Maintenance Modernizes With Mobile Technology

Technicians are deploying new tools to service units more efficiently.

Often an afterthought, the topic of maintenance has found itself getting more attention as it becomes the latest aspect of multifamily to get a tech upgrade.

For property managers and maintenance teams, understanding the landscape of available software solutions for maintenance purposes can enhance operational efficiency and bolster resident retention and satisfaction.

One mobile maintenance tech company, AppWork, says that maintenance technology runs much deeper. Beyond onsite repairs, maintenance plays a vital role in inspections, turns, compliance, smart access and unit control, answering service, training, reputation management, sensors and construction, as well as resident surveys, and, of course, property management software.

“By leveraging these appropriate tools, property managers can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and provide a superior living experience for residents,” said Sean Landsberg, CAM, co-founder & CEO, AppWork.

“In the long run, this is good”

Paul Rhodes, founder of Directional Maintenance Services, said the largest change he’s noticed in the maintenance profession is the adoption of upgraded technology.

“In the long run, this is good, with a caveat,” Rhodes said. “It’s my impression from speaking with operators that technology adoption is expected to increase resident satisfaction by removing friction caused by communication and documentation which these technologies address.”

However, this technology does not address the industry’s fundamental need for skilled people to do the work. “Operators believe that using a new app will allow them to decrease headcount,” said Rhodes. “While this may be true in regard to using technology in other areas of property management, it is not true for the maintenance teams.” Skilled experts are still required to carry out tasks. In fact, that’s the biggest need right now.

Meanwhile, the median age for maintenance and repair workers is beginning to drop, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median age for maintenance workers in 2023 was 45 years old from 47 in 2022. As technicians get younger, they are looking for greater accessibility to technical documentation.

“This technology ‘boom’ is addressing that need,” Rhodes said. Matt Knight, founder of PropTech Angel Group, said the investment trend he hears about most often is “centralization”, which he calls “corporate speak for replacing property management humans with technology.” Maintenance is certainly an aspect, he said, but also identifies touring, prospect qualifying and background checks. “This trend has accelerated recently with the proliferation of digital leasing tools, self-guided touring, and cost-cutting attempts by owners and managers who see that fewer employees means a cheaper payroll.”

Automation drives maintenance tech

Technology is putting maintenance on multifamily housing’s operational chart in many ways. Work order technology now helps to delivers integrated maintenance and procurement to enhance property operations. Many platforms are automated, saving understaffed communities time.

Communication between residents and onsite staff and technicians alleviates delays and unintended misunderstandings for work orders. Apps can also pinpoint what is needed and flag necessary repairs submitted by residents before complaints to local officials are submitted. Answering services are playing a greater role, making sure residents facing after-hours situations or emergencies are taken care of promptly.

Given the proliferation of IoT-driven, cloud-oriented smart homes and access systems, maintenance teams need to be up to date with installation and troubleshooting. Sensors provide a reliable trigger in maintaining property safety and efficiency, not to mention leak detection and HVAC operations.

Several companies have stepped forward to deliver training for companies that seek to upgrade their maintenance teams’ skills. Technology is taking over there, too, with virtual reality and 3D simulations. Visual tools for property mapping and renderings enhance planning and marketing efforts. Companies offer 3D property visualization and measurement solutions.

For properties undergoing construction or renovation, there are tools to ensure that projects stay on track. Project management software can streamline processes while others assist in financing. Comprehensive property management software systems are also available.

Game-changer in the making?

Chris Caramanica, director of facilities at WinnCompanies, said he has noticed that maintenance technology companies are bringing open API with their products. “That might be a game changer for the industry the same way Android’s open source changed cell phone apps to compete with the closed source and control Apple has with its apps,” he said. “There is so much technology in our space these days but none of it seems to talk to or work with each other. There is a big push right now from all angles, but it is not sustainable. We will see a flood now, but the waters will recede, and the best products will be here for years to come and change our operations forever.”

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