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At peaks times, 40 to 60 per cent equipment availability is the sweet spot that operators should work towards

and also look at the flow of customers using so-called ‘heatmaps’. These show how available each piece of equipment is throughout the course of a day, quickly highlighting where the issues lie. Most importantly, ‘total time’ use of a machine doesn’t tell you what level of service you’re providing customers – in terms of how available equipment is for them to use – and therefore whether you need more or less of that equipment type. Time-specific percentage equipment availability does.


What’s the ideal peak time percentage availability?

Anything below 40 per cent availability represents a shortage for customers, bad service, congestion and frustration. There’s a strong ‘pull’ for more of this equipment to enhance value for customers and remove waiting time. Availability much higher than 60 per

cent represents waste for the operator. There’s little to no customer ‘pull’ for this equipment, so adding more – or even replacing it when kit is traded out – adds little value. During peak periods, operators want to be in the sweet spot between 40 and 60 per cent availability, where there are neither shortages causing a loss of value to customers, nor excesses causing a loss of value to the operator.


How can you work out exactly what equipment is required to

deliver optimum availability? The GYMetrix system is still patent pending – once we have our patent granted, I’ll share that with you! Suffice to say, the system enables us to precisely calculate exactly what volumes of each type of equipment are required to achieve ideal levels of availability. It’s turned setting up gyms from subjective art into precise science.


Can you also predict what would happen at other times

of the year, or if the membership were to grow? Yes. Whenever we undertake a project, we ask for front gate numbers for that week and the preceding 52 weeks. The system enables us to simulate increasing or decreasing customer numbers by whatever percentage we choose, and makes the appropriate calculations for what equipment availability and equipment requirements would be.


Have you made any general findings across the fitness

sector as a whole? We consistently measure low availability in free weight areas, which generates high levels of dissatisfaction in our surveys. We also notice lower NPS for male gym members compared to females, which appears to be related. This is an example of a ‘pull’ trend, where existing customer demand is not adequately catered for. We’re not suggesting turning gyms into body-building clubs though: we generally suggest getting more 10–20kg dumbbells, and more benches.

Meanwhile functional training areas,

offering equipment such as TRX, are mostly under-used. This is an example of a ‘push’ trend by suppliers and gym operators. That’s not to say these areas aren’t of great training value to the member, but more instructor education on how to use functional equipment is needed to increase demand and thus customer value. We often point out that the

information we produce is not the answer sheet – it’s the question sheet. The answer isn’t: ‘TRX usage is low.’ The question is: ‘Why is TRX usage low?’ Unless operators are asking the right questions, they’ll never get the right answers.

64 Read Health Club Management online at


Do you ever recommend pieces of equipment come

out altogether? We’re very aware of the need to keep the gym floor balanced. When suggesting removing equipment where there’s only one of that type – hence reducing availability to 0 per cent – the process has to be managed carefully by gym staff. Several weeks before its removal, customers seen using the equipment should be informed of its imminent removal, and shown how to work that muscle group using an alternative exercise.


The fitness sector generally sees its value as held in its

people, with higher levels of staff- member interaction credited with improved retention. Do you agree? Staff interactions are important, but we consider these to be a secondary value driver, with equipment availability a primary value driver – we believe using equipment is the primary reason members are on the gym floor. We’re not disputing the importance of staff interactions – operators need to be doing everything well if they want to delight customers. However, early evidence indicates that equipment availability will prove a stronger link to business growth and member retention.

Is there anything new in the pipeline for GYMetrix? We’re looking at a variety of additional technologies, including RF tags on dumbbells and other small pieces of equipment to measure usage. We’re also looking at video analytics technology to measure how many people are in a given area. In addition, we’ve started using good old-fashioned observational data. kate cracknell

october 2012 © cybertrek 2012

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