenance on residential buildings generally work on lighting and electrical systems within that building type. Small firms dominate the residential maintenance market, working on both single and multifamily dwellings. Both large and small firms seem to perform equal amounts of work in offices, retail and financial building types.

Results show that large firms lead in maintenance for subsets of specific building types, such as hospitality and entertainment, public places, education, healthcare, government, transportation, manufacturing, plants and factories, and warehouses. Most of these specific building types not only employ a multitude of systems but these types of facilities are often more dependent on keeping downtime to a minimum, which could be why scheduled maintenance is beneficial to them.

System specific

The survey also concluded that both large and small firms equally worked on entire building electrical, low-voltage and mechanical systems. Large firms appear to be more likely to perform maintenance on what some may refer to as high-tech systems such as motor controls, security and life safety, power quality and automated building controls (see Figures 2 and 3).

The contract

Two-thirds of contractors perform some sort of maintenance under contract and six out of 10 contractors have made it a routine business practice to offer maintenance contracts on the systems and components that they install. This could be a key element for those wishing to increase maintenance revenue.

Larger firms are more likely to actively sell maintenance contracts, even for systems that they did not install themselves. This practice can be thought of as a way to secure ongoing maintenance revenue and gain new clientele.

Smaller firms appear to take the wait-and-see approach, as they are more likely to sell a contract after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Larger firms, on the other hand, start the selling process upfront (see Figure 4).

Of the contractors surveyed, three out of 10 make use of some sort of software and a third party to schedule the maintenance functions outlined within the maintenance contract.

Larger firms are more likely to opt for this solution, perhaps related to the finding that larger firms routinely work on larger, more complex systems that require more comprehensive scheduling techniques.

The most complex systems, such as power quality and automated motor controls, were the most likely to be managed using software or a third party in order to schedule maintenance.

Upgrades

Of the contractors surveyed, 84 percent said that their 2004 maintenance projects resulted in systems upgrades. On average, 22 percent of maintenance work resulted in an actual systems upgrade. This could be because contractors working on maintenance contracts can notify their customers when it is time for an upgrade of the systems.

Another interesting point brought out by the survey was that contractors are actively involved in brand selection for the systems they maintain, especially in regards to upgrades. Although explicitly not said in the survey results, contractors should understand that maintenance can lead directly to a new installation, as those that maintain systems are often present when the upgrade is needed (see Figure 5).

A growing market

The depth and breadth of the maintenance market is ever growing. Survey results show that six out of 10 contractors who currently perform maintenance anticipate revenue growth in this area over the next three to five years. Even those who do not work in maintenance agree that the market will continue to increase; in fact, three out of 10 echoed this same sentiment.

In the end, the choice of opting for formal maintenance arrangements lies in the hands of the end-user, though contractors play a big role in getting the message across. Maintenance agreements offer an ongoing revenue stream and can lead to more work.

It appears that maintenance is a growing field, though a somewhat untapped one. Mark Ayers, director of construction and maintenance, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, agreed.

“No one is in a better position to sell maintenance to customers than contractors,” he said.

Perhaps this survey will help point contractors in the right direction and get them started on the right path toward making maintenance a routine part of business. EC

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