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Equipment Information at Your Fingertips (Part 2)

Overlooked uses for manuals, strategies for physical copy use

CHICAGO — For Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing for laundry equipment manufacturer B&C Technologies, installation and operation manuals form the critical bridge necessary to install, operate and maintain a new machine. 

“Keeping the manuals safe, handy and available allow the laundry personnel to quickly access information that is required to do their jobs most efficiently by providing guidelines for most efficient operational techniques as well as helping to solve issues and explain any error messages in much greater detail than can be found on a typical display,” he says.

Equipment manuals can provide laundry and linen services with vital information on their machines, along with helpful ways equipment can be used more effectively … if the laundry makes use of the manuals.

In this second part of a three-part series, learn about overlooked uses for manuals and strategies for using physical copies.

OVERLOOKED USES

If a manual is used as a doorstop, as Bob Fesmire, president of Ellis Corp., shared in Part 1, then the laundry operation is overlooking everything the manual has to offer. However, many operations aren’t that extreme, but they are often missing out on the full value of the manual and the machine.

“Like buying a new car, very rarely does anyone read the owner’s manual cover to cover? I do but I’m an exception,” says Dave McAllister, director of services and project management for Girbau Industrial. “We often just reference these manuals when we have a feature we don’t understand or want to shut off a function like the auto door lock or have to navigate a roadside emergency like changing a flat tire. 

“The same applies to laundry equipment servicers and operators, as they most often reference manuals when there is a problem with the equipment. This ‘reactive use’ often results in longer equipment downtime while the proper information is being located and distilled.

“Installation, operation and maintenance manuals don’t have to be a reference we just use for emergencies. A better way to manage this documented knowledge is to be proactive. Designate some time for technicians or operators to review and refresh their knowledge. They will find key information that can help maintain a safe and smoothly running operation.” 

“Most operators do not refer to the manual often enough before troubleshooting problems,” adds Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec Laundry Technology. “Manuals should also be used in staff training, operating parameters and production performance. We often ask customers who seek our support, did they review the manual and follow the troubleshooting steps we provided?”

He points out that many operators of older equipment often don’t have access to manuals because they are locked up in the general manager’s or engineer’s office.

“Some operators do not realize that by not following certain procedures or buying specific parts, this can invalidate your warranty,” Ware points out. “During the warranty period, some operators have installed improper or non-factory parts. This will often invalidate your warranty and can lead to much more expensive repairs in the future.”

“Owning equipment for several years and expecting that equipment to perform means that regular maintenance is necessary,”  shares Russ Cooper, manager of technical support for Dexter Laundry.

“The equipment manuals lay out in detail exactly what procedures are required and how often to do them to make sure your washers and dryers are performing at their peak efficiency. Failure to do this not only develops into costly service, but in a loss of much-needed production through that machine.”

Another overlooked benefit of equipment manuals, according to McAllister, is that safety warnings can be copied, laminated and posted for employees to review when hired and then as a regular part of ongoing safety training. Machine specifications and maintenance procedures can be used in the same manner. 

“It sounds odd that you would want a copy of the machine specifications, but you will most likely be asked several questions regarding installation, utilities or operation when you contact a manufacturer for support,” he shares.

“And they will reference back to the machine specifications if they believe there is an issue with the machine’s connections or installation that are causing the performance issue or failure.”

“One thing operators could do is write the model and serial number to that specific piece of equipment in the manual, as this always helps when calling the manufacturer for help,” shares Dan Farnsworth, vice president of sales for Leonard Automatics.

Julie Socha, technical documentation and digital services manager at Alliance Laundry Systems, adds that laundries can use the manual to provide references for employees on errors.

“For instance, simple errors can be quickly addressed ... by reading the programming manual to avoid downtime of the equipment,” she says.

Carol Tyler, director of marketing for Chicago Dryer Co., says that along with troubleshooting and repair, the company’s manuals also cover installation, operating guidelines, preventive maintenance and operating principles.

“We try to provide as much useful information as possible to help keep the machine operating at its highest efficiency,” she says. “Getting to know the machines ahead of time, taking care of them using the preventive maintenance schedule and learning proper technique can go a long way toward keeping production high and downtime low, as well as extending life of the machine.”

One benefit Ed Kirejczyk, president of  Sea-lion America Company, sees operators missing out in terms of using equipment manuals is understanding the theory of use in the intended design of the equipment.

“Miele offers high-quality engineering, but operators may realize poor results if they don’t gain a basic understanding of the machine and its operations before using it,” adds Douglas Konke, professional service director at Miele Inc. “In fact, when a customer or client goes through the manual and/or is given user training on a Miele product, we see as much as a 40% reduction in calls for to our service center technicians in the first year of operation.”

The team at VEGA Systems USA also says that overall knowledge of a machine’s capabilities is often overlooked or forgotten about. This is sometimes due to the fact the machine may have been needed for a specific purpose, and its flexibility is under-utilized.

“When there is a problem, many operators choose to call a specialist or call the company to talk through the problem, when they might be able to troubleshoot with the manual,” shares Rick Gaston, technical support department manager for Miura America Co. “Yes, maybe also just general maintenance. Our manual provides details about water samples, blowdowns, etc.”

PHYSICAL MANUALS

There are many ways equipment manuals can be used to the benefit of a laundry operation, and that means if an operation has a physical copy of the manual, then it has to be accessible to staff.

“Keeping the manual handy and available is of utmost importance,” Adcock says. “Placing all manuals in a binder which is stored near the machines, perhaps in the laundry manager’s office, is best practice. 

“Replacement manuals are easily found on the manufacturer’s website, but one may need to contact the company with the machine’s serial number to ensure that you have the correct version for your particular piece of equipment.”

Tyler recommends keeping manuals someplace conveniently located near the machines for easy reference.

“An enclosed shelf to protect them helps, too,” she says. “Often they are held in an engineering office. If this is the case, visibility is key to keeping them accessible.”

According Konke, the key to storage is that it is clean and free of moisture or excessive temperatures.

“Some operators might find a plastic file folder secured to a nearby surface does the job,” he says. “That said, some operators may store all machine and equipment manuals in a central file system or with their maintenance departments if they exist.” 

The JENSEN USA Service Teams also recommends laminating important pages, such as safety the programmable logic controller (PLC) input list, a list of inputs and outputs by module, and maybe belt specification for quick reference. 

“Tab important sections of electrical drawings (emergency stop, inputs, outputs, PLC rack, and parts list),” suggests the team.

“We have found that printed manuals seem to never be by the equipment, so we have been putting the manual documents on a USB drive that can be stored in the electrical cabinet for easy access from any computer,” says Jeanne George, inside sales manager for Rennco. “We are also in the process of putting some details in the HMI (human-machine interface) so it’s very easy to access.”

Fesmire recommends having two copies of each manual, one in an engineering office and one in a manager’s office.

“We also recommend keeping a digital copy of the manuals,” he says. “This makes searches of the manual faster when looking up keywords, also the digital copy can be reprinted as necessary.

Miss Part 1 on the top reasons and methods for using laundry equipment manuals? Click HERE to read it. Check back Tuesday for the conclusion on electronic versions and the importance of training.