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Laundry Operation Preventive Maintenance Plan (Conclusion)

“Is there an industry standard on what percentage of time a well-maintained laundry operation should expect to be down for service? How can I best plan to conduct preventive maintenance?”

Equipment Manufacturing: Al Adcock, B&C Technologies, Panama City, Fla.

Al Adcock

Al Adcock

Performing routine maintenance on the commercial laundry equipment that you rely on to produce clean goods and meet your customers’ tight deadlines may not sound exciting but it may well make the difference between meeting and missing a delivery date.

Regularly scheduled preventive maintenance can uncover potential safety problems, enhance quality, save money by prolonging laundry equipment life, and optimize productivity by keeping machines fully functional and addressing equipment needs before they result in unanticipated downtime.

If you are considering implementing a preventative maintenance program (and you should be if you don’t have one in place), here are some guidelines for getting your PM program off of the ground:

1. Schedule maintenance according to equipment usage. Although some machines prompt the operator to perform certain maintenance tasks, waiting until this happens can interfere with production. If tasks are scheduled in advance, they’re less likely to be postponed and then forgotten in the interest of meeting a production deadline.

The more you use a machine, the more abuse it takes, so plan machine maintenance frequencies accordingly.

If you run a small washer eight hours a day, a maintenance schedule of once every three months is probably adequate for that machine. But if you’re running three shifts on the same machine, you might need to perform maintenance tasks on it once every month or even more frequently if you don’t have a qualified maintenance crew.

2. Make employees accountable for maintenance. Once you’ve identified what preventive maintenance activities need to be performed and when they should be done, assign follow-through responsibility to a maintenance coordinator, machine operator or other appropriate personnel.

Have these designated employees sign off on maintenance activities on a sheet attached to each machine, through a software program, or through daily, weekly, and monthly cards submitted to supervisors.

Whatever method you decide on for tracking, consistently follow the preventive maintenance schedule that you’ve devised.

3. Ensure that the preventive maintenance tasks being performed are beneficial to the equipment. Use the operating manuals for the machines to determine the maintenance tasks that need to be performed. Each piece of equipment is different and will have different maintenance requirements. Trying to use a catch-all technique will likely cause more problems.

If you’re unsure which tasks are beneficial to each piece of equipment, thoroughly read the maintenance section in the machine’s installation and operation manual or ask your local distributor or representative.

4. Plan ahead to accommodate seasonality. Production need not suffer in order to perform preventive maintenance. Schedule tasks that require downtime during slower seasons.

Typically, good machine maintenance can take a few hours, but this investment can prevent up to 48 hours of unexpected “corrective” maintenance when something breaks.

5. Ask your equipment provider for a maintenance arrangement. Most machinery distributors offer preventive maintenance service visits for a flat rate or discounted parts and labor costs. If your provider doesn’t offer service agreements, propose a plan.

Not only do service contracts help ensure that maintenance is performed on your equipment, but they also help you budget for it. Because maintenance programs are especially important for frequently used equipment, consider service programs for these machines at least.

6. Buy spare parts before they are needed. Ask your equipment provider for a recommended spare parts list. You need not buy everything on the list, but when service technicians are in your plant, ask what they recommend that you keep in your stock.

The most needed parts usually can be purchased inexpensively, minimizing downtime when they are needed. Plus, having items in stock means you won’t pay for overnight shipping or rush charges for a needed part.

7. Let employees learn from equipment service personnel. When a technician is working on a machine, have appropriate personnel watch and ask questions.

After a few visits with a service tech, your operator may be able to troubleshoot, fix simple problems and know when to call for expert help. The technician can tell you which preventive maintenance procedures your operator may be competent to safely perform.

8. Document service visits. When you schedule a maintenance visit, make sure that the service tech will record the inspection. It is important to document not only the date of service, but also what parts of the machine have been checked and what service was performed.

Have the rep provide a copy of the inspection record. This checklist will function as a record of service performed and will help you identify items your employees should be inspecting regularly on their own.

9. Keep service manuals handy. Manuals are often misplaced, but it is critical for machine operators to have access to them. The manuals contain valuable information such as schematics, parts identification, operational instructions, safety guidelines and cleaning recommendations.

Most manuals have a maintenance section detailing what should be done and at what frequency. This type of information is especially important to operators who were not around for the machine’s original training session.

10. Ensure that management is committed to preventive maintenance. Failing to schedule preventive maintenance, overriding scheduled maintenance in order to meet production needs and asking employees to keep maintenance costs down can send the wrong message, and ultimately cost an organization more in terms of machine downtime and repair expenses.

If production needs don’t allow for scheduled maintenance tasks to be executed, consider having the equipment maintained during off hours. When considering budgetary needs, realize that failure to perform preventive maintenance may result in much higher costs if equipment breaks down, particularly during a busy production time.

Preventative maintenance plans are worth the investment of time and energy because they help to predict the future. You can’t always tell exactly when X, Y or Z will happen, but a good plan will ensure a proactive strategy for preventing problems, funding improvements, and enhancing your laundry assets.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Kelly Reynolds, Sea Island Acquisitions, Sea Island, Ga.

Kelly Reynolds

Kelly Reynolds

In all my years of maintenance, I have never heard of an American standard for preventive maintenance downtime. It may exist for some companies but none that I know of.

About 20 years ago, I heard that most European companies performed downtime maintenance 18-25% of the time. Here in the United States, downtime is considered a bad word.

Since there are so many factors to consider when planning downtime service, it is best to let your equipment and processes determine your PM schedule.

The majority of laundries have certain times of the year when business is slower than usual. This is always the best time for downtime maintenance. The catch is in the statement “a well-maintained laundry operation.”

Well-maintained systems require little downtime. So you have to answer the question: How well is my system maintained? It has been my experience that the answer lies with how many people are employed per facility and how well are they trained.

Since I have very little experience with industry standards, I have focused on learning the best times to conduct preventive maintenance.

The majority of laundry systems that I am aware of use a boiler for much of their equipment. Since boilers require a yearly complete shutdown for inspection, major preventive maintenance on other equipment is best performed at this time.

I have heard of laundries with more than one boiler trying to keep running and perform yearly boiler maintenance at separate intervals. I would never recommend this because having the boilers down provides the opportunity to accomplish maintenance on other equipment while the boiler technicians concentrate on the boilers.

During the rest of the year, you can use unscheduled preventive maintenance as needed while individual pieces of equipment are undergoing some type of major repairs. It is worth the time to fix items at this time to avoid numerous downtimes.

Many times equipment will break at the most inconvenient time. Having already performed some preventative maintenance can prevent much of this.

One laundry I worked at would shut down every Sunday. During the year, the maintenance manager would keep a list of preventive maintenance items that could not be accomplished during the plant’s normal operations.

The director would get authorization a few times during the year to allow maintenance personnel to come in while the plant was not running. At this time they would perform as much preventive maintenance as time allowed.

Proper planning was needed to make these days as useful as possible. The manager would make a list of all parts and tools that could possibly be needed and ensure that they were on hand when the maintenance day arrived.

As a technician, I kept track of major repairs and parts that were replaced on the equipment. This allowed us to see which items failed most often and approximately how long between failures. This was a useful tool in our preventive maintenance scheduling.

Click here to read Part 1 with insights from experts in consulting, healthcare laundry, commercial laundry and chemicals.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].