Ohio State University facilities executives are busy at work preparing campus for a whole new round of students. Record-high temperatures might have some wishing for a longer summer, but for folks like Carl Bowman, assistant director of operations — custodial services at Ohio State University (OSU), the return to school is top of mind.

Summer is the time Ohio State facilities operation gears up for the return of more than 64,000 OSU students in the fall. It's a busy time, Bowman admits. One made even more challenging this year as Ohio State University moves from a quarter-based academic year to a semester-based one.

"Normally under the quarter system, I would have until the middle of September to get ready for the next class," he explains. "This year, we have to be ready by August 16th."

Crunch time has arrived for his resident housekeepers and Ohio State University facilities management staff.

Bowman directs custodial services for Student Life Facility Operations, where he oversees the care of the Student Life Facilities including residence halls, dining halls, recreation centers and the student union. He has 12 building managers and a project manager supervising a staff of 135 full-time housekeepers and two area managers in the residence and cleaning halls; four building managers and a staff of 45 housekeepers on the facilities management side; and a two-person team managing carpet care for all facilities.

This Ohio State facilities staff must ready 62 buildings and clean 350,000 square-feet of carpet before students arrive in the fall. And it's a feat that couldn't be achieved without constant communication, Bowman admits.

"We started talking about this short summer due to the transition from quarters to semesters two years ago and we made sure we had everything in place from employees to supplies," he says. "I met with every area manager in May to make sure they had a plan. We've stayed on top of the change through constant talk and making sure we have got each others' backs."

While readying Ohio State University facilities for the return of students takes precedence today, the work doesn't end once classes begin. The Student Life Facility Operations team sums this up by saying they strive to: "provide the highest quality services and facilities for Ohio State students, staff and guests that promote safe and healthy environments for living, learning, working and relaxing, while promoting quality opportunities for staff growth and development."

This operation meets these goals through an advanced work-order system, cutting-edge technology, a highly developed sustainability program and a thorough staff-training program.

In Working Order

Promoting safe and healthy environments starts with providing clean, well-maintained facilities, then offering students and staff an effective means of reporting issues as they arise.

The OSU custodial team maintains a high level of responsiveness through an elaborate work-order system utilizing AiM (Intelligence within Asset Management) software. This computerized maintenance software enables staff to track work orders and respond to them within 24 hours.

With this system, maintained by Dan Hausman, assistant director of Student Life operations, if a student has a concern about a room, whether it's regarding maintenance, housekeeping or another issue, they can call into the service desk or report it online, and the system automatically dispatches a work order to appropriate personnel. Everyone on staff has smartphones that enable them to log into their e-mail to see open work orders in their areas.

"When a work order comes in, the building manager gets it and assigns it to a housekeeper on that specific floor," Bowman explains.

This housekeeper checks on the problem and either corrects it immediately or reports why it wasn't addressed. The work order then gets pushed into the supervisor's e-mail, where the building manager can sign off on it, if the problem has been rectified, or check into its status, if the work hasn't been completed.
"If a work order isn't addressed, it cannot be closed out," Bowman explains.

The system, he says, has greatly improved responsiveness. The staff responds to 90 percent of the work orders within 24 hours and averages just 72 hours to close them out.

RONNIE GARRETT is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.

For more information about the products and technology used to maintain Ohio State University, click here.
For information about the sustainability initiatives in place at Ohio State University, click here.