maintenance nightmare

Avoiding maintenance nightmares

If you had to do the maintenance, would you have chosen the fire or security system you have?

Once a building has been refurbished, the project finished and the building is in use, its the people charged with maintenance who will find out what its like to live with the installed systems.

My experience is that new installations is a particularly competitive market place in which to operate, I’ve lost jobs on price where my competitor is installing for less than my cost, and have seen that more often than not the client takes the opportunity to ‘save’ money, but what’s the real cost?

The real cost will materialise over the coming years and you’ll find its not that evident in the immediate period following the installation; i.e. within the defects period as its not difficult to get ‘snags’ looked into, the real issues begin after year one when the maintenance manager or team start to find the real issues, which are;

Typical ‘fails’

  1. Think about it, you get what you pay for; if the installation is poor, then time consuming but vital things are missed such as cable readings at first fix stage, the implications of which will cause odd faults or worse false alarms for years, the things we see upon taking over maintenance are cables laying on ceiling tiles – as they are quicker to install if you don’t bother with drilling and clipping correctly, we see cables connected to building earth which will mean that other electrical system will affect your system. If you ask the ‘cheap’ installer about this they are hardly going to say “what do you expect for the money” however this is the reality of going ‘cheap’.
  2. You have had a closed or managed protocol system installed which practically means over the lifetime of the system you’ll pay more for service and parts, often paying a great deal more than you saved on the original works, and the thing that is often overlooked is the extra time that dealing with systems like this will take from you, which has a cost. This cost can be as much as 10 times the cost of maintaining an ‘open’ system.
  3. You have equipment installed in places that anyone in their right mind can see if going to cause problems to be maintained correctly, typically too high or in an area where access is difficult or perhaps where you can’t get to in normal working hours, putting up the maintenance cost and likelihood that things will get left as they live in the difficult list of things to do pile.

Good news! You can avoid this, my basic check list is below, but the thing that I would advise you to do more than anything is consider your purchase in the context of the lifetime cost of the system, not on getting a bargain now as you will already know that’s not how it works.

Check list

  • Make sure you have a detailed specification, put together by an experienced and qualified consultant (get references) – This is worth every penny
  • Make sure you are involved with what you want from the system, involve your maintenance team, the security team, local authorities and any other stakeholders – They will probably know more about the ‘pitfalls’ than you, ask for the the issues they have or have had with current or previous systems
  • Take your time making sure the specification is correct and that your installer understands how you work and manage out most of the potential problems
  • Find out what the lifetime costs are for this system, how long the warranty lasts for and what the ongoing ‘predictable’ costs are.
  • Get references for the installer and make sure you have copies of accreditations and suitable insurance that actually covers what they are doing for you

You can avoid these ‘nightmares’ but if you find yourself living with one, then look into solutions as they are there, there is technology on the market that will more or less solve any issue you have.

If you would like any specific support on fire and security systems then I am happy to help.

Paul Field – Head of long term solutions for WFP Fire & Security


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