What Is Killing The First Post-Opening Engineering Managers

I spoke to a couple of Chief Engineers who joined the resort about 15 months after opening. They have replaced Chief Engineers who were working in the pre-opening period and brought the resort to the first months of operation. What is the reason for their replacement? Mostly to reach one goal - to activate proper preventive maintenance of the resort. Four years ago, I was in the same situation. The lack of preventive maintenance of newly opened resort is like the killer of first post-opening Engineering Managers. Because it can make even the best Superman-like managers and their performance look weak and useless.

I clearly remember my first interview with the General Manager of Velaa Private Island Maldives. The meeting was roughly a year after the resort was opened. GM was scared about the property condition, Engineering department work, and engineering operating and payroll expenses. The reason was clear to me since I arrived at the resort - after only a year of operation, the property was in terrible condition. Sudden breakdowns were happening every day, paint was peeling off, wooden and even stainless-steel parts looked like they were five years old. However, the worst of the worst was the A/C units - GAS was leaking, water was dripping down, and the performance of A/C units in almost every room and villa went sharply down.

Three reasons why Engineering Managers fail

The Engineering team was quite big, and they were running around the resort trying to sort out all requests and issues like headless chickens. I don't blame them - the resort was in such a bad condition, that all the requests had the highest urgency. When I was chatting with DoEs, many of them were mentioning a similar situation after about 15 months of resort operation.

Why almost everyone has the same experience? I believe it is simple - lack of preventive maintenance within the first couple of months of resort operation.

Is that it? Mystery solved? Well, only partly. One question that was bugging me even more and was more complex to answer was: If you are spending millions of dollars building a resort, marketing it, finding the best staff, how is it possible that preventive maintenance is so clearly overlooked?

In my experience and the experience of my colleagues, there are 3 main reasons that cause the lack of preventive maintenance:

1. When the resort is opened, it is not finished.

2. The engineering team is more focused on finishing the project tasks which weren't completed before opening the resort.

3. Preventive maintenance has low priority because during the first few months of operation it seems to be not important.

Good, so what now? How can we fix or at least mitigate the problems?

The project is unfinished upon opening the resort

This is quite straightforward. The project has a deadline for opening, and the owner doesn't want to postpone the opening ceremony. The opening of the resort means that first paying customers arrive, which of course is the main goal of the owner. I am sure that nobody of us has ever seen opening the 100% finished resort. That means some compromises need to be taken before the opening - either the resort is opened with some tasks being still on the to-do list, or parts of the resort remain off-limits for the guests.

Engineering operating team focuses on finishing the project

The main workers of the Engineering team are usually known a couple of months before opening. However, the entire team is never set up before opening. Many project people, who work on building the resort, stay as members of the Engineering operating team because it is expected that they have the best knowledge of the resort and will be the best at taking care of it. In my opinion, this assumption is a big mistake. The project people and people who should look after the operation of the resort are two groups of people with very different skills sets and motivations. That's why I recommend to strictly split the building and operating team of the resort. In this way, the project team is finishing all unfinished project tasks, and the operating team can entirely focus on the standard resort operation and maintenance tasks.

Low priority on preventive maintenance

The first resort Engineering Manager is responsible for creating of all preventive maintenance plans as recommended by the suppliers and using their common Engineering knowledge and practice. The first EM needs to create a register of all property assets, which should include at least asset's details, description, related documentation, and specific preventive maintenance plans. The register should be logically structured because it becomes the source of all needed information for the entire Engineering staff. Moreover, it serves as a sort of passport of every asset, where you can easily see its history and use the information to plan future maintenance.

Get to know you're A/Cs!

If you create the asset register and grant access to the entire Engineering team, then preventive maintenance tasks will pop-up as individual tasks and they will not disappear until your team fulfills them. Thanks to this system, you will start to naturally focus on preventive maintenance from the beginning of the resort operation. You can easily present preventive maintenance needs to your GM, and your GM will understand your needs, when it comes to staff, assets and more. If presented with this data and explanation, he would surely understand and accept your request to split the project and operating team.

The informatization and computerization of the Engineering operation help to keep all information about the resort's assets quickly accessible to any Engineering staff. It helps you to present the needs of preventive maintenance to your GM who will begin to understand the Engineering needs and support them.

This system truly works, and it brings benefits to everyone - resort owner, GM, Engineering Manager, and entire resort staff.


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