TACOMA, Wash. — Most of us survived a pandemic, and now business is going as close to all out as it could be.
Labor can still be a challenge, and skilled labor is even more of a challenge. These are givens across the board in our industry.
So are the challenges of sourcing parts.
How ready is your parts room, cabinet, box, shelf behind the boiler, whatever, for the daily operations of your plant?
In a perfect world, we would have enough space and money to have one of everything, including the elf to organize and catalog this. Sure, many of us have a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), but very few have the space and resources for “everything.”
I don’t always win the parts war, but generally I have a pretty good idea of what to expect in the search for parts, and I have some knowledge as to what original equipment manufacturers (OEM) have on the shelf … mostly.
Knowing what is “easy” to source and what is nearly impossible to find should have a significant impact on what you decide to keep as an inventory part.
We are fortunate to have some very capable, and usually well-run and managed laundry equipment manufacturers right here in the United States.
Hopefully, if you are the person sourcing parts for your plant, you already know the names of the people in the parts department at the appropriate manufacturers. If not, start building relationships with these folks.
BRIDGING THE PARTS GAP
All machines break. You already know if you have a part on backorder. Some manufacturers are experiencing issues with their suppliers, but most can suggest options to bridge the gap between breakdown and part availability.
Maybe an odd horsepower and revolutions per minute (RPM) spec motor is proprietary, but your source is waiting for some parts themselves. A capable motor rebuilder in your zip code may be able to rebuild your failed one far faster than waiting. You are still down, but maybe for just a couple of days, versus a couple of months, or longer.
I have a reasonable expectation of what I can get overnight, and what may be a bit harder to get. This influences what I might keep on hand, and what I might wait until I need to purchase.
Almost all of us have some degree of equipment from overseas. This is a beast of another nature. Do they have a parts warehouse in the United States? How many of the parts are proprietary?
Belts, fuses, relays, etc., you can supplement with no OEM parts, and at least keep on keeping on. What if it is a programmable logic controller (PLC) that must come from the OEM? Do they have this readily available?
How long can this particular machine be down while you wait for a part to arrive from Europe? What hours can you order these parts, and what is their fastest arrival under the best circumstances? An important consideration for your spare parts inventory.
I am cautious to avoid mentioning specific brands of equipment here, as these articles aren’t for advertising purposes, but what about old stuff, like Super Sylon and Hypro?
The company that cast these machines burned down in 1962, and not one has been produced since. Enter the aftermarket parts vendor. Somebody, somewhere, has virtually every part ever made for these available as original used or duplicated new.
If you have any of this old equipment, and many of us do, there are a few parts you know are going to give you grief. Gears, bearings, chains, sprockets, pads, covers, springs, etc.
You already have a vendor that helps support you on these items, but keep relationships and opportunities alive with all of them. It is important to think about how your relationship with one particular vendor might change if, suddenly, your rep wasn’t there anymore.
A good to great rep is often what controls your access to goods and services from these companies.
Take care of the good ones, but spread some love around. We work in a big, small world. If you have multiple of these machines, maybe you keep one of each type of gear on the shelf. If you only have one, you probably really need it, so you probably should consider having one of each gear on the shelf.
Chain and sprocket items are easily had at your local bearing house, but it doesn’t cost a bunch to have a box of 80, 60, and 40 chains and links around for those before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m. breakdowns. Only we work these hours, not our parts houses.
ACTUATORS AND PUMPS
Now we are getting into a potential mess, and sometimes very expensive parts.
We all use water. Lots of water. The things we should consider are what aspects of our system are for reclaim, like heat exchangers. What are our recycle systems, and what associated utility costs occur when we lose either?
The other part of this, and probably the most critical, is compliance. Hopefully, you have redundancy built into your system. A couple of pumps for recirculation, a couple for waste, etc. This is really non-negotiable.
Pumps fail. Whether it is a motor that decided it has put in its 20,000 hours saying goodbye, a backflow check coming apart, someone’s soda bottle or rag, or just plain lint clogging the works, they fail. Having a secondary pump can make the solution as easy as switching some valves and energizing a starter.
I try to make sure my crew alternates weekly between these two systems, as I wish to know if a pump is sounding distressed before switching to backup, only to find out the backup is not operational.
Believe it, or not, many people have a hard time with this thinking. Their thought process is that if we leave it offline, it will still be new when we crossover. I get the thinking, but I disagree with it.
You will make your own choice, but I do switch these systems over periodically for peace of mind.
I also recommend keeping some EPDM rubber on hand for the flappers that are on so many of these self-priming pumps. Or, even better, spare flappers ready to bolt in.
Actuators, I think, can be a lot easier to be ready for. Try to keep consistent in your choices. Either try to be ball valve or butterfly and either spring return or air return. You will still have different sizes to contend with, but it greatly reduces the number of parts you need on hand and facilitates a quick and easy repair.
Don’t forget to have a standalone backup pump of some sort that can get you through the inevitable “what do you mean they are both broke” occurrence.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion on electronic parts, boilers and compressors, importance of awareness and networking.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].