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Guthrie Theater's Software Gets Top Billing in Benefiting Bottom Line

Everyday, nonprofit organizations win grants for social programs to help the poor, or to bring performing arts to rural schools or wells to Africa. But winning a million-dollar grant for demonstrating a stellar maintenance record is not the typical grant award.



Everyday, nonprofit organizations win grants for social programs to help the poor, or to bring performing arts to rural schools or wells to Africa. But winning a million-dollar grant for demonstrating a stellar maintenance record is not the typical grant award. Yet that’s exactly what the maintenance team achieved at the venerable Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

The theater opened a new facility in 2006, prompting the maintenance department to revamp operations and replace its overstuffed paper repair binder with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to generate work orders and schedule equipment for preventive maintenance (PM). The CMMS also captures repair data and issued historical reports, showing that the theater’s equipment was well-maintained.

Organized maintenance and a foolproof 25-year projection on capital replacements earned the department a million-dollar matching grant award from the Kresge Foundation to establish a building-reserves fund in 2010.

“Our CMMS gave us a detailed maintenance history, helped us show how we had kept up proper repairs, and what we would have to replace by when, eliminating any surprises,” says Dan Soltys, director of facilities. “That helped us win the grant.”

What began as a 1,441-seat, thrust-stage playhouse has evolved into a 250,000 square-foot complex on 2.25 acres, complete with three stages, 2,000 seats, an award-winning restaurant and an express café, more than a dozen bars, shops on nine levels, and a lobby known for its incomparable views of the city.

In conjunction with the Guthrie Theater’s expansion, Soltys invested in Bigfoot CMMS to automate maintenance for nearly every piece of equipment past the front of the stage, from chillers, boilers, heat pumps, and air handlers to theater seats, house lights, and drinking fountains. Bigfoot is a web-based solution that automates asset maintenance operations with capabilities that include PM scheduling, ad hoc work order and repair scheduling, history and analysis reporting, and asset-life-cycle management.

“Before Bigfoot, we handled maintenance with a three-ring binder,” says Soltys, who is responsible for infrastructure, engineering, security and cleaning. “We would only change a filter when it was plugged up and because we hadn’t changed it in six months. We were relying on memory.”

Today, 343 pieces of equipment are scheduled for maintenance on the software’s PM calendar, which reminds his team to grease a bearing or change a filter. If the controls of an air handler need to be checked, Bigfoot issues a work order and sends an e-mail to the assigned technician, who then notifies Soltys through Bigfoot when the task is complete.

Soltys marks Bigfoot’s work-order-management page and updates the department’s history log book. If a vendor replaces an expensive part and invoices the theater, Soltys can dispute the charge with access to the digitized warranty in Bigfoot. Soltys also uses Bigfoot’s “Miscellaneous” page and makes up work orders for ad hoc repairs, such as changing the battery on a forklift or fixing a broken office chair.

“Except for a blizzard in 2010 that forced us to close the theater for one evening, we’ve never missed a performance,” Soltys said. “Likewise, when it’s 90 degrees outside, I can’t go to the C.A.O. and tell him we won’t have air conditioning tonight. The show must go on. Bigfoot is my insurance against failed equipment and unhappy patrons.”


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