Facility Maintenance & Staffing Challenges

DPA Insights

Do I have enough people to maintain my facility?

By Steve Mueller, Director of Operations, Daniel Penn Associates, LLC

If you manage your facility’s maintenance organization, you have probably wondered how many maintenance workers you really need. Here are a few observations and tips that can help you choose the right number of maintenance professionals to fulfill your organization’s requirements.

Paths to StaffingDo I have enough people to maintain my facility?
There are two main paths to follow that can help you determine your unique maintenance staffing requirements:

1) Use benchmarks from the database of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and other similar professional organizations. (If your organization is not a member of IMFA, you should consider becoming a one to have access to their many resources.) Benchmarks can include staffing averages per square foot, per hospital bed as well as various financial ratios.


2) Use a staffing model that is based on your workload demand and skill requirements.

In either case you will also have to work within your own budget constraints and the available labor pool.

Benchmarking provides a quick indication of where your maintenance division stands on staffing levels vis a vis your peer group. But first you have to recognize your peer group. Sounds easy, but you’ll have to know all the criteria that are used to differentiate one facility category from another to make sure you get an ‘apples to apples’ comparison. This not only includes obvious criteria such as square feet, hospital beds, number of rooms, etc. but even down to utilities, power plant, how the facility is used and much more.

Choosing the Right Maintenance Staffing Model
Maintenance staffing models can be used to solve staffing for a known work load. Inversely, they also have the capacity to determine how much work you‘ll be able to accomplish with a given staff size. To find out how many people you need given the work you know you have to do, start with the most important workload, such as Preventive Maintenance (PM) and Predictive Maintenance (PdM), by quantifying the workload in labor hours for each craft or skill set for a typical week. You may have to balance the annual workload of your PM/PdM schedule to get the average but that’s a smart thing to do anyway.

Next, factor in the amount of indirect time you expect will be required each week on average. Indirect time is paid time that is not spent working such as training, absenteeism, meetings, vacation, loaned out, etc. Now, the sum of your most important workload and your expected amount of indirect time can be subtracted from the hours you are paying your staff to be available for work (number of staff times the hours in a work week). The remainder of your staff’s hours represents their capacity for relieving a backlog of less important work. A backlog of two to four weeks is considered healthy so if the remainder is less than two weeks of work, you may be overstaffed. Conversely if the backlog is greater than four weeks of work, you may need to add staff.

If your facility maintenance organization provides high priority “Prompt Response” service such as in a healthcare facility, you will need to gather preliminary data for staffing this level of service, such as:

  • The volume and frequency of high priority service calls
  • The length of time used to complete a typical high priority service call
  • The desired response time (the time frame within which the service call should be completed)

A good work order management system should be able to help you gather this information.

Use the data you’ve collected to determine the number of labor hours required to provide the desired level of service, by shift and by skill, for a typical week to set up your response staff. This will need to be refined over time. Your staff can be set up as a separate shop or part of existing shops depending on volume. High priority service can be paired with other work such as proactive inspections or ‘rounds’ between service calls to improve utilization. A work order system that supports a dispatching function can deploy service staff in a timely manner.

Here are just some of the data points Daniel Penn Associates uses to build maintenance staffing requirements:

Planned Tool-in-Hand Hours per Week

  • Routine PM/PdM Hours
  • Emergency Hours
  • Capital Improvement Hours

Availability per Week

  • Straight Time Hours
  • Planned Overtime Hours

Indirect Hours per Week

  • Paid Lunch
  • Vacation
  • Absence
  • Training
  • Meetings
  • Man-hours Loaned Out
  • Other as appropriate

These are general guidelines. We encourage you check out the resources available through IMFA and investigate what would be best for your organization.

What are your most challenging maintenance requirements and how are you calculating the staffing levels needed to meet your organization’s needs? What other benchmarks do you consider in your maintenance staffing?  Leave a comment below!

Daniel Penn Associates Director of Operations Steve Mueller provides adept analysis of work and information flow, as well as the assessment of management and work procedures. Steve has additional expertise developing staffing and resource requirements models and is accomplished in delivering management skills training and one-on-one coaching.

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  1. David.Herrera says:

    What maintenance staffing levels are needed by square footage in an ambulatory clinic with three satellite clinics. Presently we have only one maintenance man, who does electrical, mechanical, plumbing and cosmetic finishes. Ball park figure as to how many maintenance personnel are based on square footage.

    Please respond

    • Daniel Penn says:

      Here are the most recent (2010) IFMA/ASHE staffing benchmarks for healthcare facilities of all types:

      · 1 electrician per 213,000 GSF (gross square feet)
      · 1 plumber per 484,000 GSF
      · 1 controls and low voltage per 600,000 GSF
      · 1 HVAC and Central Plant per 283,000 GSF
      · 1 carpenter per 496,000 GSF
      · 1 Generalist per 124,000 GSF
      · And then you may also need locksmiths, painters, stationary engineers, administrative functions, and, of course, management.

      These requirements were filled either fully in-house or partially contracted out. As a rule, staffing should be based on the requirements for PM and regulatory work for each skill/trade and then some allocation of labor time to address the backlog of work requests (this backlog should be about 4 week of work). You would also build in travel time to the various locations and also to get materials, etc. Without knowing the size of your facility and the PM and work request backlog, I cannot estimate the appropriate staffing. That said, I would not be surprised to hear that your one maintenance worker is extremely busy and sometimes hard to find. The benchmarks can give you an idea of the typical mix of work so you can begin to calculate how you compare. We use an established staffing model for maintenance staffing that addresses all of the necessary factors for direct and indirect labor and I encourage you to use more than just a benchmark to develop your own staffing requirements.

      Does this help?

      – Steven Mueller

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