Facility leaders share their thoughts on what to expect this year and beyond
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Winter is considered the slowest time of year for the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Aurora, Colorado.
While winter brings special events and tourists looking to hit the ski hills and partake in other seasonal activities, the property’s convention side takes a break.
“April to October, it’s pretty much 100 percent activity,” says Ethan Fitterman, assistant director of engineering. “There are constantly events going on, and they can range from a full property-wide event to a 50-person event. It just varies on what has been booked out.”
The Gaylord property hosts events from conventions and holiday parties to family vacations. The popular property is continually upgrading and performing maintenance on guest rooms, convention halls and in other areas of the property.
The maintenance and construction work includes plenty of work in high, hard-to-reach areas of the buildings. This is where the Gaylord property’s fleet of mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) comes in handy.
The property sits on 85 acres and consists of 2 million square feet of facilities, split about evenly with 1 million square feet each for the hotel and convention center.
The hotel has 1,501 guest rooms, which include standard rooms and executive and presidential suites. The convention center has four ballrooms that can be used in different sizes depending on the need. In addition to the ballrooms, the convention center has an exhibition hall and about 50 meeting rooms to accommodate conferences and business meetings. The facility often hosts multiple business meetings or conferences at a time.
“That’s a lot of territory to cover in those 2 million square feet,” says Fitterman, a 2022 Facility Champion award recipient. “And then also on the exterior grounds, we use lifts everywhere.”
Fitterman has several all-electric powered MEWPs on hand to support his team’s maintenance efforts. The Gaylord resort has four different kinds of lifts: four scissor lifts, which can reach 25 to 35 feet in height, respectively; two single-person lifts for maintenance workers to reach heights of about 50 feet; a manual push lift, or spider lift; and a 30-foot boom lift that requires operators to wear harness protection.
Fitterman says the boom lift comes in handy for many exterior projects across the property.
“It could be for checking lights along the front drive or in the parking lots to make sure they’re working,” he says. “We just did a pretty big project with our security team where they were installing new security system cameras in the parking lot. They were utilizing our boom lift to help install those on the lamp posts. They also just installed new lighting in our pool area, so they utilized it there. The lift can go and extend over the pool and do the installation safely.”
The rest of the property’s lifts are used for several maintenance needs. In addition to changing lights, maintenance technicians use the lifts for tasks such as inspecting and repairing water leaks and sprinkler heads, as well as fire and life safety systems and HVAC ducting. Having a versatile fleet allows workers to travel among hard-to-reach areas in the hotel and convention center areas, such as hallways.
The Gaylord property opened in December 2019, so Fitterman’s team is starting to see components and systems need replacing or maintenance. Using the lifts to complete those repairs and inspect systems has become a common practice.
“A lot of the things are starting to fail or are in the time that we need to replace them,” he says. “It varies, but some of the overhead water leaks during colder weather, we’ve had freeze and thaw for our fire and life safety sprinkler system. That would be an opportunity where we could use a lift, since it could be in our lobby where the ceiling is 50 or 60 feet in the air. We might have to go up there to put some eyes on it to see what’s going on.”
While Gaylord’s MEWPs fleet is big enough to handle most day-to-day tasks, there are times when Fitterman needs to rent specialized lifts for some tasks.
“If we’re renting a lift, it’s more for contractor use,” he says. “It’s not so much for our team.”
Some of the jobs that Gaylord hires third parties for include window cleaning at the eight-story resort.
“We use them from a cleaning standpoint and incorporate it into our budget,” Fitterman says. “For our window cleaners, we’ll rent for the atrium. We’ll use a 60-foot lift, and they’ll utilize it in the Grand Lodge area to clean the big glass walls, and then we also have a couple of guest rooms that look into the atrium. We’re currently revamping and redoing the Grand Lodge, so I don’t know what that’s going to look like once it’s done from a cleaning standpoint, but that’s another reason we rent. We have also rented 125-foot boom lifts for cleaning contractors so they can do exterior window cleaning. They tell us what they need, and they are off to the races.”
The resort also recently rented lifts for a bird mitigation project that has taken place over the last two years, using 85- to 125-foot boom lifts to install the systems around the property.
Fitterman’s team consists of 45 employees, including leadership, and the general training process at the resort for the lifts is straightforward. The experienced technicians teach newer employees how to operate the lifts.
“As far as training goes, typically engineers who have been on the property longer will teach and train how to utilize the lifts,” Fitterman says. “The lifts are pretty easy to use. They’re just typically a joystick and then utilize your thumbs to do the controls. I always suggest to someone new who is using a lift to go into turtle mode, so that way they are just going slower, and they can really pay attention to what they’re doing as opposed to rabbit mode.”
The list of maintenance employees using the boom lifts is more restricted than the list of operators for the smaller machines.
“We are very selective of who uses specific lifts, such as our boom lift with a harness, just because you go a little higher up, and you’re basically driving elevated,” Fitterman says. “Usually, our Level 3 or 4 (engineers) would be the ones utilizing those.”
When it is time for scheduled maintenance, the resort brings in outside mechanics to come on-site to perform inspections and repairs.
“We’ve had them for about 5½ years, and we reach out to a third-party company to come and service them,” Fitterman says. “They give us feedback, and they’ll give us the parts that are needed for replacement. The first three years, we didn’t really do any maintenance to them because they were brand new. But now they’re showing signs of wear and tear.”
MEWPs are among the most expensive purchases for institutional and commercial facilities. The Gaylord’s MEWPs arrived new with the property’s opening five years ago, but Fitterman’s team knows the time will arrive when these workhorse machines reach the point where buying new MEWPs is a smarter investment than repairing existing units.
“From a cleanliness standpoint, they could use a little bit of cleaning, but as far as a functionality standpoint, they’ve been operating well,” Fitterman says of the existing fleet. “As far as replacing them, our finance team has started inquiring about that. It sounds like there’s going to be some plan in maybe the next 5-10 years when they’ll start incorporating into the budget to replace the lifts.
“We probably could get another five-plus years out of them easily, just based on the way that they’re currently operating. As long as we’re doing the annual due diligence maintenance and not neglecting it, we should be good with them.”
To ensure that the MEWPs remain in operation as long as possible, Fitterman relays an important message to his team.
“The motto I go by is, if you see something, say something,” he says. “That can mean a lot of different things, but it’s really important. For instance, if you see an oil leak, and the hydraulic wheel is having a leak and you don’t necessarily see it when driving, but if someone happens to see it, say something, and then lock it out, tag it out because if you’re going to create issues not only for the next person that’s going to use it, you could do a lot more harm that way.”
Dave Lubach is the executive editor for the facility market. He has more than eight years of experience writing about facility management and maintenance issues.