Nov 08, 2023
By Ben Gardner

The Role of Smart Asset Maintenance and Repairs in Convenience Store and Supermarket Management

From lights to fridges to self-checkouts to power washers, fully functioning assets are the heroes of any convenience/forecourt store and supermarket environment.

They keep products chilled, frozen, or hot, they keep the place well-lit, they keep customer cars clean, and they can manage the temperature to keep the shopper comfortable at all times – and that’s just for starters.

But the trouble is, this equipment doesn’t manage itself and it’s possible it could break or malfunction at any moment if not properly maintained.

This is why it’s up to facilities managers (FMs) to keep things running smoothly, or as smoothly as possible (we know you can’t predict everything).

But those are some pretty big shoes to fill and FMs often find themselves juggling multiple tasks at any one time. As a result, it’s become clear that the manual techniques of the past are no longer enough to keep up with changing retail environments and customer expectations.

Enter smart asset maintenance.

Thanks to modern technology, it’s now possible to acquire, deploy, maintain, and dispose of assets in a much more efficient manner. It also reduces the amount of stressful and laborious tasks facing facilities managers.


How asset maintenance and repairs can be automated

Asset maintenance is about the strategic maintenance and management of all assets through their entire lifecycle. In order to optimize asset performance, ensure compliance, and mitigate possible disruptions, a range of methods are used to get maximum value from every piece of equipment.

The term ‘assets’ can encompass a variety of resources and equipment, from machinery and infrastructure to intangible assets like software and data. However, in the case of supermarkets and convenience/forecourt stores, this refers to items like fridges, vending machines, HVAC systems, power washers, lights, tills, self-checkouts, and deli counters.

With a lot to think about across the whole retail environment, it’s good to learn that automation within this industry is almost unlimited, with some of the most commonly recognized applications being:

  • Automating preventative maintenance workflows
  • Issuing and managing work orders
  • Managing assets and resources using smart sensors to detect anomalies or issues
  • Automating schedules for routine maintenance checks
  • Gathering data to gain insights into maintenance efforts, time, costs, and more


Use cases for automated asset management in supermarkets

Fridges and freezers

Not only is a broken fridge or freezer inconvenient, but it can also be very costly if the products within become damaged and are no longer safe to sell. By embedding Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in fridges and freezers, facilities managers can detect and even predict changes and issues within these assets.

In this case, smart automation makes it possible to diagnose problems much quicker and employ the correct technician with the relevant skill set to fix these issues promptly.

Vending machines

Taking care of hundreds or thousands of vending machines, such as slush/smoothie dispensers, can be time consuming and costly, and when maintenance is performed manually, these popular revenue generating assets may experience extended downtime, causing inconvenience to customers and lost revenue for the retailer.

With automation, FMs can manage multiple assets across multiple stores in a far more efficient manner. This could include scheduling preventative maintenance, troubleshooting issues and handling breakdowns.

Predictive/Preventative maintenance schedules

Automated asset management isn’t just about the physical assets themselves. The ability to automate the scheduling of predictive/preventative maintenance across the supermarket or retail environment can be a huge and important time saver.

This also ensures that maintenance doesn’t get pushed back and that it can be effectively scheduled to avoid busy periods like the morning commute or Christmas.

Digital work orders

Digital mobile work order forms can help to eliminate legibility issues and the use of paper forms, and can be automatically sent to the correct supplier, vendor, or tradesperson.

As the entire workflow is automated, FMs can receive automatic notifications along the way to help them stay informed and up to date on the status of the work order and the asset until the problem is fixed.


The benefits of smart asset maintenance and how this supports FM

Managers or maintenance teams in grocery retail can and should automate asset management for a number of reasons. First and foremost, these retail environments typically have a considerable numbers of assets and these are extremely valuable to the daily running of the store.

Research from University of Nebraska found that refrigerator problems were the first most costly repair for half of supermarkets. Not only is this time-consuming to manage, but the additional strain on already tight budgets due to emergency repairs can see facilities and operations managers at their wits ends.

Therefore, automation and the subsequent tools help to minimize the labor required for routine, and predictive/preventative maintenance, as well as tackle emergencies and increase food safety in grocery environments.

Going back to the earlier examples of using IoT sensors in fridges; if you run the risk of losing thousands of dollars’ worth of product because of a single fridge failure, that is reason enough to make sure these assets are always running efficiently.

Sensors and facility management software work hand in hand to help deliver predictive maintenance. Sensors can monitor various critical parameters such as temperature, humidity, energy consumption, and the performance of refrigeration systems. By continuously collecting and analyzing real-time data, retailers can not only detect anomalies and deviations in fridge operations but also predict potential issues before they escalate into costly breakdowns.

Automation is key for tackling repetitive tasks in order to reduce the number of people and hours spent performing these tasks. This can significantly cut costs while freeing up the FM team’s time to focus on other pressing matters and be more responsive to emergencies. This, in turn, can help to increase efficiency and reduce downtime.

Reducing downtime of important assets

What’s more, by automating maintenance workflows and automatically assigning work orders to the right technician, this can help said technician to manage their time more effectively, resulting in less visits, more efficient routing, and increased productivity.

This also means that facilities managers can better manage their assets, reducing downtime and the risk of further collateral damage. Plus, by using IoT devices to detect issues and handle predictive/preventative maintenance, FMs can better manage resources, resulting in less energy wasted and more money saved.

Using data intelligently

Another key way in which automation can support facilities management and the retail environment as a whole is by introducing automated reporting and data generation.

By capturing data in this way, data analytics can be used to give more in-depth insights about maintenance costs, asset lifecycles, and generating inventory reports.

Not only this, but these tools can reduce the risk of a data entry mistake and therefore, bigger errors. This can have a positive impact on all workflows across the retail environment.


In conclusion

Although every convenience/forecourt store and supermarket is unique, one thing we can agree on is that these environments have a considerable number of assets that must be maintained. This is vital to ensure that they can effectively serve customers, keep food safe, and continue to make a profit.

Automating asset maintenance reduces the time and effort spent on manual, labor-intensive tasks. It also helps to cut costs, reduce the risk of an error, and ensure store employees can concentrate on delivering an enjoyable store atmosphere.