Preventive Maintenance Is Key


Advance planning isn’t restricted only to merchandise buyers thinking ahead to the holiday season. For retailers looking to shore up financial health, the name of the game is reducing energy use—a strategy that can result in lowered operating costs and increased profits—but to get there, planned preventive maintenance is key. Ann Moran, owner and VP of business development for Cincinnati-based Engineering Excellence, spoke with Chain Store Age senior editor Katherine Field about how a properly executed preventive-maintenance program can help cut energy expenses and inject sustainability into a retail organization.

With green and its associated cost savings gaining so much ground among retailers, is preventive maintenance an easier sell than it once was? 

Anything green is top of mind today because it is the right thing to do. The challenge with preventive maintenance (PM) is correlating the tasks to the direct energy savings. Verified results of the energy savings help to justify and “sell” the concept of maintenance while providing validation that the PM was completed. The exciting thing about today is that now there are technology developments that make it more affordable to quantify these savings.

What kinds of technology developments are you referring to? 

Retailers are now able to be smarter about energy spend. Engineering Excellence is piloting several offerings including a “smart maintenance” with electronic verification of the energy savings and a building energy recording audit for sustained performance, and identification of energy conservation measures (ECM). Proper HVAC preventive maintenance reduces the run time of the HVAC unit, producing energy savings, that correlates to sustained performance and green strategies. The building audit coupled with the maintenance will identify the top ECMs and estimated equivalent carbon-footprint reduction along with estimated savings. These ideas are hot right now, along with unit “recommissioning.”

Why is preventive maintenance so imperative? 

Preventive maintenance is critical because it assures the HVAC equipment is operating properly, minimizes unnecessary costs and assures comfort. If the unit is operating properly it will minimize energy consumption and breakdowns, which translates into savings. For example, some essential maintenance tasks include verification of a proper charge, changing filters and cleaning coils. If these tasks, along with other PM procedures, are completed, then the unit will operate at designed efficiencies.

What are some of the top HVAC service repairs? 

The top three service repairs are compressor change-outs, condenser-fan motor replacements and refrigerant leak repairs. A good maintenance program will help to identify the minor repairs that can prevent some of these more catastrophic items. It is beneficial to time the maintenance visits at the beginning of a heating or cooling season to identify the problems before they affect comfort for shoppers.

Can you list some specific benefits to be gained from preventive maintenance? 

The benefits of preventive maintenance boil down to reduced total cost of operation and comfort for the ultimate retail experience for shoppers. When looking at the cost of operating HVAC equipment, there are four main components—maintenance, energy, repair and replacement. An investment in maintenance will affect the other three components. PM will reduce service repairs, and allow the equipment to operate more efficiently, which reduces energy costs and extends the life of the equipment. Since HVAC can account for up to 70% of the energy costs for a site, PM is essential for maximum efficiency. PM also helps to minimize unnecessary repair expense and control unplanned capital needed for emergency replacements.

What is the Intellitrak Management System—and how does it work? 

Intellitrak is a Web-based operating system that provides accessibility to information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through it, users can place service calls, approve quotes, view completion status and download valuable information from the service-management center. Intellitrak minimizes response time for necessary information such as equipment lists or service-history reports. It also allows users to track approval and status or be more knowledgeable on what is happening with HVAC systems.

It’s important to understand that operating systems don’t cover all the PM bases by themselves. It takes knowledgeable human input to really have an all-encompassing energy-reduction program. Our service managers provide valuable reporting, consultation and technical management, which helps facility teams reduce costs and strategize priorities to better manage their budgets. Sample reports include a variance analysis cost that looks at cost per unit, identifies those units with the highest spend and provides recommendations for cost reductions.

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