What is the difference between facility management and facility maintenance?

The difference between facility management and facility maintenance is very similar to the difference between a project manager and a computer programmer.  While the project manager may define the scope and take responsibility for the overall project, the computer programmer is the one who ultimately is responsible for the quality of the code and the creation of the product.

This example does have some flaws. For instance, facility management systems encompass more than facility maintenance. Facility maintenance may overlap with management, particularly in situations where there are a lot of heavy machines, employee turnover, or other disruptions to the status quo. 

A brief round of definitions may help to clear the air and pin down what each of these roles is and their responsibilities. This lays the groundwork for an in-depth analysis of facility management and maintenance. Finally, we will cover the common skills needed for these positions.

Let’s get started. 

Some common industry definitions

Facility management involves individuals who keep any given facility operational, efficient, and profitable. It supports the workers and equipment of the facility. In addition, facility managers plan for the future of the equipment, workers, and buildings for the facility as a whole.

Ultimately, facility management is the oil that keeps a facility running smoothly in the short and the long term.

On the other hand, facility maintenance involves the employees who keep a facility maintained, operational, and efficient. Typically, this is accomplished by maintaining the facility as a whole and the equipment and tools that make it work. Facility maintenance goals may vary from the rest of the facility's goals and focus on keeping everything running smoothly day by day. 

Facility maintenance could be compared to window washer fluid that keeps the facility clean and functioning. 

The end purposes of facility maintenance and management are fairly similar. However, their scopes differ widely, particularly in how they go about achieving peak facility optimization, efficiency, and profitability. Let’s move into how the scope of each one differs and what they cover in practical, quantifiable terms. 

What’s the scope of facility management?  

The scope of facility management is best thought of as the intersection between the facility’s people, planning, and progress. An easy way to think of it is three circles overlapping at one point. Facility management takes care of all three aspects.

Facility management is all about planning ahead and making informed decisions about the present. This might sound trite to some, but it’s a great way to distill the wide and varied scopes of facility management. Some of the things that a facility manager might cover include:

  • Keeping the facility up to date on rules and regulations
  • Forecasting production in unusual circumstances
  • Crunching data to inform executives about potential gains or losses in the coming quarters 
  • Supervising multiple teams
  • Managing budgets
  • Drafting reports from past and present data 
  • Creating proactive facility plans
  • Advising on the direction that the facility should take

That being said, here are things that are not within the scope of facility management. 

  • Directly working with or on equipment
  • Maintaining the facility on a daily basis
  • Leading small teams on specific, manufacturing tasks or project

The scope of facility maintenance 

When most people think about facility maintenance, they may think about cleaning, inspections, and other such janitorial duties. These are a part of most maintenance. What does facility maintenance specifically cover?

Facility maintenance includes, but is not limited to, maintenance of equipment, princesses, tools, rooms, areas, and everything that makes up a facility. Its primary focus is on keeping the status quo at an acceptable level of operation in order to facilitate the facility’s daily operations. 

Facility maintenance tasks do not require a change in space use, classification, or other 

Specific facility service requests also fall under facility maintenance. These requests can be defined as any maintenance request that falls outside the regular scope of maintenance that again, does not require a change in space use or classification. It also must not require professional engineering. These requests can include:

  • Minor upgrades to walkways, pavement, and outdoor landscaping
  • Some installations of new lights and wiring
  • Painting, carpeting, and other cosmetic updates to spaces
  • Cleaning and supporting spaces for extra events 

Depending on the circumstances, facilities may outsource their maintenance. Specific service requests are the easiest to outsource, but some companies make the decision to outsource their facility maintenance and management to third parties. 

This decision is commonly made when companies decide to focus on other aspects of their business, such as production, efficiency, or simply consolidating their workforce into a specific type of employee. If there isn’t much need for heavy management or maintenance, it makes sense to outsource these tasks to trained professionals who can come in on an “as-needed” basis. 

Here at UpKeep, we cover facility maintenance of many different types and industries in our online learning center. However, the skills, talents, and certifications that facility managers need are largely uncovered. 

Here is a brief overview of the most common skills that are needed to be a facility manager and how to learn if potential employees have them or not. We’ll also cover how best to learn facility management and some easily-accessed courses that can be taken by company employees and candidates.  

Common skills needed to be a facility manager  

All facility managers need to have some basic knowledge, experience, and skills to keep everything under control. These include:

Strong interpersonal skills

Perhaps the most important skill that any facility manager can have is an interpersonal approach to problems, situations, and issues. Since the vast majority of facility management is balancing equipment, building, and employee needs, interpersonal skills can make the difference between a well-running facility and chaos. 

Project management experience or expertise

A facility manager faces down a multitude of projects on a daily basis. Every issue, challenge, or opportunity can be looked at as a problem or as a project. Project management skills smooth the path and enable different departments to collaborate together.

Cross-networking abilities

Similar to project management, cross networking is essential to a facility. From the first employee clocking in on Monday morning to the Sunday night maintenance team, the facility manager must know what is going on and when activities are taking place. They must also facilitate communication between a different range of teams. Make sure that your facility management team is aware of these challenges and is equipped to navigate them. 

IT savvy

Facilities are becoming more and more automated. Facilities should expect to see the rise of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. A basic understanding of IT and facility-specific systems is important when someone is trying to figure out what is going on.

Emergency reflexes

A lot of things can go wrong in a very short period of time. Managers must be able to react quickly and calmly in order to bring everything and everyone back on board from a wide range of setbacks.

Management mindset

All of the above skills are great, but they need something to pull them together into a cohesive whole. In a managerial position, that is a certain type of mindset. The best managers are able to see the whole situation and make educated decisions accordingly.

Facilities management certification

A facilities management certificate can and will prepare you for a career as a facilities manager in many fields, including real estate, property management, energy development, and construction management. It covers many of the above skills and enables you to move forward in your career. 

With the successful completion of the right training program, you will be well on your way to joining a community of facility professionals. There are many paths to consider once completing a facility management course. Whether it is energy management or facility operations, the opportunities are endless.

Let’s move into how these professionals get their start in facility management and maintenance. 

How to learn facility management 

Every facility manager has to start somewhere. Enrolling in coursework or degree programs that lead to professional development is a great place to begin. To get you started, here are the top nine certification programs that can be taken online and from the comfort of your home.  

1. LinkedIn Learning: AutoCAD Facilities Management. 

This course teaches maintenance technicians about CAD, 2D drawing, site planning and computer-aided facilities management. It’s easy to work at your own pace and teaches students how these computer tools can help you improve your facility management skills.

2. IFMA Essentials of Facilities Management 

If you’ve recently started your facilities management career, you may benefit from this three-workshop series by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA). Each workshop offers 10 modules, which cover the basics of facilities management concepts and the skills that you will need in this field. 

3. Red Vector 

This organization has hundreds of online courses that cover all aspects of facilities management. You can learn about improving safety and compliance, boosting productivity, and many other topics that will help you advance in your career. Both certification and continuing education hours are available for students, as well as professionals looking for a fresh start outside a traditional schooling environment.

4. Arizona State University Continuing Education 

As part of this program, ASU offers non-credit certificate programs that can be completed online. Learn about critical facilities management topics from trained instructors as well as from industry experts. Students have the option to prepare for the IFMA certified facility manager exam by taking this course.

5. Ferris State University 

This is a great option for maintenance technicians. Students can earn a facility management certificate through this program based in Michigan. Instructors cover programming, facility planning, project management, operations management, and budgeting. This course also prepares students for the IFMA certified facility manager exam.

6. University of California at Irvine 

This division of continuing education offers an online facilities management program certificate. Three courses cover the fundamentals of facilities management, design and space planning, and leadership. Individual courses are available for no credit as well. It’s a simpler start than some of the other courses, which is great for the beginning student. 

7. University of Kansas, Division of Continuing Education 

This program offers an online certificate for managing maintenance for buildings and facilities. Classes are designed for facility, property, or maintenance managers. Topics covered include lean maintenance, cost-saving projects, and work order system management.

8. 360 Training 

Online licensing and certification in building maintenance and management cover preventive maintenance, HVAC maintenance, and facilities management. For maintenance or facility technicians who are looking for a way to level up their marketable skills, this is one of the best places to start. 

9. State University of New York 

SUNY works with Mohawk Valley Community College to offer an associate of applied science degree in the School of Facilities Management. The degree is equivalent to an on-campus associate degree or technical certificate and can be completed online.

In conclusion

The difference between facility management and facility maintenance is the difference between the short-term and long-term view of your facility as a whole. Management takes over the larger picture while maintenance keeps everything running smoothly on a daily basis. 

Many professional paths in both of these fields can lead to the same end: facility management. For people looking to take the next step in their career, many classes exist to get you started. 

And it all starts with a careful look at your facility: What do you need? 

This article was updated with more details in May, 2020

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