In A World Obsessed With Innovators, This 30 Under 30 Founder Believes Maintainers Matter Too
Our culture tends to celebrate innovating for the future and takes for granted what we have in the present. This excitement for new products and services to make our lives easier leaves behind those who maintain our physical infrastructure that allows society to function every day. Ryan Chan, the founder of UpKeep, is working hard to build software that not only allows maintenance workers to better track and manage repairs via a digital workflow, but also gives recognition to those who do the hard work of keeping our buildings, bridges and roads up and running. Chan is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and has raised over $13 million in venture capital funding to fuel his mission to better recognize and support blue collar work.
Daso: You’re creating the potential for retrofitting versus just maintaining. How does your software, and more importantly, the philosophy that drives you and your company, to help people not only preserve buildings but also to improve them over time?
Chan: Our philosophy comes from understanding the data behind maintenance. Data was challenging to know through a paper-based system. You generate tons of paper that is difficult to comprehend what’s the problem. It’s impossible to look at historical trends if everything is on several sheets of paper. We enable people to improve by creating a better system for our customers to input data. We have this saying called garbage in equals garbage out. If you put bad data into the system, you’re going to have lousy output in reports. We focus on really high-quality data in so we can know precisely when your manufacturing equipment is going down. We can then use that data over time to notice historical trends to allow users to be more proactive in servicing their faulty equipment.
A software-based system allows people to understand what’s going on at their facility at all times. Improvement of maintenance capabilities comes from a better understanding of your data, and before even collecting that data, you need to have a robust system to consume all that data too.
Daso: That’s insightful that you recognized that the significant problem with maintenance was the analog paper-based system by which workers would track when equipment failed or repairs needed to be made. Last question: how do you become aware of what you don’t know as you collect and derive insights from maintenance data?
Chan: That’s a great question. What many of our customers ask us when they first implement a system like UpKeep is how do we know that we are doing a lousy job? How do we know where we can go if we’ve never even tracked where we are today? What we always tell our customers is: You still have to start by benchmarking. It’s not about going from zero to one hundred in a matter of days or months; it’s a matter of taking and measuring what you have today, and improving that, whatever that is. If you say our downtime for our equipment is two hours every single day, the first goal is to measure that. Once you have that, you work to reduce your downtime by fifteen minutes every single quarter. We can give best practices, the model facility layout, and industry benchmarks, but every unique facility operates differently. The best thing for our customers is to measure where they are today and then set a goal to improve that every single quarter.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
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This work was first published on Forbes.