Equipment Servicing and Maintenance

Outside service companies can often provide the depth of experience that no single employee could offer.

In setting up a preventive maintenance program, fitness centers can take one of two routes: Hire a technician as an in-house employee, or find an outside service company to do the job.The in-house route carries managerial and financial obligations, like salary and health insurance. You also need to determine the following: Does your facility have enough work to keep a technician busy? Can you pay enough to hire a qualified technician? And do you know enough about equipment repair and maintenance to judge a candidate's technical competency?

If you have several facilities, hiring your own employee might work. If not, then an outside service company could be your answer. Outside service companies can often provide the depth of experience that no single employee could offer.

Finding a service company

Qualifications of a good service company include knowledge and response time. You need a company that can not only handle preventive maintenance, but that canalso fix equipment quickly when it breaks down.

Ask the following questions in regard to technical knowledge:

* Is the company familiar with the products in your facility? If not, its representatives face a learning curve that may mean downtime for your product.

* Are the technicians certified by the manufacturer of your equipment? If not, they may not have the knowledge needed to do the job. Some manufacturers won't even sell parts to service companies whose employees have not gone through their training programs.

* Does the company have the depth to fix every product in your fitness center? There should be at least one technician certified to work on each brand of product in the facility.

* Does the company have a preventive maintenance plan that can be tailored to your facility?

Next, find out how the company does business. Is it professional? How quickly can a technician arrive for an unscheduled repair? Does someone answer the phone when called? These questions can shed light on the company's mode of operation. In an emergency, you will need someone who knows what to do.

Another factor in your choice of service providers is value. Compare plans of various companies in your area. Different companies offer different levels of service and different rates. A start-up service company might work for $25 an hour, while an established company with clientele might charge $100 or more for the same work.

The preventive maintenance schedule

The next item of business is the service plan: How often should a technician perform various jobs? Every manufacturer lists on its website a recommended maintenance schedule for each product line.Some aspects of the maintenance schedule are situational. Dirt accumulation depends greatly on usage and the environment. The more the product is used in a dirty environment, the dirtier it gets -- and the more often it requires cleaning. Keep this in mind when setting up a schedule for your facility. Remember that maintaining the equipment too often may, in the long run, cost less than maintaining it too seldom. Err on the side of more maintenance rather than less.

While the service company's maintenance schedule will probably differ slightly from the manufacturer's recommendation, specific tasks should be listed similarly. Don't let service providers ignore any tasks listed in the manufacturer's recommendations. Make a point of getting every task listed on the contract. This helps ensure good service, and it protects you from liability.

The service company's preventive maintenance contract should be specific and clear. Many contracts include an estimate of the time to be spent on a particular type of equipment and then the cost for the work.

The next step, once you've signed a contract, is to make sure every task actually gets done. Check the equipment after the service techs have done their job. Make sure the service company provides a list of the tasks that were completed at each service period. File those copies in a maintenance log binder. Remember that, in the event of a lawsuit, your service records are the best evidence that you have done your part to keep members safe.

The main chore of any preventive maintenance program is cleaning. For fitness equipment, cleanliness relates to longevity. Dirt takes its toll through daily wear and tear, so keep equipment clean.

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