For the past five years or more, automated asset management systems have promised to revolutionize the way club operators manage fitness equipment. These systems use Wi-Fi connectivity to track and automate maintenance and repair processes. They keep detailed service records and reduce equipment failure liability. Some systems even automatically contact a technician and schedule service for a broken product.
The systems seem to be simplifying the maintenance side of the equation at clubs that have the systems on their equipment.
"I've had customers call in and say that they picked up their phone and someone in our service department had actually called them and said, 'We have a treadmill down, and we have a service tech on their way to service it,'" says Andrew Kolman, director of console technology for Johnson Health Tech, the Cottage Grove, WI-based company that owns Matrix Fitness.
Matrix Fitness was one of the first fitness companies to launch an automated asset management system, and it has evolved greatly over the past six years. The system is currently available on its five series and seven series commercial cardio products.
"It's really meant to be a tool for the customer to see how the product is performing, how it is helping their bottom line," Kolman says.
Internally, Matrix Fitness uses the system to drive accountability through its own organization by tracking customer service performance and reacting to systemic issues before they become bigger problems, Kolman says.
The app-connected asset management system on Life Fitness' Elevation Series with Discover Consoles helps the management team at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in San Diego make better service and purchasing decisions, says Kathryn Korn, fitness manager at the center.
With the system, Korn can track peak usage so she knows which machines to rotate due to high mileage and when to staff for peak hours. The usage reports also will help her make better purchasing decisions.
"For example, the next purchase I will order an additional recumbent bike instead of upright, due to the greater usage and need of a recumbent at our facility," she says.
The Life Fitness asset management system can include remote monitoring and proactive service e-mail updates and tips.
Purchasing Wi-Fi-connected products could mean longer buying cycles for clubs that maintain equipment properly. With the Life Fitness platform, updating functionally sound products is as simple as pushing out a software update over the Internet, says Matt Brennand, director of product technology and consumer products for Life Fitness, Rosemont, IL.
"The product that you purchase on day one isn't the same product over time," Brennand says. "It's seamless to the customer or the exerciser. In the past, it had to be done by a person walking around with a USB stick, so it never really happened. The equipment can evolve electronically, and that hasn't really happened over the last decade."
Most club operators want Wi-Fi-enabled products for the purpose of enhancing member experience rather than for the maintenance benefits. The addition of the asset management system does not burden the price of the product much, if at all, says Amad Amin, senior product manager of technology for Life Fitness.
"It's more about the ability to connect the product to the Internet," Amin says. "It's the hardware cost that we have to build into the product, and from the facility's standpoint, they have to build out the infrastructure. The cost of actually having the communication ability to the product is fairly low."
Cost issues aside, the main problem with an equipment integrated asset management system is its proprietary nature. Most health clubs have at least two brands of cardio equipment, plus strength equipment, benches and audio/visual equipment to maintain.
FitnessEMS offers a third-party asset management system that is compatible with every piece of equipment in a health club. The system relies on labels affixed to each piece of equipment. When a product has a service need, staff are able to use FitnessEMS software on their desktop, tablet or cell phone to place a work order and provide details to the service technician. Anyone with access to the software can check on the service status of the equipment at any time.
"In a nutshell, it's a user interface to start the work order," says Tom Strickland, president of FitnessEMS. "You can set schedules for a variety of pieces of equipment, either in bulk or smaller groups."
Each person within the organization can view information on the dashboard differently. Service technicians come to the club prepared to work on the right product with the right parts, Strickland says. The downside to the FitnessEMS system is that it relies on members or staff to report and log problems and start the service process. However, Strickland says that even though it is less automated, it is more comprehensive because it covers all manufacturers' equipment and it can tell club operators about a cosmetic issue or a torn belt.
Kolman and Amin both say they would like to explore the possibility of adding asset management for strength equipment someday. Both companies expressed interest in working with other manufacturers to make their systems mutually compatible. Yet, other than offering an open API, no steps have been made in the direction of compatibility.
"I don't think we've reached the complete capacity of what asset management could be," Amin says. "We are excited for what the future holds."