University of Melbourne finds trusted partner in Hirotec

13 May 2015

A cautious decision by the University of Melbourne to engage an interstate mechanical services company to maintain its air conditioning systems and associated infrastructure, has delivered dividends for the world-leading University, while also providing Hirotec with a significant entre into the Victorian market.

At the time the relationship began in 2006, Hirotec enjoyed a large presence in New South Wales but only operated a fledgling operation in Victoria, undertaking some minor work with another prominent university.

Almost 10 years on and several contract renewals later, Hirotec has become a trusted partner of the University of Melbourne, according to Associate Director of Campus Services, Colin Reiter.

In his role with the University, Mr Reiter is responsible for overseeing operations and maintenance of all buildings and grounds including security, cleaning, mail and maintenance of infrastructure estimated at $2.8 billion.

Mr Reiter was one of the people initially responsible for selecting Hirotec in a public tender process that attracted 18 other businesses. According to him, the initial contract was formulated to ensure sufficient workload to justify having a dedicated team on site at the University, so that response times could be dramatically reduced and valuable scheduled maintenance could be carried out throughout the year, thereby improving plant reliability.

“We needed the scope of work at the University to be large enough for Hirotec to have a team and supervisor here, all day, every day,” Mr Reiter said.

“There are now a core group of five or six technicians on site and they can scale up or down depending on the workload. Responsiveness is really important – I don’t want to be calling someone in an outer Melbourne suburb when we need help. I need to know there’s a team here that can act quickly.”

Being a University with a history dating back to 1853 – and one that has grown rapidly over ensuing years – the different ages of buildings, spread across several sites provides many maintenance challenges for the University and partners such as Hirotec.

“There are buildings of varied ages, lots of different types of mechanical equipment from distinct countries of origin and infrastructure that have been built by various people as part of different projects,” Mr Reiter said.

Having these complexities provides an even greater impetus for a dedicated on-site team, according to Mr Reiter.  

Having a nucleus team of technicians at the University, Hirotec has built up a knowledge base that is regularly shared with Mr Reiter’s department, allowing the insight to be used in future decision-making processes.

“Hirotec is coming back to me with advice about items we should be repairing and other equipment that we should just replace from an efficiency standpoint,” Mr Reiter said.

As well as undertaking preventative maintenance, Hirotec also does reactive work in the event of an unexpected system failure, and also scopes and advises us on future upgrades and installation of new equipment.

Along with providing excellent service and advice to the University of Melbourne with regards to its air conditioning infrastructure, Mr Reiter said that Hirotec has introduced several initiatives to increase efficiency, which has ultimately saved the University hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The first of these initiatives was a recommendation for the University to adopt a Reimbursable Work Limit (RWL) contract.

“In 2012 we were reaching the end of the initial contract period and I asked all our service providers for feedback on what had and had not worked,” Mr Reiter said.

“Hirotec came back to us with a RWL concept. They had some experience with this and based on analysis of the previous year’s expenditure, they’d calculated that if we had RWL on this site over the last 12 months, we would have saved $300,000.

“We then applied the concept to our other service provider and the combined savings were even greater.”

Mr Reiter said he looked forward to a continued long-term relationship with Hirotec.

Over the past five or six years Infrastructure Services has received $61 million from the University to address backlog maintenance to upgrade aging plant equipment.
As well as upgrading existing equipment, new systems are required in areas where there is currently no air conditioning.

“Just within our lecture theatres and seminar rooms we’ve identified that we need an additional $11 million just to install air conditioning where it currently doesn’t exist.

Sometimes during hot weather we get called to buildings to investigate why it’s hot, and the problem is that there’s actually no air conditioning in the building,” Mr Reiter said. “There’ll be plenty of work for Hirotec here and we’ve also strongly recommended them to other organisations.”

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