Feature Article - September 2004
Find a printable version here

Automation Realizations

Technological streamlining can make facility management easier and more efficient

By Kyle Ryan


DOING IT BETTER

Doing something better with time and money is really the point of technological upgrades.

"There are other issues that the software company is handling that now has freed me up, freed up the owner, the managers and the operations managers to really deal on a club level to get more accomplished inside a club and better use of the organization and employees," Hale says.

24 Hour Fitness has incorporated that idea into its new personal-training system, which gives trainers preplanned nutritional and fitness programs that match member needs. It dramatically shortens a usually time-consuming process.

"We use the computer to do the processing and repetitive activities, which then frees up our training staff to be able to spend time one on one…helping understand where the member is within their cycle and what it's going to take to get them to achieve their goal," Andrus says.

Although members can track their workout regimen via the Internet, some clubs have started using computer-augmented workout machines that give personalized exercise instructions (intensity, repetitions) to each person who uses them. Members enter a code or swipe a card, then receive instructions based on their workout history and goals.

Andrus also sees the potential for using technology to track a machine's usage and maintenance history, a project currently under way at 24 Hour Fitness.

"That's one of the areas that I see as an emerging and very powerful tool for the fitness industry as a whole, both on the supplier and the consumer side," Andrus says. Management will be able to see what machines are being used when and figure out how to optimize and maintain their usage.

Realizing that idea is down the road, facility operators have found numerous ways now to benefit from their software's flexibility. In San Mateo, Gray can make the system give residents preferential treatment over nonresidents during program registration. LA Workout keeps members who might otherwise have quit by offering flexible memberships: reduced rates for people who only exercise at certain times of certain days at certain club locations, all of it managed and tracked by their database. Discounting limits are set in the system, so the sales force doesn't have to haggle with customers.

"Unfortunately in the club industry, it's almost like buying a car—people don't want to buy retail," Hale says. Customers who might think they're being cheated can see for themselves that the computer rejects discounts beyond a certain amount.

"The sales people like that; the customer then is looking at the salesperson who's being honest, as somebody who's looking to give you the best deal possible," Hale says. "It's very helpful."


WEB-SAVVY TEAMS

The benefits of technology, of course, haven't been limited to the people running recreational facilities.

Over the course of the past few years, various sports portals have popped up on the Web, offering massive event listings for fun runs, triathlons, camping workshops and more all over the world.

Part of one site's success has to do with its team section. More than a million teams have set up Web sites, registered players online, raised funds and used things like message boards to keep in touch. The teams span across 80 sports in 120 countries.

For a modest price, team organizers can build Web sites using simple templates that are customizable to the team's colors. Online registration is free for administrators, and they can collect fees, analyze participant information, run reports and send group e-mails through the site.

Just another way technology can streamline traditional recreational chores.