Managing your Parking Lot Portfolio
Parking lots, along with roofing and HVAC, are a large capital expense and require maintenance. Just like a leaking roof or broken air conditioner, a parking lot littered with potholes will negatively impact your customers. Unlike other areas of your property, the parking lot is the very first and last encounter for your customers. If your store strives to achieve a seamless customer experience regardless of location, success depends, in large part, on the condition of your pavement. When customers leave your facility, what is the final and lasting impression they hold? If your parking lot is in bad shape, it is probably not very positive. Managing your pavement inventory and budgeting in advance for cost-effective, proactive maintenance will help ensure that all of your parking lots stay in good condition. This, in turn, reduces potential liabilities and enhances your overall store image.
For many years, the paving industry has promoted pavement management planning or PMP to help facility professionals optimize pavement maintenance for multiple parking lots. The goal has been to prolong the functionality of each structure over an extended period of time. While PMP is still an important tool for any facility manager, it alone cannot produce real-time condition reports and projected costs for an entire parking lot portfolio. An inventory management system can fill in the gaps and provide valuable benefits. With an inventory, it is possible to track pavement condition for multiple sites without even leaving the office. Furthermore, maintenance history and repair recommendations can be logged to assist with budgeting for and scheduling future preventative or structural maintenance. This article discusses four steps to implementing a proper and effective parking lot inventory management system.
Step 1–Inventory Collection
As with any data management system, if good information goes in, then good information comes out. Of course, the reverse is also true. This reason alone is why an initial assessment is so important. Carefully select a reputable contractor to conduct assessments for all parking lots in a portfolio. During the assessments, the following data should be collected for each site: total SF of asphalt, total SF of concrete, pavement depths, and stall counts. Suggested repairs and the associated cost to correct and/or restore each parking lot should be proposed. If repairs are extensive, an option should reflect the cost spread out over multiple years. In addition, routine maintenance costs, spanning three to five years, should be outlined for each parking lot. Be sure to have your contractor take plenty of pictures showing current condition and existing liabilities. Maps for initial and projected repairs should clearly demonstrate where maintenance is needed. Any parking lot should be reassessed every three to five years since parking lots are guaranteed to deteriorate and conditions are always changing.
For a successful inventory collection, consider the following tips:
- Partnering with one contractor ensures your inventory remains consistent.
- Paying for initial assessment services will ensure you obtain unbiased information.
- Collecting your entire portfolio in one year may not be possible; consider spreading the assessment cost over a three-year period.
- If any properties are omitted from an assessment in a given year, be certain to continue preventative maintenance procedures on these parking lots.
Step 2–Software Organization
Preventative parking lot maintenance prevents further deterioration and maximizes pavement usability. Until recently, however, it was difficult to realize its true cost-saving benefits. After all, data is only valuable when it can be organized, analyzed in reports, and shared across the enterprise. Armed with a comprehensive pavement assessment of your portfolio, a web-based software platform is the best method to store the information collected. An effective software platform simplifies data entry, runs reports to guide purchasing decisions, and tracks repair progress in real time. When logged in, facility managers and team members can access data that supports the need for preventative maintenance and calculates budget dollars to accomplish it.
When reviewing software options, ask the following questions:
- Will the software log historical data on all parking lot repair projects?
- Will the software calculate when it is time to reevaluate each parking lot and alert the user?
- How many years out does the software project costs for recommended maintenance?
Step 3–Prioritize through Ratings
After just two years of use, all parking lots are in need of preventative maintenance. But, with several parking lots in a portfolio exceeding that time span, which one should be addressed first? How do you choose which property to repair if budget is limited? An inventory management system needs a rating scale to help you prioritize decision-making. A contractor with experience in parking lot inventorying can assist in the classification process.
For large parking lots with varying degrees of deterioration, consider using a different rating for each zone or area. For smaller parking lots or ones that have been consistently maintained, a single rating is sufficient. Whether you assign a grade or numerical rank, for example Grade A or Category 1, is unimportant; rather, the description and associated cost for each rating is what will help you prioritize your sites and, in some cases, make transferring funds from one property to another a simpler decision. Ratings should be based on the age of the parking lot and severity of defects. Recommended maintenance as well as the cost per square foot for repairs should be included within each rating. Once you are able to sort by rating, it becomes possible to analyze your sites based on several factors including severity, project size, location, and/or volume.
When reviewing your rating system, ask the following questions:
- A pavement rating is consistent, but do factors such as leasing vs. ownership affect priority?
- Will traffic volume and/or sales revenue influence the priority?
- Will ratings help you secure a larger capital or maintenance budget?
Step 4–Reporting and Budgeting
Oftentimes, instead of using a systematic rating system, facility managers simply choose parking lots in the worst condition and throw money at them in hopes of seeing a great improvement. However, with a well-designed rating system, repair costs can be approximated during each stage of the pavement lifecycle. For example, you may choose a simple rating using letter grades A through F (A being a new parking lot; F being a surface in need of complete replacement). If your parking lot is currently a D, software can estimate the cost needed to improve it to a C or B. Furthermore, you can easily see the cost difference between the two. Also, with ratings built into your inventory management system, the software can calculate the percentage of stores that fall into grades D and F. And, of course, supporting data–pictures, expert opinions, and repair maps–can be accessed in a customized report. Never again will you be unsure where to best utilize budget dollars.
For the most effective reporting and budgeting, consider the following tips:
- Select a software platform that can easily sort all ratings in your portfolio and provide accompanying charts or graphs to clearly illustrate budget needs.
- Choose a software platform that can report ratings by territory; perhaps there is a reason why one geographic region is better or worse than another.
- Implement a software platform that displays all current, pending, and completed parking lot projects in real-time.
The condition of your parking lots makes an impression on your customers both coming and going. Ensure repeat business and brand loyalty across all locations with well-maintained and effectively managed parking lots. Implementing a web-based inventory management system will greatly improve budgeting for and making decisions concerning your pavement assets. It’s all about the data—collecting, organizing, rating, and analyzing it. Once these four steps are complete and stored in an easy-to-access software platform, you will have all the necessary information to prioritize repairs and make the best use of your budget dollars across your entire portfolio. To get started, partner with a reputable national paving contractor with experience in inventory management. Together, see the big picture and take a proactive approach to pavement maintenance now and into the future.