Develop A System For Success

At the Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC) in North Carolina, maintenance is an ongoing, full-time endeavor. With three bodies of water, a therapy pool, a competition pool, and a dive well, the GAC totals 1.5-million gallons of water housed in a 67,000-square-foot building.

Keeping the GAC running at a world-class level requires constant awareness of the condition of the equipment, the water quality, and the actual building structure. Working in such a large facility, one might become completely overwhelmed and even lost in a short time. When asked to write an article on “Best Maintenance Practices,” my first thought was, ”This will be an article the size of War and Peace.” Upon further thought, I realized the best maintenance practice is the facility’s own plan. 

Pick A Plan

A plan is an orderly or step-by-step conception or proposal for accomplishing an objective. I like this definition because of the word ”orderly.” Wouldn’t life be great if everything went along in an orderly fashion? For the GAC, a plan is ”a proposed or intended course of action” because the goal is to keep the facility in a narrow, ideal range. To do this, we have adopted the food industry’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Plan (HACCP).

  I came across HACCP while working for my brother’s company in training pool techs for the cruise industry. Robert Tuttle applied the plan to the pool industry. I use his training manual, Ship’s Pool Technician, to this day to fine-tune the GAC’s plan. This thinking has provided many benefits and even revealed hazards before they became issues. It places responsibility on the pool technicians and gives them a sense of ownership. This approach helps catch an issue before it turns into a shutdown.

The plan uses checklists that instantly determine whether the GAC falls within the critical control point range. The first checklist is the daily list, which indicates within the first 5 minutes of arrival whether all automation is running and functioning correctly. This list contains daily chemical readings and consumption, pump and filter pressures, UV intensity, flow rates, and water temperature. Readings such as increased chemical consumption can show either a larger bather load or a water-quality issue that needs attention. 

Another list used is a routine and suggested preventative-maintenance schedule, which is quite comprehensive and has taken time to build. We are also constantly adding to it. Some of the items include greasing the pump motors, bleeding water from the compressors, maintaining diving boards, etc. We have found that adding these items into an Outlook calendar with two recipients increases accountability and ensures preventative maintenance is being performed. Over time, this saves money, reduces major repairs, and avoids problems that could lead to a shutdown during a large swimming or diving meet.

Charting Problems

Every pool has unforeseen issues, but the trick is to keep them from reoccurring. Logging all maintenance tasks will reveal trends or even potentially larger issues. For example, we have five chlorine pumps and have found the tubes last anywhere between 9 and 18 months. In one instance, pump 3 went out. It was rebuilt and then about a month later, it went out again. The documentation of not just a pump being rebuilt but that exact pump failing again led us to discover a partially clogged chlorine injector that was creating enough back pressure in the line to blow the tube. That’s a common issue that—if overlooked—can lead to no chlorine in the pool.

The most important part of a plan is implementing it. Without constant training, staff will not see the importance of what is to be conveyed to the public or saved in the budget. Proper training instills pride and motivation to do a better job. As a manager, I must be aware of what is happening at a facility. Lastly, I encourage staff members to continue their education. While the National Swimming Pool Foundation’s (NSPF) Certified Pool and Spa Operator (CPO) certification is the minimum requirement, pool technicians are encouraged to pursue certifications like facility audits, field service technician, etc. These give technicians more opportunities for advancement and the knowledge for GAC to remain a world-class facility. 

In developing a maintenance plan, start with the excellent checklists in the NSPF’s CPO handbook. Then approach the plan like it’s the U.S. Constitution—an ever-changing, living document. The trick is to develop an atmosphere in which every suggestion is heard and leadership listens, rewards, and gives latitude to succeed.  

Richard Tuttle is a facility maintenance provider for the  Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, N.C.