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Focus on facility maintenance trends


Retail maintenance work isn’t what it used to be. For one thing, it started to turn eco-friendly several years ago. The trend remains strong, and the good news is that green is finally becoming affordable, thanks to growing demand.

When it comes to facility maintenance, going green starts with the purchase of environmentally sensitive cleaning supplies, agents and equipment. The materials must be disposed of or recycled, and the tools needed may be different from traditional ones.

In another major trend, technology, such as building automation systems and computerized maintenance management systems, has made it possible to improve the quality of maintenance while making it more efficient.

Affordable green

“Today, green cleaning costs are finally falling more in line with the less environmentally friendly cleaning products,” said Barry Wood, director of operations for Chicago-based JLL Retail. “This improved cost-effectiveness has helped make green cleaning more of a normal practice.”

Wood cautioned, however, that the retailers’ corporate offices must clearly communicate green cleaning policies at the store level to ensure that local vendors get the message.

Another green trend noted by Wood is the growing use of recycled water for cleaning. It is used in automatic floor scrubbers and in pressure-washing equipment for sidewalks and parking structures. This trend is only likely to grow in importance given the increased emphasis on water conservation.

“Many areas that have been impacted by drought are mandating the use of recycled water,” he said.

Automated building systems

The growing importance of technology and technology expertise to facility maintenance departments cannot be overstated. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) and building automation systems are becoming more commonplace in retail, a trend that will continue to grow, according to Wood.

Maintenance teams are more likely to be equipped with smartphones and tablets. These and other mobile tools enable real-time connections to CMMS and other databases, allowing for faster decisions and better cost management.

As for building management systems, they can greatly improve energy efficiency, but they are not without their challenges, according to Wood.

“I have seen problems arise, particularly with heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, when parameters developed by the home office fail to match up with store-level needs,” he said.

Also, HVAC systems are becoming much more efficient. As a result, Wood said, these systems require more maintenance thanks to the complexity of the internal controls needed to boost efficiency.

There are growing pains related to maintaining these systems in stores. Local service providers not familiar with automated building management system needs may fail to communicate with management about control policies and sensor settings. As a result, diagnosing the problem and solving it according to policy can take several site visits.

In another facilities trends, more and more retailers are implementing sensors and controls that dim the lights to an appropriate level when the sun shines through.

“Daylighting is growing and not only reduces energy costs, but the use of more natural light creates a more comfortable environment,” Wood said.

Roofing trends are contributing to the drive for more efficient energy use. According to Wood, stores in cold climates are using dark roofing that absorbs heat, while stores in hot climates are moving to white or light colored roofs that reflect heat.

Stores with a lot of square footage on the roof are evaluating the opportunities presented by today’s more powerful solar panels, he added.

Smartphones and tablets

Maintenance teams out in the field today are more and more likely to carry smartphones and tablets. Mobile tools enable real-time connections to CMMS and other databases important to speeding decisions and managing costs.

Mike Fickes is a contributing editor to Chain Store Age.

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