CHICAGO — Laundry and linen service operations have a lot of moving parts.
Washers, dryers, ironers, folders, carts, conveyors, boilers, electronics—maintenance staff have many complicated pieces of equipment and systems to keep functioning to ensure goods are being processed.
It should come as no surprise then that some maintenance elements can be overlooked.
Sometimes maintenance can be overlooked simply because of the grand scale of a laundry operation. Other times, it might be willfully overlooked until repairs are absolutely necessary.
Whatever the reason, overlooked maintenance issues can impact the effectiveness, efficiency and safety of a laundry operation.
Potential safety hazards can exist throughout any laundry, and maintenance managers should always diligently work to prevent accidents, especially due to potentially overlooked maintenance, says Sam Spence, a consultant for TBR Associates based in Saddle Brook, N.J.
“Lint represents one of the greatest hazards to a safe operation,” he points out. “Lint should be blown down from overhead rails, equipment, beams, etc., every night. Be sure to remove the side covers from ironers and folders and blow them out as well. Open dryer ducts monthly and inspect for lint build up. Finally, it is not enough to simply blow your plant down. The lint must be swept up with a dust mop or shop vac.”
Overhead rail systems also represent potential safety hazards, and Spence says I beam-style rails tend to narrow just slightly at bends and can become worn out.
“Check all switches for proper operation and be sure that the stops on all elevation lifts trigger properly when the lift is actuated,” he says. “Trolleys should be inspected on a continuous basis. Remove trolleys from the rails and check for wear and loose bolts. Indicate that a trolley has been inspected by marking it with a paint dot. Change the color of the paint for subsequent inspections, which will assure that all trolleys are inspected.”
One way to help lessen maintenance items that could be overlooked is to prevent the possibility in the first place. Prevention starts with plant layout and equipment purchases.
“The design of your laundry facility is critical,” says George Latus, RLLD, manager of laundry services for White River Health System in Batesville, Ark. “It may not seem important at the time, but the placement of your utilities, machinery and the plant layout could be a factor in how well you control your maintenance and production programs.”
A laundry manager may find maintenance and repair crews struggling to make simple repairs if the facility is congested and machines are located in a manner that adds additional difficulty to a repair task, he says. These challenges could include attempting to make repairs from a ladder, lying on the floor or crawling underneath equipment.
The integrity and design of machinery and equipment should be reviewed before purchase, adds Latus.
“Most of your equipment dealers will sell you equipment that should help meet your production goals, plus the machinery may come loaded with many additional features that will set you up with endless programing possibilities, and most importantly, it should be easy for your operators to operate,” he says.
Including maintenance staff or service technicians in the equipment review process may offer a different view of the integrity and design of the future purchase.
“They will look for flaws in the design that are aligned with maintenance and repair issues and the general integrity and durability of the equipment,” Latus points out. “The maintenance staff and service technicians get a great sense of pride when they know they’ve done a great job keeping the equipment running as it should through the preventative maintenance program or general repairs.”
When new machinery and equipment is purchased and installed, the manufacturer provides a recommended preventive maintenance schedule for a reason, he says. The schedule, when followed, helps the maintenance crew or service technicians gather information about the status of the equipment.
“In some cases, necessary adjustments need to be made at this time, or it may be time for the replacement of a part,” shares Latus. “Most facilities will have a maintenance program installed on the department’s computer that should allow you to track repairs, inspections, as well as schedule maintenance projects.”
HEED WARNING SIGNS
“We all know what happens when we ignore the little red warning light on the dashboard in our vehicles,” says Latus.
At first, he says a driver may panic and pull into the nearest auto garage for immediate attention and repair. Others of may not be as aggressive and keep on driving, ignoring the warning sign, wishing the little red light would go out on its own. Even worse, a driver may become complacent and keep driving until it requires major repairs or total replacement.
“As a laundry manager, how do you decide what action to take when your little red light comes on?” Latus ponders. “Do you treat your warning signs aggressively, or are you passive and make repairs when you feel you have the time? Or do you put off making the necessary repairs until it requires you to seek assistance from a service technician?”
Healthcare and central laundry facilities must always be mindful of the warning signs within the facility or plant, he says.
Latus says it’s beneficial while the maintenance crew is doing routine inspections for them to take three extra steps while the covers are pulled off the equipment:
- If an infrared imaging camera is available, use it to seek out potential hot spots, bearings, electrical contacts, switches and other devices, that may be showing signs of excessive heat.
- Remove the buildup of extra grease around bearings and shafts at every opportunity.
- An over accumulation of lint will create a list of major mechanical and operational problems for all your equipment. The buildup of lint will find its way into every corner and under every cover in your facility if not removed regularly (we won’t mention the high risk of fire).
“If you’re getting 15 to 20-plus years of service out of your equipment and machinery, then you have a good maintenance program in your laundry facility, and you’ve been paying attention to those factors that could potentially put you, your facility and equipment at risk,” Latus says.
Miss Part 1 on utilities and software? Click here to read it.