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East Zone trial rates E for encouraging

Four months into the trial of a redesigned repair and maintenance service in East Campus buildings, reports from team members and customers are encouraging.

"They responded quickly with a very positive attitude, fixed what needed to be fixed -- and looked around for other things that needed to be fixed, like they said they would," one customer reported. "I think the pilot [program] is working well."

"We're finding that the new system is even more effective than we imagined. There is a real improvement in the way we deliver services," said Joseph Gifun, manager of building maintenance and co-manager of the pilot program.

As an example he cited a pump malfunction in the Wiesner Building. A team member working on another task noticed that a nearby pump was making an unusual noise. He called a mechanic on the team who replaced the pump before anyone in the building was aware of a problem, avoiding a serious disruption in building activities.

"One of the principles of the redesign is that the cost savings and improvements to the process should lead to more work being done in-house, rather than by outside contractors." pilot co-manager Dennis Baron added.

Both agree that the pilot has shown there is the potential for more renovation/maintenance work to be done by Physical Plant. "The increased sense of ownership and accountability for our work raises morale," Mr. Gifun said. "Getting to know our customers and improving their satisfaction adds value to what we do."

Acknowledging that there are also "bumps in the road," Mr. Gifun said the voice-mail tree has not been satisfactory to either customers or the team and will be redesigned to answer complaints.

Team members are enthusiastic about experiencing the team concept firsthand. Maintenance mechanic Ed Dimond said that bringing together workers from various trades in one shop has been one of the keys. "Communication between the team members has been great, and that means communication between the team and the customers has improved, too." he added that customers have been happy with the response time on service requests. All customers receive a response within four hours, with most jobs being completed within 24 hours.

"If ever there was a skeptic about this, it was me," said Bob Zarella, an electrician and team member. "But working in the team has shown me that it works well, a lot better than I expected."

Eupremio Piccinonno is a former grounds worker who applied for one of the general maintenance mechanic positions on the team. This position allows licensed members of other trades to concentrate on trade-specific repairs (such as plumbing or wiring), while the general maintenance mechanic carries out customer requests for small repairs, like replacing light switchplates and light bulbs, adjusting doors, patching small holes and touch-up painting. Creation of the position was a product of the redesign team.

"It's working beautifully," said Mr. Piccinonno. "And in Plant, the central shops have been really supportive. There hasn't been a request made that they have not helped us with." Another redesign element is the role of the central shop as a place to call for backup on jobs the zone team cannot accomplish alone.

The current pilot precedes an effort to divide the campus into several zones, each served by a repair and maintenance team that is housed in that area of campus. The pilot will be completed in January, with deployment of additional zone teams beginning by mid to late February.

Questions regarding the current pilot or issues related to the redesign may be directed to Joe Gifun at x3-4740 or

Acknowledging that there are also "bumps in the road," Mr. Gifun said the voice-mail tree has not been satisfactory to either customers or the team and will be redesigned to answer complaints.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 13, 1995.

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