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Repair and Maintenance redesign 'tweaked' after feedback

Redesigns to improve a work process at MIT are not carved in stone. In fact, they should be reviewed periodically and tweaked to ensure that continued improvements are sought and that customers' needs are being met.

The Repair and Maintenance area of Facilities is a case in point. The redesign of this service, which was implemented more than two years ago, divided the campus into five geographical zones, with a resident team of various tradespeople in each zone. These zone teams correct problems in the following kinds of systems: electrical, heating and cooling, plumbing, structural and mechanical.

The five zones are supported by central Repair and Maintenance teams in Facilities, which are also responsible for larger repairs, maintenance of central systems, and some new construction and renovation work. (For a listing of the services the Department of Facilities provides and the ways customers can contact them, see box below.)

In the last year, a Repair and Maintenance focus group met with their internal and external customers to hear feedback on what's working and what could be improved. Responses from customer surveys also were considered before some changes were made in the redesign.

For example, the original redesign called for eliminating the FIXIT telephone line for reporting problems. However, customers clearly indicated they didn't want to lose that option, so Facilities has decided to retain the FIXIT line (x3-4948) and now routes those calls to the Repair and Maintenance support group. In addition, customers said they wanted the ability to speak to someone directly when they call their local zone, and that option has been added to the voice-mail tree.

The preferred method for community members to use in reporting a non-emergency repair and maintenance problem or request for service is the web form at, explained Steve Miscowski, manager for Repair and Maintenance. This is because the web form automatically produces a work order in the job-tracking system called Maximo and sends it directly to the local zone.

Unfortunately, many customers are communicating with their local zone team via e-mail rather than the web. This means that their request has to be manually rekeyed into the Maximo system by someone in central Facilities before being sent to the local zone. This adds a step to the process that can slow response time.

The second-best method (and always the way to report an emergency) is to call the zone team.


Other ways in which Repair and Maintenance is improving the redesign involve better communication with customers. Cards listing information about each of the zone teams (and other services of Facilities) have been updated.

In addition, doorknob tags have been produced that will allow tradespeople to quickly indicate the status of a repair to customers. For example, if a part is needed to complete the repair, the trade person can indicate on the doorknob tag that the part has been ordered and the repair should be completed by a particular date. Repair and Maintenance recognizes that customers appreciate knowing the status of their requests.


The amount of time it should take for Repair and Maintenance to initially respond to a request for service also has been clearly identified. Emergencies mean that mechanics or plumbers will stop whatever they are doing to respond. Emergencies include the obvious like floods, fire and toxic gas alarms, but also problems in computer rooms and classrooms.

Priorities, which include problems like leaks, banging pipes and toilet malfunctions are responded to as the next job. If there are multiple emergency or priority situations, these are handled in the following order: life safety first, then animal safety, computer rooms and floods.

With jobs that are considered by the customer to be "normal" requests, Repair and Maintenance will initially respond within 24 hours. Initial response time to lower-priority work, such as adding something new like bookshelves, will be within one week.

Another aspect of the recent review involved developing clearer procedures for handling work orders. For example, Repair and Maintenance team members are now monitoring job requests three times per day (at 7am, noon and 2:30pm). This change has resulted in more effective use of the second and third shifts.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 9, 1998.

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