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Laundry Operation Preventive Maintenance Plan (Part 1)

“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?”

Consulting Services: Jon Witschy, Spindle, Woodridge, Ill.

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Jon Witschy

A typical time-study evaluation for developing a production standard includes a PFD factor, which stands for “Personal, Fatigue and Delay.”

The “Delay” component refers to unscheduled maintenance and other issues that interrupt processing. I have a couple of time-study examples where that number is 4%, so the expected production output should be reduced by 4% for downtime. We might consider that to be the “industry standard.”

I recall working with a few textile manufacturers who ran their plants on multiple shifts year-round, except for the week of July 4 and the week between Christmas and New Year. They had the luxury of not having to make pick-ups and deliveries during these busy periods. They would then perform major overhauls on systems throughout the plant.

Coincidentally (or probably not), those two weeks account for roughly the same 4% of a year: two weeks/52 weeks = 3.85%. Of course, other maintenance was completed between shutdowns, and there are a lot more machine hours to include in a detailed calculation, but it’s interesting how these general numbers compare.

The answer to the second part of this month’s question provides the opportunity for a challenge. The goal for downtime during operating hours should be 0%: a facility should “plan to conduct preventive maintenance” outside of production time.

This means planning tune-ups and regular service on a second shift, performing quick routine activities when the equipment is offline while employees are at break or lunch, completing a major part replacement over a weekend, when the equipment is not required for production, etc.

Create a calendar and/or utilize a CMMS tool so that you can coordinate with and schedule the work with production needs and maintenance personnel availability in mind.

I have another service-related story. I took my car in for an oil change several years ago, and the service manager was almost giddy to show me something. She had a picture on her phone of the odometer from another 2012 Kia Sedona that showed over 300,000 miles at about four years old.

The other car was used for deliveries throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee and racked up more than 1,500 miles each week. Its owner aimed for 0% downtime during “production” (i.e., while driving hundreds of miles from home) by scheduling service every two weeks.

He was ahead of the recommended service interval, but the results speak for themselves. Taking his car to the shop for a few hours every two working weeks is again close to that 4% target. I’m sure many of you can relate to this with your delivery vehicles.

Best of luck! I know we have all experienced downtime that interrupts processing, but we shouldn’t accept it as a normal part of operations. Your goal for accidents should be “0,” and your target for breakdowns should be the same.

Healthcare Laundry: William Muse, United Hospital Services, Indianapolis, Ind.

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William Muse

This is a great question and one that every successful plant should be asking when planning their preventative maintenance team and schedule. That said, I don’t know that there are any one-size-fits-all answers as every plant is different, and, more importantly, the machinery in each plant is varied.

One way to go about setting a preventative maintenance schedule is to understand your machinery and the recommended manufacturer’s PM schedule set forth within the user manuals.

Additionally, it’s important to consider any modifications that have been made to the machinery since being delivered by the manufacturer as well as the age of your machinery.

Over time as machines age, they generally need more preventative maintenance to ensure machine downtimes do not negatively impact your production capacity during operating hours.

In my experience, utilizing a CMMS (computerized maintenance management software) will allow you to enter and track all your maintenance intervals for your machinery and deliver work orders that can be completed by your maintenance staff.

The most challenging aspect then becomes when do you schedule your maintenance. For a single-shift plant, you have plenty of time after hours to complete your PM work. For those plants with multiple shifts though, you either have to condense your PM work into a shorter window with more maintenance staff or choose to bring down pieces of machinery strategically during operating hours to complete the necessary work.

Commercial Laundry: Lee Baldauf, Superior Linen Service, Tacoma, Wash.

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Lee Baldauf

WOW! This topic deserves an encyclopedia-sized response. One that would have many varying, and even opposing, opinions and solutions. I will throw a mostly kind of approach-ish answer, and it may, or may not, be what I actually do.

All plants being so different in their hours, product, staffing needs and age of equipment, I think there exist a few constants. You are going to have to break the plant off into segments: soil, washroom, flatwork, etc. Once you have done this, it is sub-segments: ironers, feeders, folders, steam system, etc.

Much of the maintenance can be performed with minimal impact on the plant, like basic greasing or speed control adjustments.

This is relatively easy, if gremlins aren’t beating the heck out of your crew during their shift (which is almost always caused because something last week prevented all of the PMs from being done) and you start thinking about those DARE commercials from the ’80s, so you can work more, so you can make more money, so you can buy more … grease?

Post-COVID, many plants are doing everything they can to get back to 2019 numbers, but staffing issues mean less opportunity for as thorough a preventive program as we would like, and certainly predictive projects sit in cue longer than we like.

Our plant, being a stand-alone, means no diverting work to the facility cross county. I try to rotate basic greasing-type responsibilities, so I increase my chances of issues being caught before they are failures. Some people hear better than others see.

On the predictive … now, we have supply issues to think about. An OEM board or slot card maybe not something easily found for overnight delivery. Having these parts on hand may be easy, especially if you have multiple machines that use the same part. You might have to eBay for a used part at an inflated cost.

Is a motor making ugly sounds? Probably should do your best to source the replacement now and have it for what you know is inevitable—the failure.

I absolutely despise “scheduled breakdowns,” but it seems to be something that has reared its ugly head in my world more than I would like these last few years.

Don’t forget the value of a network of vendors, and other laundries, that you have built. I have mentioned this before, but just the other day I borrowed from a competing plant, as they have from me.

All of that said, I do not know if there exists a realistic standard for downtime for maintenance. I do know that a “well maintained” facility will most likely experience greater uptime, but Lean Six Sigma, time travel and amicable divorces are mathematical impossibilities, as far as I am concerned, but don’t think for a moment that I am not hoping for someone else’s opinion on this topic to be a grand epiphany for me!

Chemicals Supply: John Schafer, Diversey, Fort Mill, S.C.

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John Schafer

The best answer to this question is no, there is no standard for what percentage of time a well-maintained laundry operation should expect to be down for service.

Your best plan to conduct preventive maintenance is to follow the guidelines given to you by the manufacturer of the equipment you purchased. They should give you good guidance on what needs to be done when as far as preventive maintenance goes.

Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t not do the maintenance and your equipment should perform well for years and years.

Read the conclusion tomorrow with thoughts from equipment manufacturing, hotel/motel/resort laundry experts on preventive maintenance.

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