Established in 2008, Black Rock Coffee Bar started with a few stores that required minimal maintenance. As a result, it was simple enough for a store manager to text a maintenance supervisor when something was needed.
“For almost a decade, we just did work orders via text messaging to our maintenance people,” said Ian Degraff, national facility maintenance director at Black Rock Coffee Bar. “As we started to grow, that system was definitely not scalable. It was hard to keep track of the massive amount of texts and calls. I’d be flipping through my phone, scrolling all the way down to remember a text I had, and things were just getting forgotten. When the text messages and calls were coming in non-stop at all hours, we knew we needed to make a change.”
Black Rock Coffee Bar selected UpKeep as its solution for managing work orders and began testing the product in its Portland, Oregon, stores. Many of those coffee shops were in older buildings that required more maintenance.
Since then, the company has implemented UpKeep in other coffee shops, particularly in Arizona where the business is growing the fastest.
Besides making Degraff’s job significantly easier, UpKeep has helped the organization better track its work orders, improve its new coffee shop construction efforts, boost communication among employees, and build an asset history for the future.
Prior to UpKeep, Black Rock Coffee Bar would operate a handful of stores in one community. “We’d have stores with baristas working at them and then maybe one or two maintenance people in the area,” Degraff explained. “Store managers would text or call when emergency maintenance was needed, and then a maintenance person would come out and fix them. We weren’t specifically located in the store, but we’d be running around to multiple stores, fixing things.”
Once UpKeep was up and running for the organization, more specific procedures were put into place, helping the company elevate its maintenance management to a more professional level.
“I think UpKeep makes it more official,” Degraff said. “Instead of appearing like we just randomly fix stuff nonchalantly, we now have a facility maintenance department. We can tell our stores that this is the avenue to take for maintenance. Everyone knows to be on top of store issues and to communicate through UpKeep right away. Now, these are our policies; this is how we get things done.”
Black Rock Coffee Bar implemented UpKeep at the beginning of 2020. The company has about 60 corporately owned locations that need centralized maintenance services, and these shops are located in Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas. The organization selected UpKeep because it was the most user-friendly platform and flexible to access both at a desktop and on mobile devices.
“I’ve been doing most of the onboarding in our Arizona stores,” Degraff said. “It was definitely a world of change, we were able to streamline and organize everything within Upkeep. We added all of our assets in there, gathered all the work orders, and then trained everyone effectively.
“The biggest thing was training store managers and assistants, even regional store managers, on how to use Upkeep and how to properly put in a work order,” he continued. “We had a full sit-down meeting with the regional store managers on how to use it, showing them in person how to enter work orders on their phones and on their computers. We did a pretty in-depth training that lasted probably a few hours just to go over everything.”
Follow-up training was conducted on Slack. Each store had its own QR code that was posted so employees could just scan the code to begin a work order. For those times when employees wanted to submit work orders from home or on the road, they could access UpKeep through a link.
“Previously, a closer might text a manager and report a pipe leak, and that text would get forwarded to me,” Degraff said. “Now, that closer can just enter a work order at the store, explain the problem, snap a picture and put it in UpKeep. I get a notification at home and can take the needed next steps.”
Black Rock Coffee Bar has seen significant time and cost savings as a result of using UpKeep. Increased visibility and faster communication has allowed employees to catch small problems before they become major ones.
“In the past, things would sometimes get missed by the managers and baristas because they are not at the store constantly,” Degraff said. Now, anyone who notices anything can submit a work order. “For example, a closer that notices a leaking pipe can save us a ton of time and money. We’ve had a handful of times when we get a work order at closing, and we get to it right away instead of the manager coming in the next day to find the store flooded.”
A few locations, for instance, struggle with clogged floor drains. If the closers see a clog, they communicate it right away through UpKeep. “This happened in our Phoenix store. I was able to call a plumber at night and have it fixed right away,” Graff said. “The plumber came out in a few hours to make the repair and saved the store from having water overflowing into the back of the store, barista area and into the lobby.
In the Arizona market, where Black Rock Coffee Bar is currently expanding quickly, the company is able to look at work orders from existing stores to guide designs of future ones.
“Some of our stores were built within the last year, and I can see which work orders came up in that first year,” Degraff said. “I can talk with our construction team and ask if they can just tweak this design or build this part a bit differently so we avoid future similar work orders in the new stores.”
For example, the design of the floor drainage system is critical for the company to manage all the waste from coffee machines and milk products. “Previously, they had placed the plumbing that led to the floor drain near the area where employees store a rolling ice bin,” Degraff said. “Baristas frequently came into that area and bumped the bin or pipe, causing it to break and leak. We could show our construction team the actual work orders and photos of what was happening. In our new stores, we’ve had that plumbing moved to a location under a sink where nothing is stored to avoid those types of work orders in the future.”
After Black Rock Coffee Bar was able to get all its work orders into a central location and track that maintenance tasks were getting completed, the organization was free to take a more proactive approach to preventive maintenance.
“Our time management is a lot better, and work orders are getting done quicker,” Degraff said. “We’re able to do a lot more preventative maintenance as well. That information isn’t getting lost in Excel spreadsheets that reside on personal computers. Instead, it’s accessible to everyone, and as national manager, I can make sure it’s getting done. It’s helped me do my job better. Instead of holding all that information in my head, it’s now on UpKeep and I don’t have to worry about it.”
Black Rock Coffee Bar is using UpKeep’s multisite features, allowing Degraff to log-in once and manage all of the stores from a single dashboard.
The preventive maintenance tasks have helped particularly with keeping critical equipment up and running in hot Arizona summers. “Ice machines, here in the summer, just struggle because of the heat,” Degraff said. “Things will go out and break down all the time. Now, I have them
serviced twice a year, before summer and after summer. And that preventive maintenance helps keep our machines going and all the parts are running smoothly. They perform well in high demand. We have a similar issue with our air conditioning systems.”
“Maintenance is a funny thing; I think it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of thing,” Degraff said. “No one really pays much attention until they really need us, and then they want to know where we are, what’s going on, and when things will get fixed.
Before UpKeep, there wasn’t a lot of information about maintenance work levels. Now, anyone can log in and see which work orders are outstanding, how many have been completed, how many are on hold, how long things are taking to get addressed. This is especially helpful in locations where Black Rock Coffee Bar operates older buildings. Management can better evaluate how many work orders exist per store and compare it to other regions.
“Most of our stores in the Portland, Vancouver area are more than a decade old, so there are a ton of issues that come with that,” Degraff said. “In Arizona, most stores are only a year or two old with four years being the max. There are still a lot of issues with that, but it just looks different.”
Since UpKeep has everything in a central location, it’s easy for store managers, company executives and others to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s going on.
“When it was all on spreadsheets, I was the only one who had all the information,” Degraff said. “If I go on vacation or leave for any reason, not everyone could access this data to keep everything moving forward. It’s much better in the long run.”
The new system has also increased the level of trust that executives have with technicians simply because they have more accessibility to the information. “No one has to ask me what’s getting done or what’s going on, anyone who is interested can just log in and see for themselves,” Degraff said. “For instance, if executives are wondering why a technician is doing something differently than expected, they can log-in and see that there was reason.”
Degraff continued, “It’s made a world of a difference for me. Communication about a specific work order is not a string of text messages. For example, if someone wants to remind me to get a part, they used to text me, which would easily get lost. Now, it’s all in a work order in upKeep.”
When the company makes bulk purchases, they can enter them into UpKeep and track where all those parts are distributed. When they get assigned to a work order, the system subtracts them from the inventory. Accounting is able to get on the system and see the inventory, making year-end inventory a breeze.
“We definitely wouldn’t be anywhere where we’re at with facility maintenance if we didn’t have Upkeep,” Degraff said.
Black Rock Coffee Bar anticipates that it will keep growing into the future, and Degraff is preparing for further growth by collecting key information about its assets and equipment.
“Right now, I’m gathering detailed information at our newest store at Broadway,” Degraff said. “I want to track everything from grease trap size to which HVAC system is on the roof. We even added barcodes to all of our assets so we can easily see work orders associated with that particular asset.
As Black Rock Coffee Bar shifts to using national vendors, the company will need to report all that detailed information. “There’s a ton of that kind of information that I don’t have right now,” Degraff said. “I need to gather it all and put on Upkeep so it’s there forever. That will help us in the long run. For example, if we need to switch national vendors, it can help us get a better bid for a new one.”