KCF Technologies is located in the heart of State College, PA in close proximity to the Penn State University. As a resident here, it's hard to ignore the chain link fences lining the streets while crews construct a new Health and Human Development Building, renovate the Intramural Athletics Building and South Hall Dorms, and complete a massive addition to the Hetzel Student Union Building on campus just a few blocks away. With only a few weeks until classes begin, construction crews and engineering firms are urgently trying to complete deadlined projects before thousands of students return for the fall semester.
This is a scenario happening all across the United States, as universities spend billions to expand their campuses with new, state-of-the-art buildings or to revitalize their outdated buildings. For the lead maintenance engineers in charge of overseeing these expensive building commissioning projects, the process is daunting with critical details often overlooked. One Lead Engineer at Penn State recently told us about a frustrating, reoccurring problem associated with multiple construction projects - watching expensive machines mysteriously fail within days of the bond and warranty expiration.
We've all been there. We purchase a new appliance, for example a refrigerator that carries a 1-year warranty. It always seems the refrigerator conveniently waits one year and one week before breaking. Then, we are stuck with the burden of financing even more money to repair, with manufacturers and installers in the clear.
Fixing a refrigerator is one thing, but what do you do when you're the lead maintenance engineer stuck with repairing components of your university's newly installed multi-million dollar HVAC system? Most universities reach the end of their warranty period with little or no accountability strategies in place to assess machinery health or detect early failures upon startup. In reality, approximately 30-40% of those new machines will fail due to a variety of factors, and repairs will fall on you, the lead maintenance engineer, not the installer.
So what can universities do to save that repair money? Some universities are becoming proactive, using predictive maintenance strategies to monitor their machines upon startup, well before the warranty expires. With early failures detected, installers can repair potential problems eliminating needless spending that will occur after the bond period. Universities are also accumulating data from different projects to assess and "score" installers to determine which contractors are efficient with their installation efforts. By identifying the best installation partners, lead maintenance engineers can alleviate headaches and cut needless spending.
So the next time you pass a college campus and see those chain link fences and construction cranes, maybe you'll wonder if the maintenance engineers are aware this problem exists....and that there is an easy way to fix it.