S1 Ep. 2 Technology to improve maintenance knowledge and efficiency

 

Published July 2022

 

The CEO and co-founder of Griot, Sean Miller, joined the Solving for Multifamily podcast to talk about a solution that can make multifamily maintenance requests more efficient. 

 

Miller has witnessed field technicians that serve the multifamily market become overworked and overwhelmed. So much is changing as devices get smarter and buildings become more connected. Adding to challenges, multifamily maintenance teams are often understaffed, which was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s growing increasingly important to be able to use staff in the most efficient way possible, getting them in and out as quickly as possible. 

 

Learn more about how Griot is being used to make multifamily maintenance more efficient—a win-win for properties and the residents. Listen to the podcast episode, Technology to improve maintenance knowledge and efficiency.

 

We discuss:

  • Addressing skill gaps among field technicians today

  • The hob and spoke model for fulfilling apartment maintenance requests

  • The impact of the pandemic on maintenance technicians and how they are evolving 

  • Better communication leads to more efficient service calls

 

Who is Griot?

The Griot platform is designed to connect field technicians for knowledge sharing, ultimately making maintenance calls more efficient. There are technicians with multiple skill sets, and the platform unites them using an app-based solution. Field technicians tap into the collective knowledge of their teams and resolve issues faster, plus store key information for future maintenance visits. Learn more at griot.co.

 

Connect with the guest

Sean Miller, CEO and co-founder of Griot

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/seantmiller

Twitter: Sean_T_Miller


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Episode transcript:

 

00:00.00

rkgaulden

Hey Sean thanks for joining the show today.

 

00:04.10

Sean _ Griot

Hey Robert Thanks for having me pleasure to be here.

 

00:06.64

rkgaulden

Absolutely really excited to to learn a little bit more about your company I know you're industry veteran to Multifamily so why don't you tell us alittle bit about the company you started and how you are solving for multifamily.

 

00:17.57

Sean _ Griot

Prior to Griot I ran PointCentral which is one of the smart property platforms out there. But if I expand the lens a little bit more over the last 20 years I've worked in different functions where I worked with skilled trades, so general contractors electricians plumbers hvac, and then most recently smart home installers, low voltage access control, etc. And sort of all this time starts see a um, ah recurring theme that no matter how much you train these these skilled techs or how experienced they are. You can never perfectly train. And they will go in the field and they'll have a moment where something doesn't work. You know they can't diagnose what's going on the part they brought is the right part but it's not working etc. And in that moment today, the tech there's a flury of different ways they try and so communicate to solve that. They typically look to talk to one of their team members because they know someone on their team will have seen this and done it but that communal knowledge they try and get to you through a phone call or a text. Maybe they try slack the problem with all these tools is they're either not easy for you to get the context like a phone call where I'm calling you and try and describe it. Or in slack's case. The tools aren't laid out in a way that's intuitive to a skilled trade. You know slack was built for software engineers and office workers not for tech out in the field and so what Grio's looking to do is essentially build a unified communication tool that helps skilled trades better communicate in the moment to share that knowledge and then also capture that knowledge and help make it available going forward to the whole team so that that knowledge doesn't leave when someone retires or leaves the team it stays within the organization.

 

01:56.42

rkgaulden

Really interesting. So it not only sounds like you have created a platform to connect technicians to each other so they can help with knowledge sharing but you have also created a platform where you can archive that knowledge, and allow you as an organization to keep that knowledge over time, is that about right?

 

02:17.96

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, so definitely that your communication sort of is the the problem for the tech in the moment right? So how do I just help put tech A and in touch with tech B help them be more efficient in the field as you know like there's a shortage of from general maintenance guys to skilled to Low voltage access control installers today so making text more efficient on the field helps everyone out but then there is this knowledge. So the idea is that you would capture this knowledge in our database. The techs are creating that knowledge in their interaction. So it's sort of done by them. They get to tag it you can tag it by making model. You know. Of manufacturer you can tag it by location, by a job number. All of the above and then that lives within their workspace so they can any tech can search for that. There's opportunities to tie that into other things. So if you ever want to pull that knowledge into a formal product training database or use it to inform manuals or other training. That's definitely there. But the idea is at least keep this knowledge. Also they're quickly accessible for the tax when they need when they need it. It's right there for them.

 

03:39.10

rkgaulden

Pretty interesting, so how did you come up with the name of the company, Griot?

 

03:27.74

Sean _ Griot

The name for the company Grio comes from. It's ah it's a French word for for an African bard and and the the idea we had behind it was that sort of person who's had a you know whose job was to always share tribal knowledge right? Make sure one another knew the history of things and why we were doing things a certain way. We thought that was a great personification of what we're trying to do you know all these techs have tribal knowledge out there today. The challenge is 20 years ago these techs traveled together and there's an opportunity to share it in person. Today a lot of techs are loan workers out there in the field. So it's not as easy to communicate and you just have this you know acceleration of techs retiring and so you just have knowledge that communal knowledge leaving the workforce right? So we're just trying to help capture that and share it and keep it within the workforce.

 

04:17.19

rkgaulden

You know that's a great idea and a great point as well.  We keep hearing how hard it is to find skilled labor today and it sounds like your platform enable people to communicate and share that knowledge as well as build those skill sets to help close some of those gaps.  You mentioned low voltage a little bit earlier but it sounds like your enabling this platform for something much broader than that, you have plumbing out there, you have HVAC, you have security, is that your vision, to enable multiple skills and trades on this platform? 

 

04:50.78

Sean _ Griot

So we are enacting across multiple multiple skill sets today and we think we can continue doing that because our focus is on communication and not necessarily things that get very job specific or trade specific. You can think of you know work order specifics ordering parts even overall you know punch list and process management those get very specific to the type of tech to the type of job that you have to really build for that in our case since we're just enabling the techs to talk to 1 another as long as the techs generally have the same need to communicate and in our case show 1 on 1 video where you can quickly augment with your finger on a mobile device or on a desktop. What the other person needs to know that's applicable across multiple trades out there.

 

05:34.27

rkgaulden

That's pretty cool.  So specifically then, thinking about it from a multifamily perspective, how does this technology help owners and operators in addressing their needs from a labor and skills perspective?  

 

05:51.86

Sean _ Griot

So most recently my time at point central you know I saw. Ah even before covid I saw organizations that didn't have enough maintenance techs on staff right? So the techs they had were general getting overworked which is always a concern you want you know you? well you want to utilize your your team. At an efficient rate overworking them over long periods of time leads to burnout then covid hit right? and it not only overworked people but also just threw a bunch of different curveballs at us of how do we get techs in the field. How do they again, be efficient while they're out there and so this sort of need I think in Multifamily is just helping. Maintenance teams you have on site today. There's an opportunity for for driving the communication knowledge capture I think if you look forward 5 or 10 years there's There's some trends that lead towards potential shifts in how multifamily does maintenance especially for operators that have lots of buildings in the same area where. Instead of putting maintenance teams in every building you sort of build a hub and spoke model with maintenance teams lives in a city and works without it that that that could be really good but again communication is going to be 1 of the key things they need to do that. Yes to also need to know the right part on the right truck with the right tech going out and planning all their work orders and there's a lot of. Investment going on around those. But again, you never perfectly train or plan a route with the right tech, part, etc. And so what we want to do is when when the unknown happens. How do we help make sure that tech doesn't just feel like they're lost on an island out there or the maintenance person again and then yeah. Think of Multifamily again maintenance maintenance people have to cover a lot of areas. So it's not likely they they always remember everything and so the ability with grio to not only facility communication. But for me, maybe I'm the newer maintenance tech on a team when I show up to a site. Can quickly search under that site's address and see all the other tech's notes of what's been done so I get really contextually good awareness not just a history of work orders. But actually if they showed up and saw that they needed there's a deviant they needed to do something to fix it. They saw exactly what they did to fix that.

 

07:55.77

rkgaulden

Yeah, you know what's really interesting is, I'm hearing a lot more demand for how you utilize your labor more efficiently.  We know that labor costs are increasing.  We know that if you can get your labor on and off a job very quickly and efficiently, that's going to overall save you money.  Is that one of the main benefits of your platform?                               

 

08:46.50

Sean _ Griot

That's exactly it so get them on and off a job in less time and also reduce the number of times you have to roll a truck on and off a job right? So reduce total hours and reduce total touches.

 

08:55.31

rkgaulden

Yeah, I can tell you came from the security side of the business because rolling a truck is a term I use quite often too.  But that is an important point, i mean, are you guys out there soliving for making sure you have the right part on the truck the first time?  

 

10:07.23

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, so today we're not touching the sort of helping to make the right truck it on the part again. There's I think there's tools being built that are trying to do that better scheduling. You know, getting more information from the resident ahead of the work order actually being completed.  And even some of the iot things right? Predictive maintenance knowing getting data from the unit. So our focus again is more when you're out there and you have that part imagine you're a newer person on that team. First time you've installed this part now you can have that virtual senior tech maintenance person or senior tech on your team. Right there over your virtual so shoulder helping guide you through what you need to do and answer questions. So again, you're efficient, but you can you can get your team out there and and doing things complimentary to all those other tools making sure you know it's scheduled efficiently efficiently in the right products on the truck.

 

10:56.70

rkgaulden

Awesome! So it's almost like having the head technician right there, virtual at your fingertips.

 

11:01.44

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, yeah, I mean you think about there was the apprenticeship model was always you know the apprentice and the master and again just given the need for skilled trades. There's been a shortage of general supply over at least 5 if not ten years and then you have this acceleration of. Retirements now. So you just have a ah labor pool that's quickly getting smaller. They don't have the time to to go out and train 1 another in person or to sit in training classes all the time right? So you've just got to find ways to augment them and help make them more efficient in the field.

 

11:33.92

rkgaulden

Not to mention the cost right? I mean you're investing a lot of cost in that training time, so if you can accelerate that training time from a cost perspective. That's got to translate into benefits for everybody downstream as well.

 

11:48.50

Sean _ Griot

Exactly and benefits in terms of costs and also Robert you know a multifamily. Ah, the goal is always once you get a tenant in to keep them as long as possible, right? Service and maintenance are 1 of the key things that you'll see as drivers of why people look for a new unit.  And so if we can help just not only deliver a more costef, efficient service but also a service that the residents expects you know takes a right amount of time and happens as they expect that helps retain that res and that helps the overall ah efficiency of that building by itself or profitability of that building.

 

12:19.71

rkgaulden

Extremely important as we constantly move forward in a five star rated world right? But I think that's what so important about service.  At the end of the day if you are not receiving great service, you're not going to be happy.  I was recently talking to a colleague of mine and she is going through, an issue right now in her apartment complex, and if the service is not going to be good, she is probably go somewhere else and not renew her lease.

 

13:12.70

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, yeah, and that world concessions probably won't keep that resident. They're gonna go see what else is available.

 

13:17.34

rkgaulden

Yeah, and you know when you when you bring up concession or you are using concessions. Now you're talking about eroding you know the overall profitability of your operations. So all these things do tie tightly together. Thinking through then, kind of the rest of the story.. What do you see is next for your company and and how do you want to deploy.

 

13:37.41

Sean _ Griot

One of the interesting things we're seeing so we've ah yeah, deployed we have some people using the product out there today under the regional thesis help the the maintenance teams or the techs you hire communicate and share knowledge what we've seen this evolution pretty rapidly is. Now those two teams talking right? So in the world where a maintenance tech either can't get to a job or had to call in an outside tech to do something. This tool is allowing the maintenance tech to still do something else and get a call from the skilled tra when they they have a question on could be layout of a a community could be a fix could be an approval hey I'm here. Here's what I'm seeing let me show it to you. Do you approve me to do this work as I'm stating um or to call back into the office because Grio facilitates community not communication. Not only on a mobile app but also with desktop so you can have different parts of the buildings org now easily communicate with different techs as they come in and that was a. Yeah, we sort of had that hypothesis sitting out there but I was sort of intrigued how fast that started start. We started seeing that out there.

 

14:42.75

rkgaulden

Pretty cool from a communications perspective. Are you guys only using audio or are you experimenting with video as well?  I have to imagine the ability to trouble shoot something with the use of video is going to make things a lot easier.  And from that perspective, everybody has a phone or a camera on their phone today, is that a direction you are exploring?  

 

15:02.28

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, so the product today is video base right? Audio's out there in terms of phone calls. We think that's again, it's a way to get a hold of someone. It's not efficient because you have to give them context and explain what's going on so when you make a call via Griot it's right away video call I see what you see.  And I can quickly again draw on my screen or on my computer use my mouse to do things on the screen for you. Um, that. That's what we think is key. Yeah, we've done a lot of work from a compatibility standpoint so making this I know techs in the field don't always have ah they don't always either if they have a corporate device or it's a personal device. Not always the most recent 1 So we've done a lot of work for compatibility making this thing work back with iphone 6 s and the Android equivalent at that time just to really maximize that when techs were in the field. They want technology as this reliable and does what it needs to do and and in this case, communication is the tool. They look to Use. We just want to make give them a better communication tool.

 

15:56.23

rkgaulden

So from that perspective did you guys package this up as an app that resides right there on your phone.  Basically allowing your techs to make that video transaction and start that process?   

 

16:08.22

Sean _ Griot

This lives as an app right there and you know you just launch the app push the team member you want to talk to or the external vendor. However, whoever you want to communicate that's listed there in your contacts and the nice thing is again Robert if I'm calling you. If you have the mobile version and the desktop version. Let's say you're sitting at your computer at that point you can answer that call right there on your computer. You're not necessarily having to pull your phone out and work from that if it's not convenient for you. But if you're in the field and your phone's what you got, You can also answer that phone call that video call right there and help help the person out.

 

16:42.24

rkgaulden

Very cool switching gears on you a little bit and just out of curiosity. Are you guys facilitating a a pool of experts that you're also connecting back to, so if I'm a technician for example, and I am trying to trouble shoot something, are you guys facilitating that service that allows that technician to be connected to, you know, an external expert that will help them understand what they are looking at and get up to speed?    

 

17:12.48

Sean _ Griot

Today. We're not doing anything from sort of a marketplace formation. You know we've we're relying on people to find their own maintenance people their own skilled tech on their own and then just help communication between them. Not ah oppose it you can think of a point where we may know in a certain geography that this organization has really highly rated hvac techs and there's an opportunity to then show that organization maybe to a property manager right? who again has our maintenance team but occasionally needs the external techs to help them and how do you help facilitate that introduction.

 

17:48.96

rkgaulden

Yeah, very very cool I can see where at some point in time you know that connector piece may be a great part of a buisness model for you guys to add on.  So there you go? Right.

 

Sean _ Griot

Um, ask me again in 6 or twelve months there.

 

18:07.42

rkgaulden

I would love to.  Love to have you back and learn how your company is growing.  You know, thinking through your business cases today, you've got some really cool technology, is there anything else you wanted to hightlight today for the audience and let them know a little bit more about your company?    

 

19:04.10

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, so I guess building on the the question of why now like hopefully Robert some of the listeners here have found this interesting and and it's seen this pain point and they've land at this point like okay is this something I want to do something about today. Do I want to learn more about Griot and so to answer the why now question. Um, I think we're sitting at a point where again operators of multifamily buildings are going to see growing need to again. Not ah, not only better plan work orders but better help the triage in the moment help the the maintenance people in the techs. Do it because. Besides the factors I mentioned earlier just you know shortage of supply and and people retiring earlier think about in my previous life in your current life. The explosion of connected services and devices we're seeing out there right? New Smart access control systems, connected buildings. These are all units or systems that. Whether it's your own maintenance team or an external partner who's doing the install who's doing the maintenance when occasionally something needs is breaks. It needs to be replaced where does that knowledge live and how does it get easily shared. You know we see that as a huge opportunity to use this tool again because it can facilitate that communication and knowledge share, within an org and also between orgs to help make sure that whoever's doing that work out there um gets the knowledge they need and I think all these connected devices knowledge are an explosion and the adoption of it. But then you can think of the exponential growth and knowledge around those right? How how do you do all these different things with the different versions of hardware and different versions of software and all these other things for a maintenance person to have to try and even be vaguely familiar with all those and understand hvac and understand plumbing and lighting. Yeah, it just it's becoming a really daunting task and so I think there's a growing need to really help get knowledge to them when they need it and the in the way they need it.

 

20:59.53

rkgaulden

Yeah I think it's great, I think you've, uh, really brought to market a pretty exciting platform that hopefully, not only closes that knowledge gap but helps accelerate getting a job done more efficiency and on time.

 

 

 

Sean _ Griot

Um, exactly.

 

 

rkgaulden

Very cool work can ah if if I wanted to find out more about your company where can we find it.

 

 

Sean _ Griot

Yeah, so people can learn more about us at Griot.co that's G R I O T Dot C o.

 

rkgaulden

Well thank you very much Sean, great catchup with you and hope you'll come on back and tell us how your company is doing.  What other things you have iterated on over time and hopefully about the great successes you have with your business.

 

 

Sean _ Griot

Hey Robert I appreciate it. Thank you very much.