July 9, 2018 |
Updated August 4, 2021
Technology can help maintenance become more efficient, but it requires an onsite cultural shift.
Ask any apartment manager what their three biggest challenges are and it’s a good bet that finding qualified maintenance technicians will be on the list.
Raymond van Beveren, SVP of Construction and Facilities Services for Pinnacle Property Management Services, shared valuable advice for selling a career in maintenance.
“You have to emphasize [the technology they’d use on the job] to bring in the young maintenance people,” he said at Apartmentalize.
But for more seasoned maintenance technicians, technology, and the change it brings might cause anxiety.
Before operators can take full advantage of these maintenance platforms, they need to train their techs. “It must be comprehensive and involve the entire [onsite] team,” says Nyla Westlake, Managing Director of Asset Management for Trammell Crow Residential.
The good news: many of these systems are not difficult to use.
“If they are comfortable with using Facebook, they can use a lot of these systems,” says Tasha Krawiec, Vice President of Property Operations at BH Management Services.
Part of the roll-out training must address the personal devices maintenance techs will need to carry.
“Some maintenance techs are still hesitant about carrying these devices,” van Beveren says.
To this, Krawiec can attest. BH purchased iPads for its maintenance technicians, but the idea didn’t work out as well as BH had hoped.
“Twelve months later we determined that no one was using them,” Krawiec says. “They were using their phones.”
So, BH rolled out a reimbursement program for smartphones. That created another issue. The company needed a way to keep hourly maintenance techs out of the system when they weren’t working. “For hourly employees, we developed “Do Not Disturb” setting for the phones,” Krawiec says.
If the training and implementation go well, van Beveren thinks apartment operators will get buy-in from their techs.
“There might be some resistance to the technology at first, but 99 percent of them will end up loving it,” he says.
Implementation can also prove to be a challenge at the corporate level. Westlake emphasizes the importance of finding a maintenance system that can work with any property management platform.
Maintenance software has the potential to add efficiency, enable better data collection and improve customer service, but companies must know how to use it.
If operators, chose the correct technology and implement it in a responsible way, they can deploy their techs in a more efficient manner.
“Regional managers can relocate maintenance technicians to another of their properties based on the information coming from their system about where there is the greatest need,” van Beveren says.