Image: Young Lady Studying Home Maintenance Tasks

Maintenance Management at Home

A search on the internet shows most maintenance management literature and software is devoted to medium to large-sized institutions and much less to micro-sized organizations and especially much less to the home and the individual. This makes sense: the art and science of maintenance management were born in large organizations, and the record-keeping necessary to maintain the equipment and facilities of that size of an organization is immense.

At the level of the household, this is much less true. The number of large assets in a household is usually small – the house itself, its roof and rooms, the household’s vehicles, kitchen appliances, bathroom appliances, other home appliances, furnace, air conditioner, computers, TVs, furniture, and lawn equipment. I’m leaving several common items out, and every house may have other, slightly unusual features such as solar panels or a boat in the garage or large, elaborate grounds, but the point is that in comparison to even a modest size company the equipment and rooms the average house contains will be either fewer in number or smaller in size or complexity or both.

Add to that a large amount of home maintenance is farmed out – an auto mechanic will repair the car, a plumber the pipes, and so on. In the home itself, there is probably not going to be a maintenance staff unless the owners take on that role themselves.

One might conclude from this that only the largest mansions should consider implementing a maintenance management plan, but that probably is incorrect – the average household is actually more complex than I have described it. Here are a few examples:

 

For lawns and gardens, one can easily see where maintenance management is needed. There are properties (the lawns and gardens themselves), equipment (lawnmowers, aerators, tillers), tools (hoes, clippers), materials (fertilizer and seeds), as well as labor – all things needed to perform maintenance. The maintenance is very cyclical from year to year so keeping lawn and garden history from one year to the next can be helpful.

The resilient 5.2 % of Americans (sometimes called ‘preppers’) almost by definition do a lot of their own maintenance. Home-based business people are more varied in what they do, but a good share of them also maintain equipment or maintain ‘locations’ such as barns, warehouses, or workshops. One can add to this that there are maintenance management software packages for sale available for the home. The demand is out there. We will take a look at the content of these packages at the end of this article, but first, we will take a quick look at maintenance management for a large-scale operation and then see how well this scales down to a home.

Merriam Webster defines maintenance as keeping property or equipment in good condition. One simple but useful definition of maintenance management is maintenance performed by the right workers using the right tools and the right parts at the right time on that property or equipment.

This definition leads to a more and more complex organization. The “right workers” might be the organization’s workers or workers hired from another company. If they are the company’s workers and are numerous, they need to be organized into crews with someone to lead each crew. Each problem to be solved will involve a certain set of skills so the organization needs to keep a record of the skills or craft of the workers. If the workers lack the necessary skill they will have to be trained or other workers hired. The organization also needs to keep track of the availability of the workers.

The “right tools” and “right parts” have to be stored somewhere which necessitates the organization having a tool crib and a storeroom. If the organization is large enough or dispersed enough, that might necessitate multiple stockrooms and tool cribs. One can keep expanding upon this. Tools and parts need to be purchased, equipment as well. The purchasing may be done either inside or outside the maintenance department, but there at least needs to be a purchase request mechanism for the maintenance department to use.

So far, we have talked about the “right workers,” “right tools,” and “right parts.” We have left out the “right time.” Once we add this into the equation, the need for management of the maintenance effort increases. The labor, tools, and parts needed to fix a problem on a piece of equipment will all be assembled into a work order document. That work order still needs to be scheduled at the time those workers, parts, and tools are available.

This just scratches the surface of what could be on the work order. To that could be added the job steps needed to solve the problem for that particular piece of equipment, safety procedures to keep the workers safe, etc.

While Merriam Webster defined maintenance as keeping property or equipment in good condition, it is interesting to note that the maintenance department often does things that might not be considered maintenance. Is the assembly and disassembly of equipment maintenance? In at least one industry, aviation, according to regulation, it is not. Maintenance workers still end up doing a lot of disassembly and assembly. Janitorial services can be the same way, where some types of cleaning can be considered maintenance, and others not under our tax laws.

Before leaving the subject of maintenance management at a large corporation, it should be pointed out that even large corporations, much like human beings, can have bad traits that lead to poor performance. One common problem is a mismatch of too many tasks to be done and too few resources to do them. Inventory can be managed poorly, with too much on hand causing cost problems and too little causing timeliness issues. Management can also buy equipment with lots of bells and whistles that are hard to maintain. Workers can lack training.

Another common problem is a lack of leadership. While working with the support staff at a maintenance management software company, staff members would mention two reasons that maintenance software fails. One is that upper management does not find a dedicated “champion” to implement the CMMS. Then the CMMS can fail quickly. A second reason for failure happens when a champion is found and initially succeeds but then fails to spread knowledge and access of the CMMS to other people in the organization. The CMMS can succeed for a while but ultimately will fail once the champion leaves the company or maintenance department.

So, how does this apply to maintenance management at home? Well, the same definition of maintenance management stated before applies here: maintenance management is maintenance performed by the right workers using the right tools and the right parts at the right time. For a lot of homeowners, this won’t matter if they for the most part outside companies do their maintenance for them. They still need to hire the right outside companies. They still need to buy an easy house that is easy to maintain: the same is true of the equipment inside of it. They also need to be their own maintenance management “champion”. A neglected house can fall apart quickly.

The following is a list of some of the home maintenance software packages that can aid the homeowner in these tasks. Note that none of these packages are either endorsed here or rejected here. The purpose here is to list some of the functionality commonly found in home management software.

Chart of Home Maintenance Apps

Overall, these packages emphasize To-do lists for routine maintenance. Preventive maintenance seems to be limited to performing maintenance on a schedule rather than according to meter or gauge or another method.

The financial aspect of owning a house (increasing its value, preparing for sale, maintaining financial records) seems to take higher priority in home management software than you might find in a corporate CMMS. In the corporate world, this analysis might be done in another software package than the CMMS.

Lawn maintenance, garden maintenance, and vehicle maintenance software does exist but normally does not seem to be part of home management software. They each seem to have their own niche.

There are other types of software packages that have somewhat the same purpose as home management software. One category is software that helps homeowners locate contractors to perform maintenance on their houses. “Angi” is one well-known example of this. “Home Binder” does this as well, and also emphasizes record tracking of household financial documents and maintenance records as well. Again, the goal is to increase the value of the home.

Smart home technology may also dramatically change home maintenance management. Smart devices include refrigerators, stoves, exercise equipment, etc. Here is one list of what is popular in the year 2021: “The 15 Best Smart Appliances For Your Home in 2022“. Some of these appliances can have their “health” monitored by sensors that detect and report electrical, moisture, ultrasonic, vibration, and temperature abnormalities. The article, “3 Smart Maintenance Solutions to Get More from Asset Data,” describes how this works in some detail.

It turns out that Maintenance Management for the home turns out to be important enough for a category of software to have developed around it. This software as one would expect is much more rudimentary than what is found at the level of the corporation. However, the world of maintenance management for the home is changing dramatically and becoming much more sophisticated as smart home technology becomes more ubiquitous. It will be interesting to see how home maintenance software and smart home technology compete and/or cooperate with each other in the future.

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