Preventive Maintenance and the Perennial Lowest-Bid Contractor: The Math, the Methodology, and Why Y

To anyone who’s ever signed a contract, common sense should dictate that choosing the lowest-bid contractor for preventive maintenance comes with a good measure of risk. With HVAC equipment accounting for more than 50% of construction costs and about two-thirds of all primary energy consumed in commercial buildings, decision makers should be aware of the financial perils that come with cutting corners on PM. That starts with understanding how low-bid contractors arrive at their too-good-to-be-true pricing, and how saving a few dollars at the outset will end up costing a bundle in the long run.

As the saying goes, time is money, and chronic low-bid PM contractors tend to shave costs by cutting back on time allotted to do the job right. Technicians who are pressed for time spend more effort carrying out basic belt-and-filter changes and less time inspecting systems for warning signs that lead to expensive emergency service calls and equipment failure. Also, “going in low” is S.O.P. for many dishonest PM contractors who bank on recouping the money on additional work when subpar PM ultimately leads to failure. It would be easy to solely condemn the contractor for all of the above, but the reality is that owner complacency and/or inattention is often what allows these poor business practices to continue unchecked.

Other places where lowest-bid preventive maintenance contractors save money is on tools and technical training. Technicians who are not equipped with the know-how or necessary equipment can’t easily spot existing or potential problems, and wouldn’t have the time or capability to fix them properly even if they did. Also, these contractors often don’t provide sufficient support and supervision, and technicians are left to manage time and make judgment calls they are not necessarily equipped to make.

Whether poor PM is rooted in contractor dishonesty or merely the typical shortcomings of a skimpy contract, such practices will never be conducive to developing a trusting, long-term client/HVAC contractor relationship. Simply put? Low-bid, bare-bones PM will always cost more in emergencies, failures, downtime, and aggravation, whereas good PM more than pays for itself every time.

About PJM

PJM Mechanical Contractors, Inc. is a multi-faceted mechanical contractor providing construction and installation, service and maintenance, and design/build services in a comprehensive range of mechanical disciplines that include HVAC, plumbing, controls, refrigeration, custom metal fabrication, piping, fire protection, and backflow preventer testing. PJM primarily serves clients in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, healthcare, institutional, and other various commercial and industrial sectors.

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