Whether you’re servicing your security system or resurfacing your parking lot, regular maintenance is part and parcel of a self-storage facility’s success. After all, delaying repair and maintenance can end up costing much more in the long run. Not only can expenses escalate when work is postponed, but customers who want to store their belongings in a clean, safe environment may choose to do business with another provider if they believe that site is better-run.
That said, keeping up with maintenance can be a challenge. While most self-storage operators recognize the importance of facility upkeep, they’re understandably looking for ways to reduce spending. The problem is managing work orders manually is a bit like piloting a plane without instrumentation or even a windshield—you’re flying blind.
The good news is modern facilities-management (FM) technologies and service automation are making it possible to manage repairs and maintenance in a way that provides unprecedented levels of visibility, data and control. These tools also make it possible to track all work orders centrally in real time, regardless of where in the field they were created. Let’s look at some of the innovations in FM technology and the benefits they can yield for self-storage operations.
Mobile technology is one of the easiest ways to add efficiency to FM processes at self-storage facilities. Nearly everyone has a smartphone, so it makes sense to use that tool or an equally portable tablet. Here are three ways to leverage mobility:
Work-order management. This is normally a time-consuming and detail-oriented task, but mobile technology means you can manage work orders from anywhere. Facility managers can create new orders while walking the property, schedule or assign orders with detailed service requests, and easily identify duplicate orders. A bonus is the ability to add photos for vendors that illustrate and effectively communicate issues.
Asset management. Self-storage managers need to keep detailed equipment records including warranties, repair histories and maintenance costs. As they walk the property, they can scan tagged assets such as light fixtures, unit doors or HVAC systems, and upload their notes. The ability to record standardized facilities-condition data in real time on a smartphone increases accuracy and efficiency. Another benefit is corralling all this information about key assets in one place, ensuring accessibility and continuity.
Contractor management. Security is paramount for self-storage facilities. Managers need to know who’s on the property conducting repairs or maintenance at all times. From an accountability perspective, it’s important to know a contractor or technician spent the appropriate amount of time to address a work order. Mobile tools provide visibility into the comings and goings of service providers at your properties. In addition, Mobile-based identification requires them to prove their identity, purpose and qualifications before entering a worksite. Managers can view this information from anywhere, at any time.
Business profitability requires close attention to detail, reduced inefficiencies and informed spending decisions. Self-storage operators can gain insight to all these areas with FM technology, specifically business analytics. Adopting technology that captures data and generates insight is necessary to achieve better results. You can use FM software to support the following analytics-driven initiatives:
- Track spend data over time: FM software can aggregate repair and maintenance expenses across locations and develop spending insights based on trends and outliers. Managers can use this information to create preventive-maintenance calendars that assist with budgeting and planning.
- Identify areas for potential savings: By properly tracking expenditures—from replacement costs to regular service calls to repair jobs—managers can begin to identify areas to target for increased efficiency and cost savings. This is especially helpful across multiple locations where employees at the facility level may not have had visibility previously.
- Make data-backed spend decisions: With the right data on hand, managers can be empowered to make smarter spend decisions. FM technology can offer actionable recommendations based on a combination of data and machine learning. This can be applied to short- and long-term planning to optimize budget and resource allocation.
Self-storage operations vary in size, number of locations and ownership types, but no matter the organizational structure, they can all benefit from efficient FM processes. Look for software that simplifies routine workflow for facility managers, such as scheduling preventive maintenance, tracking work-order status and invoicing, and managing property assets. Leveraging technology that streamlines and automates the following tasks can free up valuable time, ease frustration and drive efficiencies:
- Scheduling: Preventive maintenance is a critical piece to extending an asset’s useful life, but tracking and scheduling these tasks can be complicated. FM software is designed to simplify this challenge by allowing a company to manage scheduled maintenance at all locations through a single dashboard.
- Tracking asset management: Greater visibility into property assets, including their status, repair history and required maintenance, gives facility managers the ability to streamline FM processes and manage risk by staying ahead of necessary upkeep and repairs.
- Invoicing: Connecting invoicing and work-order management to FM software can streamline this duty. By managing workflow from proposal to invoice within a single system, managers can reduce invoice and processing costs and shorten approval time.
There are very few industries in which site maintenance and business success are so intertwined. Modern FM solutions can provide greater visibility into your self-storage systems, assets, vendors and historical data. Rather than viewing these tools as a financial burden, you should see them as a means to identify savings, drive efficiencies and improve the customer experience.
Tom Buiocchi is president and CEO of ServiceChannel, which provides facility managers with a single platform to source, procure and pay for repair and maintenance services from commercial contractors. He has more than 30 years of experience leading growth companies in technology and energy services. To reach him, call 800.508.6695; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit servicechannel.info.