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By Tim Blackwell
Expense management is critical at any point during a run, but as cycles wane the need for preserving a budget lead or making up lost ground becomes more important. Eyes on spending get sharply focused on all operational facets, especially facilities management.
The multifamily industry’s return to “normal” in 2018 has cast more attention on transparent inventory management through transitioning facility management from maintenance management to total inventory management. Operators can now gain cost and time efficiencies across their portfolios.
“At this particular point in the cycle, companies are paying close attention to their expenses,” RealPage Senior Vice President Jason Lindwall said. “One area we are seeing this is in inventory management.”
Increasing maintenance productivity in the field
Automated spend management solutions provide visibility into purchasing and inventory management from a high-level view through property management platforms. While already highly effective, they have become energized by being accessible to technicians performing inspections in the field, where inventory levels can be seen so faster decisions can be made to get an apartment back on the market.
Mobile facilities technology is keeping maintenance staffs productive in the field, closing service requests faster and keeping residents satisfied, Lindwall says. Multifamily properties are moving more swiftly through inspections and tracking and capturing damages during service requests and inspections. Operations are gaining efficiencies while technicians can walk through units and track, order and replace appliances, fixtures and other apartment amenities and necessities.
The adoption of mobile technology is proliferating throughout multifamily property management. An informal poll on a recent RealPage webcast on facilities management notes that half of viewers embrace using mobile devices to operate properties.
Managing inventory directly through a mobile app
Lindwall remembers the day when inventory management started with a bar code reader. While a technology darling of its day, the bar code “gun” was hard to holster while walking a warehouse and data retrieved usually required going back to the office to see. Not like a cell phone.
“With integration into (an operations technology platform), we can manage this inventory directly in the facilities app and through a mobile app,” Lindwall said. “It’s like being able to use your phone as a bar code reader. Your phone is your gun when it comes to today’s inventory management.”
With a push of a button, technicians can purchase that faucet set required from a service request. Through automatic preset inventory controls linking to the operations technology platform, the inventory is updated. If the item isn’t in stock it can be ordered directly from the appropriate vendor.
The process not only saves times but conforms to strategic purchasing decisions, such as working through pre-arranged vendor agreements, and in compliance with policies outlined in a spend management program.
Capturing data at move-in and move-out like never before
The inspection process has become particularly important as occupancy demands have trended up in recent years. Facilities apps have helped properties work through the onsite minutia as residents move in and leave their apartments.
“Inspections are really coming to a head in our industry,” Lindwall said. “It’s been beneficial to us as we’ve seen clients adopt this technology. It’s more important at move-in and move-out because now we can capture the data in a way we could never capture before. We can create massive amounts of efficiency in our operations.”
Lindwall said mobile app technology is putting things like resident settlements essentially in the hands of maintenance technicians, enabling better capture of expenses related to damages, especially if the resident on available during the walk-through.
“Damage can be captured as you’re moving through the inspection,” he said. “If there is damage, you can immediately take a picture of it, and, in the app, you can keep a running total of damages. If the resident is in the unit, the resident can sign off on those damages right there.”
Another feature is the ability to take a payment on the spot, one that conforms to preferred payment methods agreed upon by the property manager and resident.
Improving property ops from front to back at the speed of business
Lindwall says the Mobile Facilities App is just one piece of technology that is driving multifamily operators to great efficiencies. Smart features like locks and thermostats are technology that property managers can benefit from by saving operational costs and creating convenience for maintenance and residents.
Ultimately, the swiftness of a Mobile Facilities App improves the property from front to back while on the fly, Lindwall said. Value at the administrative level to that in the eyes of residents, who already view technology as an amenity, is enhanced as service request response increases and repairs and inspections conform with spending strategies.
Learn how multifamily operators are embracing the wealth of technology available in the Internet of Things, including how to take facilities management to the next level.