Q: I am in the design phase of a project that will consolidate three buildings into one. I need some guidance in where to locate our maintenance department. Do you have any suggestions?
Answer: There are many agencies that offer guidance on what and how certain things should happen within a maintenance department. OSHA, EPA, FDA and USDA come to mind, but none of them address the issue of the optimum physical location of the maintenance area(s) within a facility.
When considering where to place the maintenance department, functionality and efficiency are good criteria to consider as a starting point. The following criteria can be used to help define the initial, ideal location:
- Locate it as close as possible to the operations with the greatest demand and urgency for maintenance's service.
- Locate the parts storeroom adjacent to the maintenance area to reduce travel time.
- Pencil in an area that includes at least one outside building wall for equipment/supply deliveries, preferably with a loading dock.
- Locate it away from office and administrative functions to minimize the potential for noise issues.
- Locate it as close as you can to welfare areas (break rooms, locker rooms, etc.) to reduce travel time.
Using these guidelines, the location of the maintenance department would reflect its status as the most important function in the facility. Of course, that is not always maintenance's status.
You now must determine the hierarchy of functionalities within the facility. Ask yourself, "What is the main purpose of the building?" If the answer is, "Manufacturing flavors/extracts," for example, then production quality and efficiency should be the highest priority. Manufacturing will have custody of the producing assets for the greatest amount of time, typically 70%-75%. As a result, manufacturing should have the highest priority when it comes to its real-estate needs. Determining the time of custody of producing assets for each function in the facility (sanitation, warehousing, administration, etc.) is necessary to determine each function's priority relative to space allocation. For maintenance, the time of custody of the producing assets is typically 15 percent or less. This helps set the priority of the maintenance function and will guide the decision-making when two areas are competing for the same real estate.
Now, as a team, you can negotiate with other stakeholders to reach a mutually beneficial design that will result in the best solution for all.