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Maintenance and Facility Industry Trends in a Post COVID-19 World

For many of us, ‘normal’ in the post COVID-19 world may never look the same again. 

At UpKeep, we know that the maintenance and reliability industries are no exception. Things are going to change – that’s a certainty. The question is, how can we anticipate and prepare for the changes to come?

In our webinar, Maintenance and Facility Industry Trends in a Post COVID-19 World, I shared 7 trends we’re currently observing in the world and my predictions for how these current trends will affect the future of maintenance. Then, I share thoughts on how we can all best prepare to meet these predictions head on. You can watch the full recording here:

Below, I’ve recapped this session and provided further reading. 

I know many of you will have different predictions about the Post COVID-19 reality with ideas how to prepare. My hope is that this list serves as a jumping off point for important discussions that we, as an industry, must start having. 

If you have any theories or advice, please share it on LinkedIn and tag me at Ryan Chan, CMRP so I can join in the discussion. 


Without further ado, here are the 7 Trends and Predications I have for the Post COVID-19 World!

#1: RETHINK SUPPLY CHAINS

We’re in unprecedented times – our economy at a standstill, our borders are closed, and trade restricted.

We’ve focused so much on ‘just in time manufacturing’, which promotes specialization and reduces lead time, but also relies on unhindered transportation and logistics. 

With one piece of the supply chain broken, it can throw the entire system into chaos, creating massive waste.

And that’s exactly what is happening right now. 

We’ve seen thousands of gallons of milk being dumped, onions piled five feet high because of no place to send them, and General Motors shutting down their factory because of a single missing part from the supply chain. 

Companies right now are revisiting their supply chain to learn what it will take to increase their response rate in a post COVID-19 world.    

We’re seeing the effects of a broken supply chain right here in California, where UpKeep’s headquarters is located. 

In Los Angeles alone, the unemployment rate is estimated to 32% in May.

With that many people out of work, demand for food banks are at an all time high, and food banks in Van Nuys and San Diego have already run out of food. 

On the flipside to this however, farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, 2 hours North of us, are tilling fresh lettuce back into their fields since they have no place to sell it.

So how does this happen?

This happens because the grocery store supply chain is so disconnected with the restaurant supply chain that they don’t speak to one another. 

So much so that farmers who sell to grocery stores are thriving, but farmers who distribute to the restaurant supply chain are literally throwing away their produce because they can’t sell it due to low demand.

So low, that farmers that sell fresh produce to those restaurants can’t even afford to ship it to a food bank in need.

It’s an absolute disaster.

My prediction?

Companies will find ways to reduce risk in fragile supply chains and create better disaster recovery programs, which will ultimately enable companies to pivot faster during a crisis. 

We’ll see an increase in demand for reducing dependencies on multiple vendors that can cause big rifts in our supply chain. 

And we’ll be OK paying a slightly higher price to reduce the risk of catastrophe that a broken supply chain can have. 


#2: INCREASE IN REMOTE WORK

The second trend I foresee is the increased necessity of allowing remote work whenever possible. This is especially true for blue collar workers, like those in our industry, that have been slow to adopt remote work previously. If COVID-19 has proven anything, it’s that every workplace must consider how work could continue if people couldn’t be together. While that question seemed impossible for many before, this pandemic has proven just how creative we are as an industry and how this transition is possible, even incrementally, through innovation and technology. 

For instance, remote condition monitoring allows us to accomplish the same amount of work with fewer people on the factory floor.

On top of that, we’re all going to see and increase in automation to enable lower density production, distribution, retail and delivery options. 

An example would be in manufacturing plants where we currently have people who walk the facility and track mileage readings, meter readings, temperature settings, and more. 

And we know that with COVID-19, there will be a limit to the number of people who can be on the production floor due to density restrictions. 

IoT and sensors are going to enable us to remotely monitor our equipment from anywhere. My prediction is based on how IoT spend will change going forward:

IoT sensors will be used to automatically send data to the cloud, so individuals can monitor it from a safe distance. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a five times increase in spend for IoT technology over the next 5 years.

So we have to ask the question, what can we do about it?

Start looking into technology that enables you to monitor your equipment from afar. It will happen. We’re going to have more automation, more robotics, and I’m excited about this change. You’ll want to replace manual work with the technology that enables your employees to work remotely and be productive even when they’re not on the production floor.


#3: DOCUMENT LESSONS LEARNED

The third trend I want to talk about is going to be the rise of digital documentation.

We now understand the importance of backup plans, contingency plans, and disaster recovery plans. In the future, every business will need to dedicate bandwidth to thinking through “the worst-case” scenario and make a plan just in case. On top of that, we need a better, more accessible place to store all of this information so there’s no confusion or downtime between ‘disaster’ and ‘recovery’.

For example, due to COVID-19, some industries saw an unprecedented increase in demand for consumer goods items like bread, canned goods, and toilet paper 

However, they then had fewer employees who were able to help them meet this demand because they were physically restricted with social distancing.

A clear cut disaster recovery plan and documentation prepared in advance will help companies pivot faster. Through detailed documentation, fewer employees will work at the plant but they’ll still have the knowledge of the full team to support them.

Therefore, better digitized documentation will be critical to businesses to continue.


According to a survey we did in 2019, only 39% of maintenance managers are utilizing a CMMS to manage maintenance tasks. 

The others were using filing cabinets and tons of paper documentation that can only be read by on-site.

Here’s my prediction:

Companies are going to adopt tools like UpKeep where they can collaborate seamlessly and document digitally. Have you started documenting your processes? Have you started thinking through other worst-case or ‘what if’ situations for your businesses? And, do these live in a place where your co-workers could easily pull it up anywhere? If not, now’s the time to start.


#4: EARNING TRUST WILL TAKE TIME

In order for people to feel comfortable entering a facility in the future – we will need to focus on sanitation. 

Qualtrics, a survey software company, recently surveyed 2000 American residents and found that 66% (2 out of 3) are hesitant about returning to work. It didn’t matter their age, from Boomers to Gen Z. It was clear that workers of all ages were nervous about returning to shared work spaces. 

It’s not enough to up your sanitation protocols, you also have to make sure those are communicated to all parties.

Here’s my prediction: 

Workers are going to want more space and demand a bigger focus on sanitation in their facilities. They’ll want regular updates on how often their workspace is sanitized and more frequent audits. 

Same goes for customers in the facilities management space. 

Everyone, no matter their role in your ecosystem, will be wondering ‘am I safe to enter this space/am I safe using this product?’ When your customers or employees have sanitation top of mind, how do you plan on providing those updates consistently? What cadence makes the most sense for your specific business? Make a game plan now and you won’t be caught off guard.


#5: INTRODUCTION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES

If you haven’t already, you’re going to see an increase in technology that supports the touchless, remote-friendly world. Technology that enables collaboration and productive work without being there in person will become an essential part of every team’s digital toolbox.

As more companies choosing to adopt software solutions – especially those that enable us to do our work better, more productively, and remotely – I recommend you get ahead of the curve now and learn how to navigate these technologies. Consider, how could a tool like Slack or Zoom replace an in-person or on-site aspect of your role. 

I predict that the blue-collar industry is going to see the biggest increase in adoption over the next 5 years for remote collaboration tools. How can you be a leader in this adoption process for your business?


#6: DEMAND FOR MAINTENANCE, FACILITIES, AND SANITATION WORKERS 

For trend #6, I think we’ll see an increase in demand for maintenance, facilities, and sanitation workers.

With a massive spotlight on the frontline employees due to the push for better sanitation and facilities management to earn back trust of their tenants, we think that trade schools will become even more popular than before. Hopefully, this influx of new demand will also lead to new innovations in the blue-collar workspace with more companies seeing maintenance and reliability as a critical component to all businesses. 

Here’s my prediction:

There are almost 1.5M general maintenance and repair workers in the US with an average hourly rate of $18/hour. The BLS predicts that this group of workers will grow 8% by 2028. 

But these are pre COVID19 figures. I think that percentage will double. That’s right, double, due to the push for better maintenance, sanitation, and repair work.

What can we do now? Double down on tip #3 and get your training materials documented and ready now. With fresh talent, you’ll most likely be asked to take on new responsibilities that spring up from the new post COVID-19 reality. Get ready to free your bandwidth and make training easy and efficient. 


#7: BUYING BEHAVIOR WILL CHANGE

Our final trend is that buying behavior will change.

The economy will take time to recover, in the meantime buying behavior will change. Petty cash/discretionary budget will be significantly reduced and only essential purchases will be approved.  

Forbes recently published this graph in the presentation. It’s an example of the V shape, the U shape and the L shape recovery models and the path Forbes assumes some companies/industries might follow. 

Take, for example, the world of online cinema. 

Universal reported that Trolls: World Tour scored the biggest opening day and opening weekend for a digital title. FandangoNow reported that Trolls: World Tour is their most pre-ordered title ever and was the top-selling release on all three of its first three days. It fueled what turned out to be the service’s biggest total weekend in their short history. 

With that, here’s my last prediction:

The economy will come back but there will be a bigger emphasis on technology. Whether it’s streaming service, like the Trolls example, or remote monitoring, consumers will continue to purchase but their purchases will be different.