Charlotte Russe tightens ops with tech
Charlotte Russe is using technology to enforce consistent repair and maintenance operations across locations.
The young women’s apparel retailer is expanding the use of an SaaS-based automated platform from ServiceChannel that monitors the completion of service work orders conducted by various third-party contractors. The platform has been in use for some three years to monitor and repair maintenance jobs needed across Charlotte Russe stores.
“Our store-level and facilities management teams were using the platform for basic capabilities,” explained Shannon Markwell, national facilities manager for Charlotte Russe, which operates 532 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico. “Work orders were input into the system, but there was limited visibility into completion and contractor response times.”
In addition, third-party vendors didn’t have access to the platform, making it difficult to keep contractors accountable for job order completion.
Further exacerbating the issue was that store managers were building reports in Excel documents and delivering them to district managers through email. Besides being a time consuming manual process, work order data was often stale.
It was not until the retailer experienced employee turnover across its facilities team that “we found 1,800 work orders in the system were not yet even deployed,” Markwell said.
Upon further investigation, she determined that Charlotte Russe was only utilizing 5% of the platform’s functionality.
“A data portal can only process the work orders that are input into the system,” Markwell added. “We wanted to use the platform as more than a repository for work orders. We needed to better manage the platform and use it to deploy the workers needed to complete the tasks.”
Extended capabilities: Markwell spent six months learning how to further apply ServiceChannel’s capabilities across the company’s facilities management team and hit new department goals. This included implementing an analytics and reporting process for her team, as well as enabling store and district managers and contractors to access
Using dedicated dashboards, store managers and district managers began using analytics to track mission-critical data and key performance indicators, including work order type and jobs at specific stores, among other metrics. Store managers also used the dashboard to track work order progress and measure their location’s performance.
“Store managers are using the dashboard to make sure maintenance is fully up to date, and can also view troubleshooting documents created by the facilities team,” Markwell said. “We educated the store teams on how valuable the platform is, and how it can save time and money.”
Meanwhile, district managers are accessing the dashboard via company-supplied mobile devices to stay abreast of work order status across all stores. They can also measure vendor performance through quarterly scorecards and track contractor compliance and documentation.
The efforts are paying off. Since leveraging more platform capabilities, the company has seen a 54% reduction in the timing of work order completion.
Eager for more gains, Charlotte Russe continues to expand the platform across other company divisions. By adopting the platform’s Supply Manager functionality, the retailer is simplifying its equipment replacement, an ordering process for supplies. The operation, which is now based on predetermined policies and pricing guidelines, has saved the company approximately $1.5 million over the past 18 months, Markwell reported.
ServiceChannel’s automated invoice processing and the integration of electronic data interchange, a standard messaging process that enables Charlotte Russe to transfer data to vendor partners, has eliminated more than 60 hours of labor each week.
“In the past, we would scan and print out every invoice and tax validate each one manually,” Markwell said. “Now we can process and transfer all invoices electronically.”
Markwell’s next plan is to use the platform to manage site audits.
“We want to partner with a vendor who can visit stores and report on their conditions on our behalf,” she said. “Their data will help us determine how to service these locations and evolve them into top tier stores.”
Markwell hopes to launch the program in the next six months.
Making the connection with Internet of Things
Connected buildings, Internet of Things and smart devices are popular industry buzzwords. But do you have a true understanding of what a connected building is and the benefits it can provide? Here are some insights from the experts at Trane:
Connected devices, such as lighting, security systems and heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, produce data that can be captured and applied to significantly increase energy savings and operational efficiencies. Technology advances and the ability to turn building system data into usable information also enables a more sophisticated approach to service and maintenance.
A predictive maintenance program that leverages building system data can reduce equipment downtime up to 50%, according to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report, “The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype.” No matter how big or small the building automation system (BAS) is, data can be gathered and used to meet the owner’s goals.
What matters most are the outcomes. Whether the goal is energy efficiency, cost savings or improved occupant comfort, a connected building can help owners achieve their desired outcomes.
Real-world application: In one project example, a movie theater chain used a building management system to integrate HVAC and lighting controls at each of its locations. The building-level systems connect to a web-enabled, enterprise-level BAS network. This cloud-based connectivity allows a facility manager to monitor, control and apply changes to its buildings across the country from a central location.
This connected building system delivers numerous benefits, including the ability to synchronize lighting and HVAC system setpoints with ticket sales and show time schedules. As the cinema lobby fills on Friday nights, the data from ticket sales is used to automatically adjust the temperature in each theater to ensure the best climate conditions regardless of how full the theater is. The theater chain saves money by leveraging automatic heating, cooling and lighting adjustments based on occupancy needs.
Advanced services available through the theater’s building management system also provide 24/7 remote resolution of system alarms and intelligent dispatching of system information and troubleshooting to the technicians’ handheld devices.
Tips for capitalizing on a building’s IoT
Make it a priority. Even with connected systems and all the data they provide, it can be easy for a building to lose efficiency when it is not a focus. Consider what is most important in the building: Is it comfort, productivity, efficiency, energy savings or something else?
Make sure there’s a clear, unambiguous priority list that is broadly agreed upon and communicated, whether it’s with building owners, facility managers, service partners or tenants. This helps align goals and metrics to ensure optimal comfort and operational costs within the building.
Look for flexible solutions. Facilities, spaces and tenants change often. Look for equipment solutions that are nimble. For example, using wireless communication technology between building systems and devices allows for more flexibility during the life of the building compared to traditional wired systems.
Explore a BAS that allows for integration of new equipment and can generate performance reports for changing needs.
Partner wisely. Connectivity of building systems can result in a tremendous amount of data and it can be overwhelming to consider how to best use it. Working with a provider that has expertise in building controls and integration is beneficial for optimizing building performance.
Building owners will continue to adopt IoT devices for their buildings, and it is estimated that 20.8 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide by 2020. Buildings have energy coursing through their veins that produces data, and that data is like a language waiting to be translated. Once it’s deciphered, it’s full of valuable information and insight. When you understand what a building is saying, you can transform that building into a stronger asset.
Lighting controls update
The DesignLights Consortium’s new report, “Energy Savings from Networked Lighting Control (NLC) Systems,” estimated average lighting energy savings of 47% resulting from installation of networked lighting control systems. The report indicated a high potential of energy savings for networked controls, it supported layered control strategies as a means to maximize savings and it may be used to justify new and larger utility rebates.
Networked lighting control systems are intelligent, programmable systems capable of communication, including to a central point for measuring and monitoring. Despite high energy savings potential, adoption by projects and rebate programs alike has been inhibited by difficulty in estimating these savings.
To address this barrier, the DLC embarked on an ambitious study to determine average lighting energy savings resulting from installation of networked lighting controls. The DLC report analyzed hourly energy data monitored in 1,200 zones in 114 commercial buildings to produce an average estimate.
It compared LED lighting with networked controls operating against a baseline consisting of what energy use would be if the lighting was on and at full output during operating hours. This methodology provided a standardized way to evaluate savings in a wide range of zones and control systems.
According to the report, networked lighting control systems reduced installed LED lighting energy consumption in the studied buildings by nearly one-half, compared to the LED lighting installed without controls. Results varied widely from 2% to 91%. About 70% of the projects generated 30% or more energy savings, while 30% generated 70% or more energy savings.
Warehouses consistently showed greater than 75% energy savings — but otherwise, building type was a poor indicator of energy savings. Space characteristics such as occupancy patterns, daylight availability and user behavior had far more impact.
Most influential was implementation of layered control strategies and more aggressive configuration settings. DLC speculated the lowest-performing systems appeared to be primarily focused on scheduling control, while the highest-performing systems implemented layered strategies, including high-end trim, and featured aggressive configuration settings.
Meanwhile, utilities and energy efficiency programs are likely to use this report to justify new and expanded rebates for networked lighting controls. In the case of an existing building, be sure to investigate availability of these rebates. The rebate may require the system to be listed in the DLC’s Qualified Products List for Networked Lighting Controls.
The DLC is planning a follow-up study that will expand the building database and add more characteristics to explore. This will allow DLC to examine which building and space characteristics contribute to energy savings and which control strategies, zoning and configuration settings produce the highest savings. The target result will be greater certainty in projecting energy savings and information that can be used to develop best practices.
Craig DiLouie, LC, CLCP, is the education director of the Lighting Controls Association.