By Jeff Parker, Hotel Operations Expert
Hotel preventative maintenance is essential. Having a preventive maintenance system in place is not a ‘nice-to-have’ item, it is a critical solution that every hotel operation relies on. The first question every new GM should ask is to see the PM system reports, to see what has happened, and what is on the docket to be done.
PM systems are the most important tool in a Chief Engineer’s utility belt. I know this because I’ve seen what it looks like when a hotel doesn’t have a system or hotel maintenance software in place to track it. It is costly and draining.
I hear you in the back, “Jeff, preventative maintenance systems are just an additional cost and take time to set up, time that my team does not have. My hotel is running great. We really don’t need one.” Well, let me tell you a story…
It was a hot-steamy August day in Denver, smack in the middle of the dog-days of summer. Our hotel was full of conventioneers, and the air conditioning system was not working.
The Chief Engineer was new to the hotel, only having been there three months. After hours of troubleshooting, waiting on hold with a service department and angry emails and pager messages (yes this is a time where people still had pagers), it was discovered that the filtration system for the HVAC had not been cleaned for years.
This immediately became an all available hands on deck situation with hotel managers, maintenance managers and maintenance staff all pitching in. I remember being in the humid-dank bowels of the hotel, drenched in sweat (and the aerosol spray from cleaner and the splash back from the power washer), as I helped the engineering team disassemble the filter system, treat it with foaming cleaner, and rinse it off.
We reassembled it all in the hopes that the system would work once this ordeal was complete. The good news is, it worked, and the AC turned back on and the system was not damaged. The bad news is that this cost hundreds of dollars in guest recovery, our customer satisfaction scores dropped, and we likely lost a lot of future revenue in the form of guests that would never return to our hotel.
This experience is where I learned firsthand how important a hotel preventative maintenance system is. Some lessons need to be learned. Other lessons cannot be taught.
Antiquated Hotel Preventative Maintenance Systems
Back then, the hotel I worked for created the preventative maintenance schedule and maintenance plan using a gigantic white board with hundreds of items listed including when the last service was done, when the next service was due, and who was in charge of it. It was hard to stay on top of an organizational system like that.
Daily tasks, like checking temperature on the HVAC outlet, were on a paper checklist that were stored in file folders. Eventually this moved to a spreadsheet, but the Chief Engineer never gave up on the visual and accountability of the ‘big-board.’
Here is why your hotel needs a preventative maintenance system:
Increase the Longevity of Your Assets
Boilers, air handlers, PTACs, dish washers and walk-in coolers are expensive. Using a preventative maintenance system to track maintenance tasks allows you to get extra life out of this equipment. Not performing preventative maintenance is a sure way to reduce equipment life. No hotel wants to have to fund an emergency boiler replacement two years before the expected life-span.
Catch Problems Before They are Problems
Regular hotel maintenance management, inspection, and service of equipment allows your team to visually inspect equipment, identifying parts like belts and rollers that might have wear and tear. Replacing these parts before they cause a malfunction, prevents larger costs associated with a break-down. For example, if a cracked hose breaks and coolant cannot get to the machine, the motor might seize, creating a more costly repair or replacement.
The equipment in your hotel has a warranty, just like your car. And just like your car, to make a claim on that warranty, your team needs to make sure that regular maintenance is completed. Just like saving all those oil change receipts, tire rotation reports and fuel filter paperwork, keeping the details of when your equipment has been serviced provides the evidence to the warranty holder that a claim is justified. Don’t let a fan-coil unit replacement ruin your budget because your team has not tracked maintenance.
Reduce Customer Complaints
Consistent preventative maintenance makes sure that the PTAC in the room is cooling or heating correctly, and that the fan is not noisy. Checking the toilet flap quarterly helps prevent leakage and that annoying refill sound every 10 minutes.
Go through your guest complaint log. I’m willing to bet that there is more than one guest issue involving a clunky fan or hissing toilet. Additionally, if the guest issue requires a room move to repair, you are displacing not only the guest, but sometimes the revenue from that guest room for the evening.
Accurate Capital Budgeting
Even the best PM programs will not keep every piece of equipment operational forever. But, a regular inspection can provide the ability to forecast replacement. Your asset manager will be much happier to budget a planned hood system replacement in 18 or 24 months, knowing that they have seen two-three extra years of life on the current hood, than replace it under duress two years early.
Preventative Maintenance Software is The Future
Things have come a long way since that experience in the HVAC dungeon. There are countless options for hotel preventative maintenance software. Replace paper work orders with easy to use software which automatically tracks every click.
The Moral of the Story:
You don’t want to be the one in the basement, covered in chemicals and drenched in sweat and castoff. If you don’t have a hotel preventive maintenance system now -- get one. If you do, make sure it is set up right, reporting on the data you need, and part of your regular review.