Business Insider

What is total cost of ownership and why it matters to your facility

Jim Butler, a Ferguson author

by Jim Butler


It’s widely known that using energy-efficient maintenance products in a facility can reduce environmental impact, but there’s another reason for facilities to focus on sustainability: their bottom line, especially when it comes to labor costs. Choosing the most energy-efficient products for a facility goes beyond just buying products that say “green” on the label. Instead, facility and operations managers should take a holistic approach to sustainability by considering the total cost of ownership, or TCO, when selecting products to incorporate in their day-to-day operations.

According to the National Apartment Association, maintenance and repair costs account for 6% of operating costs in mid- and high-rise apartments and 9% in garden-style apartments. Fortunately, you can lessen the blow of these maintenance and repair costs through the labor savings yielded by products with a lower TCO. By paying attention to TCO instead of up-front costs, facilities can improve their bottom line by maximizing labor resources while lowering their environmental impact.

How to calculate TCO and reduce waste in your operations

When trying to determine how much a product will actually cost, it’s not as easy as comparing one purchase price to another. The upfront purchase price does not factor in the amount of energy the product itself requires in order to operate, or the amount of labor associated with installing or maintaining the product. Opting for products that require less maintenance can help to reduce these expenses.

The factors that determine a product’s TCO can vary from one type of product to another and from one facility to another, but here’s an example of what calculating TCO could look like:

Total cost of ownership equals purchase price plus replacement costs plus energy used plus labor costs
Total cost of ownership = purchase price + labor costs + energy used + replacement costs

By breaking down costs through the examination of indirect expenses, it’s easy to see that a product with a lower up-front price could actually cost more over its lifetime of use if the energy and labor costs associated with it are significantly more than another product with a higher up-front price. This basic TCO formula can be applied to a range of facility maintenance products. It’s safe to say that light bulbs, thermostats and cleaning supplies are included in facility operations, so we will use those as examples to illustrate why TCO is important to take into consideration.

TCO and light bulbs

Lighting costs are a significant operating expense for facilities, and the type of light bulbs used in a facility directly impact that expense. Today, there’s plenty of light bulb options to choose from. And while it might be tempting to buy the light bulbs with the lower up-front cost, which are often the standard incandescent bulb, the cheaper option will likely cost significantly more in the long run. Here’s how the average energy costs, lifespans and energy usage breaks down by light bulb type according to ENERGYSTAR.GOV:

total cost of ownership of light bulbs

When examining the information in this chart in terms of TCO, it’s apparent that LED light bulbs are more energy efficient. Not only do LEDs use a fraction of energy compared to the other light bulb types, but they also cost less to operate and last years - if not decades - longer than the other bulbs.

Something not apparent from this chart are the hidden costs of using bulbs that need to be changed more often than LEDs. For example: If one bulb needs to be changed 15 times more often than another bulb, that’s 15 times more that a maintenance worker will have to spend time climbing a high ladder. Not only does this take more time, it could lead to greater chances of worker injury. Considering labor costs and worker safety, it’s clearly worth it to pay for the LED that may cost more up-front than the bulb with the shorter lifespan and cheaper price tag. Explore other reasons why it’s worth switching to LED light bulbs in your facility.

TCO and thermostats

Heating and cooling costs are another significant operating expense for facilities. Fortunately, that expense can be managed by installing the right thermostats. For facility managers who are trying to decide whether it’s worth upgrading to smart thermostats, considering TCO can help with that decision. Because smart thermostats have been on the market for a while now, manufacturers now offer them at different price points that allow them to compete with some standard programmable thermostat models. Depending on the brand, smart thermostats can save anywhere between 10% to 20% or more in energy costs when installed correctly. Given that the amount of effort required to install a smart thermostat would be roughly the same as installing a standard programmable thermostat, labor costs wouldn’t vary significantly. So in terms of TCO, it is worth it to invest in smart thermostats for the overall energy savings that they yield throughout their lifespan.

Looking for smart thermostats but not sure which one to pick? We can help. See how to choose the best smart thermostat.

TCO and cleaning supplies

Because cleaning products are something that would be on a standing MRO supply order and are used regularly by maintenance staff, the indirect costs associated with these products have a more apparent impact on labor and operating costs. For example: It’s common for diluted cleaners to have a more appealing unit price than concentrated cleaning solutions made from quality ingredients. When it comes to effectiveness, however, the diluted option can end up straining resources. Not only do concentrated cleaners come in less packaging that would otherwise end up in a landfill, but they can also help your maintenance staff to work more efficiently. A high-quality cleaning solution will cut the amount of time and effort it takes to clean a soiled surface compared to a diluted solution. By opting for the concentrated cleaner, you can maximize labor hours.

Check out other tips to help you implement a sustainable cleaning system in your facility.

In summary, there is not only a financial savings through reduced labor expenses but also an environmental benefit to having a sustainable facility. By examining TCO, you can find ways to reduce your environmental impact while lowering your labor and operating expenses. Discover how Ferguson Facilities Supply can help you keep your facility running at full speed.

Jim Butler, a Ferguson author
Jim Butler

For over two decades, Jim has lent his expertise to help customers achieve success across the facilities supply industry. He has a proven track record of driving results for a variety of customers.