3 Steps to Make Smart Maintenance a Reality

by:
on February 2, 2018

The term “smart” is used to describe a wide variety of technologies—cars, watches and even light bulbs.

But it’s not always easy to know how exactly this revolution will impact you as a maintenance professional. How can you use sensors and software to take the term “smart maintenance” from buzzword to practical facility improvements?

I spoke with Mark Pando at Enertiv, which provides technology to leverage facility data. He provided a list of three steps to shift toward a smarter maintenance process.

1. Sensors: Gather Valuable Building Data with Condition Monitoring

As a facility manager, you have a wealth of useful data produced by your building every day. When collected over weeks, months and years, this historical data is the most powerful tool available.

If reactive maintenance or predictive maintenance is your current strategy for handling work requests, sensor data can be the ticket to a more effective condition-based maintenance strategy.

“With cheap sensors, you’re able to monitor the condition of equipment in the building and taking the necessary maintenance actions, whether that’s an inspection or a repair, when things drift out of the Goldilocks zone of whichever condition we happen to be monitoring,” Pando says.

A wide variety of sensors are available on the market to deliver insightful data for whatever asset you want to monitor.

Types of Smart Sensors
types of smart sensors

Pando says sensor capabilities are improving, and the cost of sensors is dropping so quickly, soon there will be no reason not to use them. Currently, a water presence sensor is only about $100-$200.

“One catastrophic leak in a PTAC, like through-wall ACs in hotels, for example, can cost $20,000 in repair bills,” Pando says. “If you catch one, you’ll pay for the whole sensor system right there.”

 WHERE TO START:  Identify your most critical assets, those that have the most direct impact on your building’s occupant safety and comfort, Pando says. Monitor them with sensor technology first for quick wins.

2. Big Data: Monitor Key KPIs with Sensor Data

Before any investment, you should determine exactly why it’s needed. These kinds of questions define the goals and identify the specific problems you want to tackle with technology.

  • Ask yourself questions like: “Why is my maintenance team performing tasks X, Y and Z on these days for different pieces of equipment?”
  • The answer is likely: “It’s the way we’ve always done it…because the calendar tells us when to act.”

“Question those assumptions,” Pando says, “because for the first time, the technology is finally here to tell us exactly when to mobilize resources rather than sticking your finger in the air to try to tell which way the wind’s blowing.”

As you break down the reasons you’re performing specific tasks, you’ll identify inefficiencies (too many emergency repairs on chiller B), which indicate data you need to track (historical energy use for all chillers, for example).

Many KPIs will depend on your goals, but all facility managers should track the following:

Work Order-Related KPIs

Work orders (WOs) Compare scheduled WOs versus completed WOs, time spent on each job, track the backlog of WOs.
Machine uptime versus downtime A measurement of the time important assets are non-operational and the associated costs.
Percent of reactive work The ratio of planned work and unplanned, reactive maintenance tasks.


Facility-Specific KPIs

Energy costs and performance Submetering with sensors on individual floors of a building offers energy use for just that area, revealing spots where consumption is higher than normal.
Occupancy Sensors are available to detect when occupants enter a specific space of the building, and over time, you can see a trend of the most occupied times of the day and week.
Occupant comfort An effective low-tech method to measure comfort is with a occupant survey. If the people in your building are uncomfortable or feel unsafe, they’re likely to let you know.
Water management Water flow sensors and utility readings are invaluable, as restrooms and HVAC systems account for the majority of water costs in commercial buildings.


Monitoring the most appropriate maintenance KPIs is a step towards a smarter maintenance strategy. Since your facility management challenges are unique, your KPIs should be too—an industry-specific software vendor can help you collect the data you need to make the best decisions.

 WHERE TO START:  Review every planned maintenance task and the underlying assumptions for each, then identify the appropriate KPIs that will help improve inefficiencies.

3. Predictive Analytics: Turn Your Data into Valuable Advice

Combine sensor data with a strong facility management system and you have the recipe for “just-in-time” predictive maintenance that greatly reduces costs, labor time and unplanned downtime.

With calendar-based maintenance, you service an asset every 90 days, for example, because you may have best practices from the original equipment manufacturer or some historical data to guide you.

Moving beyond that, sensor data offers much more historical data and early indications of problems before they occur so you only deploy resources when necessary.

enertiv sensor readings

Sensor readings from Enertiv show the relationship between temperature and energy use for a rooftop air unit

In the screenshot above, we see a stream of sensor data where peaks in energy use as the temperature increases can indicate a potential failure. Pando says the technology is moving beyond just a dashboard with data, but actually recommending actions that can prevent costly problems.

“Knowing exactly when equipment goes down is good, knowing why it went down is better,” he says. “Then predicting that things are more likely to fail in the very near future is best.”

To get the best actionable advice from the analytics, you’ll find more success with a vendor who has experience with your type of facility.

 WHERE TO START:  Evaluate software vendors who have experience with your particular asset and building types and an industry-specific system to receive the most effective recommendations from the system.

How to Move Toward a Smart Maintenance Strategy

If you plan to improve your maintenance strategy, you must leverage the data in your building.

As the technology becomes smaller, cheaper and more powerful, it’s much more feasible to collect this data, prevent expensive failures and extend the life of critical assets using sensors and facility management tools.

Just remember the three steps to success:

  1. Connect the appropriate type of sensors to your most critical assets first.
    1. Develop effective KPIs by reviewing common maintenance challenges and goals.
      1. Find a vendor that can tailor the system to your specialization for the most useful maintenance recommendations.

      If you’re ready for a free software consultation, give us a call at (855) 998-8505 to find a system that matches your specific needs.

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