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The Maintenance Toolbox

The challenge of self-storage maintenance isnt the actual tasks but how to manage them. From a managers perspective, nothing is more important than keeping track of what needs to get done. Thats why lists are the best tools for timely maintenance.

Tool 1: Procedures List

Whether your facility has 1,000 rooms and is part of a big chain or 100 rooms as a stand-alone property, you should review maintenance expectations ahead of time and include them in a procedures list. If units are to be swept when vacated, trash emptied routinely, and driveways and common areas continuously clean, then it should be in writing with a schedule assigned.

If you have a staff, a schedule helps run a tight ship by making expectations clear and providing clear guidelines. If youre a one-man show, the schedule is there to remind you what needs to be done and when. Further, it sets the foundation for a maintenance section in your operations manual.

Tool 2: To-Do List

The second tool out of the box is the to-do list, enumerating tasks not necessarily routine (e.g., the hallway light needs replacing; trash needs to be removed from unit 16). We all notice things when opening or closing, showing units or doing a walk-through, but then forget about them. Write them down and keep this list where youll see it often, such as on a clipboard hanging in the office or sticky pad in your golf cart.

Listed items should be differentiated between short- and long-term maintenance items, especially if outside maintenance staff is hired but wont recognize high-priority tasks. For example, discarding a pile of trash left behind by a customer takes priority over repairing a banged-up partition. Keep a master copy of the to-do list on your computer to update it regularly.

Tool 3: Vacate Checklist

Keeping units in tip-top condition is easiest when theyre vacant. To keep them clean and well-maintained, youll need a vacate checklist. Check for the little things that make a difference: floor swept/vacuumed, tracks vacuumed out, door-spring adjustments, miscellaneous repairs. Not using a checklist is like being a waiter who takes orders without a pad.

Sometimes the order comes out just right; other times, French fries are forgotten and Pepsi is brought instead of Sprite. Its hard to remember everything! The vacate list clearly maps out duties for maintenance staff, who initial and date each item as its completed.

Tool 4: Maintenance Log

Every self-storage manager needs a maintenance log to track routine tasks. Some things need attention weekly, others monthly or yearly. Carts, dollies, elevators, lifts, exhaust fans, HVAC equipmentall need inspection and maintenance at key points. You can try to remember the last time you oiled the golf cart, or even leave it up to the staff to take care of, but youll never know for sure. The log ensures it gets done on a timely basis with accountability. Make certain the log tracks computer and other office-related maintenance including back-ups, disk cleanup, cleaning disk drives, etc.

Any list to keep maintenance organized and on task is worth incorporating into regular management operations. Managing a self-storage business is time consuming and hectic. Tracking and monitoring maintenance is one aspect that is often overlooked. Do yourself a favor by filling your maintenance toolbox with a complete set of lists and your site will always be in top form. 

Jim DiNardo heads up J. DiNardo Consulting, of Reading, Mass. He has more than 16 years of self-storage experience, having previously served as partner and operations manager for The Storage Depot. Mr. DiNardo was also co-founder of the Massachusetts Self Storage Association, serving as president from 1998-2002. J. DiNardo Consulting performs self-storage feasibility and market studies, analyzes facility operations and performs general business consulting. For more information, call 781.944.9848; e-mail [email protected]

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