If you’ve noticed an uptick in EMCOR repair requests for your post office recently, you’re not alone. Many postal lessors have seen a spike in repair requests, often for items they aren’t used to hearing about from their facilities.
At least part of the answer is “Gemba.” Commencing in 2017, the Postal Service embraced a workplace improvement initiative referred to as a “Gemba” Assessment. “Gemba” is a Japanese leadership technique that requires managers to walk through a workplace to identify opportunities for improvement. The Postal Service concentrates on evaluating what they refer to as “6S,” which is Safety First, Sustain, Simplify, Set in Order, Shine and Standardize. The Postal Service’s goal for these “Gemba” walks is not just to improve operations but also how the post office appears to employees and customers. Beginning earlier this year, the Postal Service has increased its focus on completing “Gemba” checklists, aiming to complete 100 “Gemba” assessments per week.
On the facility side, the “Gemba” Assessment evaluates building conditions with a focus on customer-facing items like the lobby and retail area, the front of the post office and parking lot conditions, as well as employee-only areas like the rear dock area, utility closets, restrooms, breakrooms, flooring, and windows. It is our understanding that the initial “Gemba” walk is conducted by completing a checklist that is used to input data into a national reporting system. Any deficiencies noted during the assessment are then entered as work order requests into the Postal Service’s FSSP system, which prompts EMCOR to send repair requests to the landlord.
As a result of the “Gemba” initiative, landlords have seen an increase in notices from EMCOR regarding maintenance requests to improve the interior and exterior of the facility. EMCOR estimates a thirty percent (30%) increase in maintenance notices since implementing the “Gemba” Assessment, though not all notices refer to “Gemba” as the trigger for the request, so the actual number may be much higher. “Gemba” related EMCOR requests may come from various sources beyond the local Postmaster, including a Safety Inspector or an Area Maintenance Technician.
How will the “Gemba” Assessment affect you as a postal lessor? Each GEMBA assessment can create multiple maintenance requests, which are often sent to the landlord simultaneously. Typical maintenance requests are broken windows, window screens missing, stained ceiling tiles, damaged light lenses, toilets leaking at the base, railings to be painted, parking lot striping, chipped floor tiles, or cracked concrete. If the requested repair isn’t clear, contact the facility Postmaster or Clerk-in-Charge to obtain clarity on the issue.
As with any maintenance request, review the notices and compare them to your lease; many landlords have reported receiving multiple notices for items that are the Postal Service’s responsibility, not the lessor’s. If you aren’t responsible, request an exclusion from EMCOR and continue to follow up until you have received confirmation the maintenance request has been excluded.
For those requests that are a landlord’s responsibility, it’s important to be cognizant of the Postal Service’s expectations for timely repairs. Can you complete all maintenance requests in thirty days? Does your budget have reserves for multiple unexpected repairs? If not, request an extension from the EMCOR representative. Provide written updates to EMCOR to ensure they do not switch the maintenance issue to the enforcement division. Maintenance issues that are switched to enforcement are more expensive to complete, and the Postal Service may require reimbursement or a rental deduction from the lessor in the future. Be diligent and know your options.
Overwhelmed with maintenance costs? Exhausted from attempting to get a response from the Postal Service and EMCOR? We understand your frustration. Our experienced team is always available to assist fellow postal landlords and help you understand your options. Please click here to reach out and learn more.