PT Sniffs Out Maintenance Issues
June, 2005My owner (the editor) asked me to sniff around a garage with my Saint Bernard brain focused on maintenance. Garage maintenance, that is.
Well, I have to say that my sensitive nose reacted strongly to what I found. My suggestion is that if you want to really check out your facility, put aside all the lists and use your God-given senses. Sure works for this old dog.
Sight: This is the big one. Take a look around, high and low. Look for broken and missing things, such as drain covers and broken concrete. Can you easily read the signs, or do they need cleaning? Lighting - are all the lights working or are some of the bulbs out?
What about the decks themselves? Is the concrete spalling? That's a fancy word for cracking and breaking up. The reinforcement bars get wet, then rust and expand. That causes the attached concrete to break up and drop off. This is a big problem. Blocks of masonry can fall on cars, or rebar can bend up and trip people and cut tires. Worse, severe spalling can affect the structural integrity of your garage and it can fall down.
Now, even at my advanced age, my eyes probably work better than yours. Although I can see in only black and white, I can see into dark corners and stairwells. I look for trash. If there is trash, the likelihood of everything else being a problem -- including revenue control -- is great.
What about the walls? Do they need to be painted? Is graffiti creeping in?
Touch: Well, I'm down here where my hands and feet can feel everything, but you can get a sense of what is going on by simply reaching out with your feelings -- as Obi-Wan would say -- or at least realize just what is going on under your feet.
First, is the floor gritty? That means the dust and salt and sand brought in during the winter months (skip this one, Florida, Texas and California) are building up and need to be swept up. If not, they will get in the drains and clog them. Water will back up, and the spalling mentioned above will begin.
Second, go to the parking office and touch the wires attached to the coffeepot and space heater when they are all on. If the wires are warm, you have an electrical problem and potential fire hazard. I wouldn't rely on only my touch here. Most circuits are 20 amps or 2400 watts; just add 'em up. If a heater is 1500 watts and the coffeepot is 500 watts and the computer is 500 watts and the desk lamp is 150 watts and the printer is 900 watts (I just checked the boss' setup), you got a real problem.
What happens is that not all of these are on at the same time. The printer draws 900 only when it is running; ditto the coffeepot and heater. However, when they do go on at the same time, you will either blow a fuse or start a fire.
Oh, about that computer - when the heater and coffeepot and printer kick in, you will get a power spike on your computer - and baaaad things will happen.
Oh, there's one sure way to figure out if you have a problem. If a plug expander (you know, those things that make two outlets into four) is stuck into the wall, you probably have a problem.
While you are reaching out, is it warm or cold in the booth or office? Are the windows broken?
I ascribe to the Rudy Giuliani school of crime prevention: Fix the broken windows and remove the graffiti, and the rest takes care of itself.
Walk through your garage during a rain - if you feel moisture on your head when you walk under an expansion joint, you have a problem. Water is going through the joint and is probably also soaking into the concrete and causing the dreaded spalling, mentioned above.
In addition, check all the drains and trenches to be sure they are clean and running freely. This means that water will be carried off and not come cascading down your ramps during a soft summer rain. Sure, that's pretty, but it can also back up and cause safety as well as maintenance issues.
Now the following doesn't bother me as much as it does humans -- but take a moment and sit in all the chairs in your facility. Go into the booths and offices. Are they comfortable?
Remember, when you bought them, you got them on sale, and the chairs you bought were designed for eight-hour days and five-day weeks. Your operation is open 24/7. Chairs wear out quickly. Your staff will greatly appreciate it if, when they sit down, they don't discover a spring or have to balance with a broken caster.
Smell: I'm a little closer to the ground than you are, but even during hay fever season, you can use your schnoz to check out a few things. Walk into the stairwell. If it smells like the restroom at Yankee Stadium after the seventh-inning stretch, you have a problem. Clean it up. Steam-cleaning is often the only way. If you keep your stairwells clean, the problem moves elsewhere.
I know an owner who, when he visits his garages, goes immediately to the restrooms. If they are dirty, he knows he doesn't have to look any further. He knows the entire place is a mess.
Be careful about fumes. Are your extractor fans working properly? People can become very ill and even die if you allow the CO to build up in the garage. This is particularly true in below-grade facilities.
And one other thing - how about your employees? Are their personal habits up to your standards? If not, it might be time for a walk on the beach. After all, you are in the service business and want to put your best foot forward to the public.
What about hearing? Listen for strange sounds. Beeping and electronic sounds could mean your detectors aren't working properly. Rattling or squeaking in your gates or dispensers could mean a problem waiting to happen. Does the computer in your office sound like a thrashing machine? If so, the fan is on its way out and so is your machine. That rustling in the corners could mean that some four-legged inhabitants have moved in.
Maintenance isn't a mystery, and it isn't expensive. Just use your senses, the most important one being that named "common."