Preparing for Problems
Creating a “Maintenance Information Center” will help you and your staff resolve crises easier.
You’re at dinner with friends and enjoying a wonderful evening out when suddenly the waiter approaches you and informs you that you have an urgent call. It’s from your front-desk manager, who has been trying to reach you because of a broken pipe that is flooding the facility. Your evening is shot, and so are the next few days trying to recover from the damage.
Could all of this have been prevented? Maybe the maintenance staff needs to be on-hand 24/7? Maybe they were on hand, but a plumber was needed. Maybe the managers need to know how to fix anything that goes wrong.
Or maybe you need to reevaluate your method of managing. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but even the best of managers can come up short on the subject of maintenance. We can have the best personnel and the best contacts in the industry, but without a proper emergency response procedure in place, we will fall victim to the unexpected. The fact is, even with a great emergency plan, you will still have issues.
There is a solution. Start by creating a complete “maintenance information center.” If you don’t think you need this, ask yourself, “If a maintenance person on staff were to leave suddenly, how much information would go with him?” If the answer is, “any at all,” then you need a maintenance information center.
Essentially the maintenance information center is all-encompassing. All of the manuals, charts and specialty tools are in this location. Start putting this department together with copies of all the manuals. Note that you want to make copies, but keep the originals in the main office.
Every piece of machinery, equipment or appliance has a manual. Usually, these manuals are locked away and unavailable to your maintenance crew. Set up the files in the order of a combination of alphabetical and usage. As an example, if your freezer goes on the fritz, the manual and any other information would be filed under “F” for freezer, but also under “R” for restaurant. It is important to make sure that the manuals are available in all the languages that are used by your employees.
Charting Your Club
The next most helpful thing in case of an emergency is the implementation of charts. Charting your club can be broken down into three sections. One chart would cover the electrical. Large buildings can have many different panel boxes housing breakers for different sections of the building. Knowing which breaker covers which switch and which plug is not only helpful, but also can be a life-saver. Tag the breakers so that any employee knows what breaker affects what area of the club. You must be specific; there is no room for error. They sell systems that can help you trace the outlets and switches to the proper breakers.
Now chart your plumbing. There are probably many valves that operate within your water system. If a shower breaks, do you have a valve that would allow you to turn off that shower, or the shower area? If a main pipe were to break, would your staff know how to turn off the water to the entire facility? How about the fire sprinkler system? Do they know where the alarms are, and the valves that need to be turned off once the fire is put out?
Plumbing also includes what is going out of your club. If a toilet overflows, does everybody know how to turn it off? If you get a sewage backup, will the staff know who to call and then be able to direct the emergency plumbers to the right locations, such as the clean-outs?
Heating and A/C
The other chart of importance would be one that clearly demonstrates how your ventilation systems function. Where is the A/C hooked up and where does the ductwork run? A large building can have several units on top of the building that are dedicated to various rooms. Map out which unit covers which space, along with the seasonal servicing these units need.
If you have a number of employees working in your maintenance department, you will need to create a system to control inventory of the tools and equipment. Nothing is more frustrating than not having the right tool for the right job.
If you have a growing club, or a very large club, over the years you will find it both cost- and time-efficient to buy the equipment rather than rent or hire someone to perform a task. Carpet cleaners, tile cleaners, special steam cleaners, court cleaners, paint sprayers and many gardening tools often can become part of your inventory so that you can take care of many projects on your own. If you are going to spend the money to invest in these items, you need to spend the time to make sure they are always kept in good working condition and properly stored.
Speaking of storing, you need to do the same with the information that is collected when items are repaired. Every time something breaks and is repaired, a record should be kept of how that action was performed. If you take the time to analyze this data, you would notice that usually the same things break around the facility. It could be the handles on the showers, certain parts on the exercise equipment, or the sprinklers in the gardens. The more usage you have, the more likely certain things will break.
Besides making sure you have plenty of replacement parts, write down the steps taken to repair these items so that anyone in the maintenance department can fix them. This will also provide a record that may lead to some changes in your operation, or at least changes in how a certain item functions.
This approach means more paperwork for a manager, but in the end, it’s either more paperwork or more interrupted late evenings or nights. Mitigate the paper load by using a computer spreadsheet to track this data.
It may seem a daunting task at first to put together all the manual, charts and repair procedures for your facility, but spending the time now will save you time — and money — later.
See all articles by Rod Heckelman
About the Author
Rod Heckelman is the general manager and tennis pro at the Mount Tam Racquet Club in Marin County, Calif., where he has been for the last 31 years. His career in the industry started in 1967 at the famed John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch. In 1970, when Gardiner opened his resort on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., Heckelman, at age 20, became one of the youngest head pros in the country. He created the “Facility Manager’s Manual” based on his years of experience in the tennis business.