Budgeting and Maintenance: Plan For The Long-Term, Avoid Unwanted Surprises

Budgeting and Maintenance: Plan For The Long-Term, Avoid Unwanted Surprises

Refrain from making software and firmware updates (unless they are fixing a major bug) prior to a big event. Too often, such updates before an event might lead to an unfortunate result, like "all my show files are gone now."

Budgeting and maintenance these are exciting topics, aren't they?

Not only is it important to have a maintenance plan, but you also want to track the work that's been done.

Being tech people, most of us just want to get what we want, when we want it, and we expect it to work all the time!

Unfortunately,, it doesn't work that way in the real world, as I'm sure you know.

We are required to not only budget, where we can make the initial equipment purchase, but we also budget finances, time, and people to maintain it.

When we are putting together an audio, video and/or lighting system, it is important for us to recognize that it isn't only a concern to know what the budget is to acquire the product, but more importantly, to have a good sense of what it will cost to own over the equipment's life expectancy. It is important to know that you must plan for maintenance up front.

If you ignore keeping your AVL gear in tip top shape, it tends to turn against you at the worst possible moment. Gremlins tend to show up at night and melt wires, blow lamps, clog filters and fans, and do all sorts of other horrible, rotten things to us.

A good plan, though, can keep these mean-spirited ghosts out of our equipment!

Therefore, a good solid maintenance program for your gear should be preventative. When you are regularly checking up on things, there are significantly fewer surprises. We have a saying around E2i "nothing ever breaks until 8:45 on Sunday, when service starts at 9." Meaning, equipment only ever fails us when it's critical that it works, which is during service times.

Our goal with periodic maintenance is to catch potential issues before they occur on their own at the worst possible moment. Periodic maintenance should be done with plenty of time to fully inspect the equipment and allow adequate time for any parts to arrive for a successful repair, if needed, so you are in top working order for the event. This means we don't want to do a round of maintenance and inspections the week of Christmas!

As a side note, let us also refrain from making software and firmware updates (unless they are fixing a major bug) prior to a big event. I cannot tell you the number of calls we get from folks who "just wanted to update to the latest and greatest," before an event and some catastrophe transpires, like "all my show files are gone now." Let's save those for the downtimes like January 2nd!

Periodic maintenance will find things like cooling fans that are going bad. Belts in moving head fixtures that are worn and cracked. A projector lamp that's older than you thought. A fader on an audio desk that isn't moving as well as the others, and on and on.

Having a scheduled periodic maintenance program will allow you to respond to these issues with plenty of time, to appropriately react and ensure your equipment is working perfectly. It protects your investment over the long-term and it also protects your warranty. It is possible for a manufacturer to reject your request for warranty service, if it's obvious you haven't done proper maintenance on the gear that you own.

Not only is it important to have a maintenance plan, but you also want to track the work that's been done. E2i Design has actually developed a free tool called PM Tracker, available at pmtracker.e2idesign.com.

The PM Tracker tool allows you to enter your equipment by serial number, make and model and allows you to keep track of what service you have performed on which pieces of equipment. It will also send you reminders about services that need to be performed based on manufacturer recommendations. You can have multi-site as well as multiple users who can all access the information in real time. And if you aren't sure how to do your own maintenance, the team at E2i can teach you.

In addition to having a good maintenance program in place, you need to budget for it. Just because you can afford to buy a piece of gear, doesn't mean you can afford to own it.

Equipment requires maintenance. Maintenance costs time and money. So you have to plan.

We advise that you set aside 5 percent of the purchase price in year one. Then 10 percent in years two and three. New equipment comes with a one-year warranty and often a two-year warranty, so that means you will save in years one and two, by not having to pay for warranty repairs in those years that are no longer covered in years four and five for service.

Beyond that, you should begin planning your replacement budgets as useful life of gear is usually five to seven years. That doesn't mean it will drop dead in its fifth year, but you should be thinking about the replacement costs vs. repair costs at that time.

You also want to budget your time. Are repairs something you want to handle yourself? Do you want to train your volunteer teams to perform maintenance? Should you hire someone to come on-site and perform the maintenance for you? Each are valid questions and should be considered in your budgeting and planning, to ensure you can properly keep up with the requirements needed to keep your equipment in top shape.

If you need help in sorting out what the best possible scenario is for budgeting and maintenance, shoot me an email and I'd be happy to help!


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