Two Clipboards and Some Sticky Notes

Two Clipboards and Some Sticky Notes

I was checking in at a well known mid-market hotel property in Washington DC recently and while at the desk waiting for my turn, I noticed some very interesting things.

On the front desk were 2 clipboards and some sticky notes. There was also a stack of Maintenance Request forms that are preprinted with 2 copies so one can record a maintenance request. It appeared that the first clipboard contained notes from the General Manager’s daily walk-through of the property. The second was holding a stack of completed Maintenance Request Forms. The sticky notes were hard to read but appeared to be scribbled notes about items requiring maintenance that were taken by front desk staff.

My first impression was “Wow – this really can’t work for this hotel.” But as I thought about it, I realized that this system is what many facilities use for maintenance tracking. The place was not falling apart, so this system must work somehow – but does it really? What’s being left on the table?

Things the hotel was leaving on the table (the short list):

  1. No way to put all these work requests on one unified list.
  2. No clear view of what is currently planned for that day or week.
  3. No feedback to the requestor as to the status of the request.
  4. How do they prioritize?
  5. How do they plan work – reactive or proactive?
  6. What kind of metrics are available to management?

Many would say that this is probably the most cost effective way to perform maintenance services on this 250-room hotel. I agree that most properties look at maintenance as a cost center and not a profit center. However, I believe this view is changing and the new trend of maintenance as part of revenue and profit generating activities will continue to evolve. An important part of this evolution will be management’s ability to generate reliable and consistent reports that prove this view of the maintenance function. This represents the most significant challenge to the maintenance community because in order to provide the management team with the data they need, the business of maintenance needs to adopt a more “systems oriented” approach and to use technology to do this.

Maintenance has always been a “do more with less” type of department, operating in the shadows and most often not celebrated for their incredible efforts. When I talk with maintenance managers about their day-to-day issues, they most often mention lack of experience with computers and staff turnover as the two biggest barriers to implementation of systems to help their operations. When I talk to their bosses, they say that they need more and better data to help them manage their business – BUT (and there is always a BUT) the maintenance department never seems to be able to use the system management selected for them.

These are the problems BuildingDNA was designed to solve! The first problem of lack of experience with computers is going to change over time as everyone learns how to use their smartphone. In the meantime, we made BuildingDNA very easy to use. In fact, our development team has the challenge of ensuring that any new applications or changes meet this simple goal – anyone who can use a smartphone can learn 80% of the system in 30 minutes or less.

The turnover issue has many root causes, most of which we cannot solve. However, having a system in place will help ensure continuity of operations when someone leaves. Combine that with an easy-to-learn and use system for new hires and you have minimized some of the impacts of high turnover.

In many situations, the most significant problem arises when a system is selected by management for maintenance to use because it will generate the information needed by management. This is solving the problem the wrong way around and it will lead to failure most of the time.

The best way to solve the problem is to find a system that the maintenance staff will use easily and consistently. I have found over the years that people who work with their hands in buildings tend to be different from the analytical staff in the office (and I realize this is a generalization but I have found this to be true in the majority of cases). Typically they don’t “see” the building as numbers on a spreadsheet, instead they can visualize almost every aspect of the building.

For this reason, we built our platform on maps and floor plans. This highly visual interface is very easy to use and resonates with most facilities maintenance staff. For a maintenance system to be successful, it must deliver value to maintenance staff during their day to day activities – and it has to provide them with an intuitive interface. Once the system is “maximizing wrench time” it will provide the data stream and analytics needed by the office staff. This is a WIN/WIN that will help transform a maintenance team from a cost center into a profit and brand support center.

About BuildingDNA (www.BuildingDNA.com)

Founded in 2009, Denver-based BuildingDNA provides powerful software Command Center solutions for Smart Buildings, Business Continuity Management and School Emergency Operations Planning. Its recurring revenue software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering combines highly visual, dynamic indoor digital mapping with a “big data” consolidation platform. As the first building Command Center to integrate live feeds from sensors, BuildingDNA is empowering the Internet of Things (IoT) in commercial facilities and schools. The company has proof of concept and is revenue-generating, with 300 buildings and 11 million square feet of commercial space already on the platform.