Preventative-Maintenance Program Requires Commitment to Protect Your Investment (Part 4 of 4)

I want to set up a preventive-maintenance program in my laundry. What kind of resources will I need in place to keep my equipment operating well? How much time should I allow for routine maintenance? Can I get any help from manufacturers or distributors?CHEMICALS SUPPLY: Tom Storm is vice president of technical development for WSI, a national company specializing in providing washroom and wastewater chemicals plus accompanying service to commercial laundries. A chemical engineer, Tom has 38 years of laundry industry experience.
I’m going to limit this answer to preventive maintenance (PM) in the washroom, since the washroom is the area of my expertise.
Maintenance of this equipment is essential for producing consistent, acceptable quality at reasonable costs. Two resources are necessary for PM of the washroom equipment: the lead wash person or production supervisor, and engineering personnel.
The lead wash person, or production supervisor, should spend approximately 15 minutes per day (depending on washroom size) observing the operation of the washers in the washroom, looking for anything unusual. Specific items that should be observed are:

  • Leaking dump valves.
  • Unusually high, or low, water levels.
  • Unusual temperatures.
  • Excessive run times.
  • Improper loading.
  • Moisture level after extraction.
  • Machines waiting for water.
  • Steam leaks.

Any equipment problem should immediately be reported to engineering in order to maintain proper wash quality and to control rewash. Setting aside a specific 15 minutes per day will allow the forest to be seen among the trees. The chemical representative serving the plant will provide an additional check on these items during his/her monthly service visit.
Once a month, water levels on each machine should be checked. The chemical representative can program a “water level” formula to help with this calibration. The chemical representative can perform the check during his monthly visit, or engineering can do it. This procedure should require about 10 minutes per machine. Incorrect water levels can lead to poor quality, increased costs, fabric damage and high levels of rewash.
All liquid chemical injection systems should be calibrated once per month. The chemical representative servicing the plant will normally perform this task. Any liquid injection alarms should be addressed immediately by engineering, if washroom personnel can’t correct them. Turning off an injection alarm without taking corrective action will only lead to problems.
Finally, each piece of washroom equipment will have a set of PM steps that should be followed. Those will be detailed in the manual on each piece of equipment. This is the responsibility of engineering and should be included in its overall PM schedule.TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Jim Mitchell, principal technical support specialist, is a 26-year Ecolab veteran. He's currently its OPL lead in providing technical support to field associates. He edits Institutional Technical Digest, a monthly publication reaching 2,800 employees.
Being negligent in changing the oil in your car can cost you in large engine-repair bills in the long run. Failure to replace your car’s brakes when they wear out will cost you additional expenses in future repairs. The same is true for the machinery in your laundry.
Most cars only run for a few minutes every day. Much of your laundry equipment runs continuously for hours on end in a hot, humid, dusty environment. Proper preventative maintenance (PM) is important to protect your investment and control unnecessary expenses.
Not only does an unnecessary breakdown cost you expenses in repairs, you’ll lose revenue in idle production.Establish a budget. I’m sure there’s a “Murphy’s Law” that says something to the effect, “Your laundry equipment will break down at the worst possible time and when you don’t have the money to pay for it.”
Plan for the costs involved with breakdowns, repairs and PM.
Even recently constructed laundry operations with new equipment (that may be covered under warranties) should have a PM plan in place.
Some equipment warranties can be voided if certain designated maintenance is not performed.
What percentage of revenues do you budget? Is it 1.5% of revenues? 2%? 3%? It depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The age of your equipment. Older equipment will mean more repairs.
  • The history of repairs from the last two years.
  • The size of your operation and size of the machinery. A 100-pound washer-extractor may be easier to repair than a continuous-batch washer.
  • Will the maintenance be done by an outside agency or by a specified employee?
  • Availability of parts from a supplier vs. parts on hand.

Having parts on hand is important when it comes to controlling repair costs, particularly if you have a specified engineer or maintenance employee.
Investing in stock of the most common repair parts will be expensive initially, but can save you valuable downtime when a breakdown occurs.Properly trained engineering/maintenance employees can get idle equipment operating in a relatively short time, if the necessary part is available in-house.
Your equipment manufacturer’s and/or distributor’s value is weighed in its ability to assist you. When you purchase new or used equipment from a distributor, consider if it offers employee training in operation and repair. If it doesn’t, you may consider choosing a company that does.
Distributors often sponsor in-house training sessions for the most common operation and repair issues. Most manufacturers will do the same. While these training classes can be expensive in terms of travel, meals and lodging as well as time spent away from your facility, they can be invaluable in terms of quick on-site repairs. Some distributors will send notification on such training sessions by mail. Consider visiting the Web sites of manufacturers.
Your car’s oil should be changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. Unless you do the work yourself, the technicians will also tell you what other PM steps should be taken based on the mileage. The same applies to laundry equipment.
Greasing bearings, replacing belts, treating ironers, cleaning dryer burners, etc., should all be done on a regular basis. This is another added value you should get from your distributor or manufacturer.
Look for a company that offers:

  • Employee training on the proper operation of all equipment.
  • Help in identifying and purchasing the necessary repair parts to have on hand.
  • Employee training in equipment repair and troubleshooting.
  • Instruction in setting up a PM schedule for each piece of equipment.
  • A technical-service individual or call center available in emergencies. This service should be available at least seven days per week, if not 24 hours per day.

TEXTILES: Kevin Keyes is the Laundry Service Team (LST) leader for Milliken & Co.'s Napery Fabrics Business, Spartanburg, S.C. His team provides technical and marketing support to the textile rental industry. He's been with Milliken for 18 years, having served the first 11 in textile manufacturing.
Milliken has been involved with TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) for years and has even won the TPM Award from the Japanese Institute of Planned Maintenance (JIPM).
In order to develop an effective PM process, you must utilize preventive, predictive and routine maintenance activities along with autonomous maintenance, which involves operators assuming some responsibilities of basic maintenance (tightening, lubrication, etc.).
The resources that will be needed vary depending on the number of pieces of equipment and the level of PM you want to implement. Maintenance must be viewed as a full-time job. A typical operation will have, at minimum, a maintenance manager with specific people assigned to all pieces of equipment.
Complete a loss assessment, collecting data that will be used to determine losses associated with equipment failure. These losses are directly related to unscheduled downtime, quality losses, overtime dollars, excess supply dollars, etc. All of these are related to a lack of an effective PM process, and typical losses are greater than most think
All equipment needs to be ranked according to how critical it is to the process flow and/or potential for bottleneck possibilities.
A good measurement system is another critical factor. Things that are measured will improve. Typical measurements are: Meantime between failures, meantime to repair, supply dollars spent fixing broken equipment and preventive supply dollar vs. breakdown.
Education and training are always critical. Skills of maintenance personal must be improved in order to implement a good PM system. Continued long-term training will even allow you to move from PM to cause-and-effect and “zero-breakdown” thinking.
Maintenance must be viewed as a business within a business. Qualified people and resources must be charged with the responsibility of maximum uptime of equipment as it relates to protecting the company’s investment of equipment.


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