No matter how good or diligent club ownership, management or maintenance staff may be, no one can watch every piece of fitness equipment all the time. Thus, vendors have been offering both after-market and on-board devices to keep track of hours of use and wear-and-tear on devices throughout clubs. These offerings are helping with energy savings, lowered maintenance costs and protection from liability from accidents that happen due to equipment malfunction.

One such device that became available in July is the treadmill saver by The Green Fitness Equipment Co., Del Mar, CA. The treadmill saver is about the size of a large hockey puck and plugs into a treadmill at its base, measuring both hours of use and amperage drawn by the equipment. The device is essentially a lighted warning system that goes from green (the treadmill is drawing relatively low amperage and is fine) up through red, indicating that a treadmill is pulling so much amperage that it should be shut down so maintenance staff can assess the problem.

Justin Hai, president of Green Fitness, says the device saves club owners money in more than one way. The energy savings alone can be enough to offset a single device’s $249 purchase price, he says, simply by making sure treadmills are not pulling 12 amps or 15 amps when normal usage only requires up to 5 or 8. Treadmill savers also give club staff and maintenance workers a quick and easy way to see which machines to watch.

“Everyone gets the traffic light concept,” Hai says. “If you see a red light, time to go see what is wrong with that treadmill. If it’s green, you’re good to go.”

Treadmill savers also alert everyone to a potential treadmill problem before it can become a crisis or disaster, Hai says. He cites examples of worn treads or belts, arced power cords and even a bottle cap being stuck in the tread.

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“If that treadmill stops abruptly, someone is going to pound their face into the front,” he says. “It becomes a safety issue.”

Treadmill savers can be used on any treadmill, both new and old, out of warranty or still in warranty. They feature standard electrical connections to plug into any make or model of treadmill.

They are installed on 20 treadmills at the Fort Sam Houston fitness center in San Antonio.

“They are an easy and effective management tool for me,” says Ken Hack, fitness director at Fort Sam Houston. “It is almost a game to my staff. They come in in the morning to see how the lights are looking. If one is yellow or red, or flashing green [indicating the treadmill has 150 hours of use since last reset], they write it down right away.”

Some fitness equipment manufacturers also have added on-board diagnostics and warning systems. For instance, Precor, Woodinville, WA, features its Preva Asset Manager on its 880 Cardio Line. The software program monitors treadmills, ellipticals, adaptive motion trainers and recumbent and upright bikes—tracking hours of use, activity, idle hours and specific machine alerts. The software is Internet cloud-based, allowing staff to check on any single piece of equipment from anywhere at any time. A green circle next to a piece of equipment means it is operating fine; yellow means it is idle. The system also produces reports such as average time of use per machine and by equipment type, time-of-day and day-of-week use, total hours, last maintenance and current status (in use or idle). The system also alerts staff to machines that sit idle for long periods of time for unknown reasons. If a machine has not been used for more than 30 minutes in any 72-hour period, for instance, it will appear on Asset Manager as a “check status” piece.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with the machine electrically or mechanically,” says Brent Brooks, vice president of networked fitness at Precor. “It might just be that somebody spilled a soda on it and it’s dirty. But at least we know about it and can check it out.”

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Brooks says the software also helps club operators more efficiently and effectively rotate equipment based on patterns of use. An example, he says, is a club that noticed its bicycles were not getting the same use as other equipment. After talking with members about their bike usage, the managers found that members who use bikes want to work out with other bike users, but the bikes were scattered throughout the club, making that difficult.

“They grouped the bikes together, and it was a complete success,” Brooks says. “Use grew quite a bit.”

Technogym, Cesena, Italy, also offers Internet-enabled cloud-based equipment management software called mywellness cloud. The system allows club owners and staff to see the hours of use for equipment and sends error codes when equipment is not working properly. Pete Shattuck, executive director and vice president of training for the downtown YMCA of Memphis, TN, is both a user and a proponent.

“I really like the usage and utilization statistics,” Shattuck says. “It has taught us a lot more about what pieces are being most used when and where.”

Shattuck says the data his club has collected, based on a sampling of about 30 treadmills, ellipticals and recumbent and upright bikes, has surprised the staff.

“We knew Monday is our busiest day and five o’clock the busiest time, but as far as pieces being used consistently, it is the recumbent bikes,” Shattuck says. “It will change our maintenance intervals. Instead of doing every piece of equipment every four months, some will get a look earlier and some may be able to go longer.”