WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Managing a laundry facility is a challenge, and when expensive equipment breaks down, the ability to repair it can hinge on knowing where to locate a single part.
During an Association for Linen Management webinar, Parts Are NOT Parts, David Chadsey, managing director of Capital Equipment Consulting (which recently changed its name to Laundry-Consulting.com), spoke about parts management and maintenance, focusing on the need for inventory and documentation.
Knowing what you have by way of inventory is the first step in documenting your machine maintenance, Chadsey says. At some point, every piece of equipment will need to be replaced. Understanding the process and planning for the inevitable will make the job easier to handle, he says.
Chadsey advocates documenting a machine’s usage and tracking inventory as means to understanding what equipment and parts a facility uses and needs. “Because if you don’t know what you use and don’t know what you need,” he says, “the day you need it, you’re probably not going to have it.”
Maintaining a parts inventory is important to keeping a facility up and running, he says.
When polled, every participant in the webinar indicated his or her “inventory system” was to simply look on the shelf when a part was needed.
Chadsey considers the most reliable source of parts to be the manufacturer and/or authorized distributor. These companies also have an advantage of knowing the laundry industry and generally know what a facility will need in the way of parts. Troubleshooting support often comes as part of the package as well.
“This has the lowest risk,” he says. “They built it, they represent it, (and) they really should know the part you need. And when it shows up, it has the greatest likelihood of being the right part.”
Since many of the machines used in laundry facilities are comprised of parts from other industries, local parts outlets may be an excellent alternative, he says. With competitive pricing, local supply houses typically offer faster delivery and availability. The one downside is that these businesses are not usually industry-specific, so the person behind the counter may not know much about laundry equipment.
Another source could be specialty parts makers, such as Industrial Wheels, Depend-O-Drain and C&W Equipment. Companies like these often advertise in trade publications, Chadsey says, and this source could help lower costs over time.
For any part that may need to be tooled, a local machine shop may be the answer. Chadsey suggests that a local machine shop can often handle a job at a lower cost and with a quick turnaround. Used equipment also may be of help, at a significant savings, he says.
The majority of the webinar’s participants indicated that they purchase parts from a manufacturer or authorized dealer, using a parts outlet or specialty parts manufacturer as a secondary source.
If a now-defunct manufacturer made a machine, a laundry manager may need to get creative when it comes to replacing parts, Chadsey says. Alternative sources become more important when a piece of equipment is not supported as it was the day it was purchased.
In addition to parts outlets, specialty manufacturers, used equipment and custom machine shops, former distributors and the manufacturers of individual parts may be able to help. Issues may arise, he cautions, if the machine has structural problems in addition to individual parts problems.
When it appears that equipment will need to be replaced, Chadsey suggests looking at benchmarks before making the decision, including the cost of continuing its operation and an analysis of ROI.
When looking at the cost of operation, consider safety issues or the structural components of the machine; look at the cost of parts and labor, a prime reason to maintain documentation on the repairs for that particular piece of equipment; and be sure to include the cost of downtime.
When considering the ROI, look at the cost of the old machine vs. that of a new or different piece of equipment. This analysis also will help determine a predictable replacement schedule, which is an advantage when talking with senior management.
Chadsey encourages any laundry manager to maintain the documentation on every piece of equipment, to be more aggressive in tracking and maintaining inventory, and to know their regional and local providers of parts. Planning is key to keeping costs down for any facility.