Technology Pinpoints School Maintenance Issues

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Unified School District has unveiled a new system intended to keep the nation’s second-largest school district up to date on maintenance issues throughout its 800 campuses.
The district is the first to create a maintenance smart phone application for students, faculty and staff. The user sends in a photo of the maintenance issue to IBM Maximo software, which manages the district’s physical assets and work orders. From there, the district’s facilities crews assess the situation and come up with a response.

“People now have the ability to act as living sensors for things they witness in their day-to-day lives,” said Dave Bartlett, vice president of Industry Solutions at IBM.

The district typically receives more than 300,000 maintenance service requests each year. Since launching the mobile application, the district has responded to more than 1,650 reports submitted through both it and an identical form on its website. The number of reports is anticipated to significantly rise this year.

“What’s neat about the technology is that it gives the user automated feedback,” said Kurt Daradics, co-founder and director of business development at City Sourced, which developed the application. “Once the problem is fixed, it sends a message to the user who sent in the request and notifies them of the completed project.”

When a user submits a problem through his or her smart phone, the software notes the location and notifies campus workers. Redlands, Calif.-based software company, Esri, helped develop the tool.

“By using mapping technology we have made electric boundaries, so we know what campus the problem is at,” Daradics said.

It can be difficult for the district’s 700,000 students to know to whom to report a problem and for maintenance workers to locate it. The application is intended to make both challenges easier to handle.

“LAUSD is the first school district to have the app,” Daradics said, “and now that it’s public, other schools have been reaching out to us to learn more.”

The district pays about $25,000 for an annual license for the program. City Sourced calculates the annual payment based on district population size. For users, the application is free.

Before the application launched, students, faculty, staff and parents reported maintenance issues to the campus plant manager. The manager would then need to locate and understand the issue before calling the maintenance and operations service call desk, which would then delegate the problem to the appropriate person or department. The application, school officials say, bypasses many of those steps.

“Each year we found we were spending too much time, money and energy locating and reporting a problem before we even had the chance to fix it,” said Danny Lu, business analyst for the district. “By finding a more efficient way to report and locate needed repairs, we are able to respond faster to serve our campuses. The best part is that the solution is at the fingertips of most everyone on campus.”