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Survey: Laundry Operators Concerned About Equipment Maintenance

Challenges over past few years bring maintenance issues to forefront

CHICAGO — It seems that challenges have been coming one after another since the beginning of 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic, shutdowns, supply-chain issues, labor, inflation … one thing after another has made doing business more difficult.

That includes the laundry and linen services industry.

One area of the laundry business that is of concern is maintenance. That’s what laundry managers indicate in the most recent American Laundry News Your Views survey.

More than 71% of respondents indicate that their operation pays more attention to maintenance now (especially preventive maintenance) than in the past.

When asked, “how concerned are you that your operation won’t be able to properly maintain its equipment,” 42.9% of survey takers respond “concerned.”

Just over 34% are “slightly concerned,” followed by “extremely concerned” (14.3%) and “not at all concerned” (8.6%).

The top two recent challenges that are causing operators concern about equipment maintenance? Cost of parts/supplies and cost of maintenance staff/service (both 23.4%).

These are followed closely by supply-chain issues (22.1%) and lack of staff (18.2%)

“Constantly changing production personnel oftentimes leads to more issues to be resolved by engineers that simply don’t have the will to learn and win like they used to,” a survey taker writes. “Great people are hard to find. Staffing shortages lead to longer production hours and less off plant time to deal with issues.

“Never felt like a better backsliding situation existed, as I feel today. Feels like treading water most weeks.”

“Most laundries are more concerned about production efforts and will only maintain equipment when a breakdown occurs,” writes a respondent.

Almost 65% of survey takers say their laundry has a schedule for completing maintenance tasks while 32.4% don’t.

Also, 55% of respondents indicate their operation has updated this maintenance schedule.

The area of the laundry most respondents are concerned about when it comes to maintenance? The wash aisle (45.7%) followed by finishers (25.7%).

Only 11.4% of survey takers are concerned about dryer maintenance.

“The wash aisle is most important to laundry operation,” writes a survey taker. “Without it, other equipment remains idle.”

When asked why respondents have these concerns, answers include:

  • Age of equipment.
  • These machines have the most moving parts and belts.
  • Not enough help.
  • Supply-chain issues.
  • Lead times on parts has increased dramatically.
  • Lack of trained internal staff and manufacturer’s service reps.
  • Just the availability of parts. Our facility maintenance has always been good and preventative maintenance is scheduled. 
  • Large part freight charges, electronics availability and the challenges of staffing people with strong mechanical and electrical troubleshooting skills.
  • Cost of natural gas is up. Airflow issues can cause performance issues. If there’s a fire due to any maintenance issue or lint build-up, repair is sometimes impossible. Replace is the answer. Sometimes that comes down to simple availability of parts and their cost in relation to replacing the machine for about same price.
  • More difficult to get capital funds to replace equipment.
  • The chemistry is handled by a third party. Lack of knowledge and information.
  • The time it takes to receive service due to the service company being booked out longer, as well as the time to receive parts.

For many respondents, it’s more difficult to perform maintenance today than in the past (60.0%). Just over 30% say it’s no different while 8.6% find it’s easier today.

Some of the reasons respondents give for maintenance being more challenging today include:

  • Frankly speaking, to get qualified maintenance personnel is hard. Also, the spare parts are difficult to source.
  • Repair has always been an issue in this remote location.
  • Since the pandemic, availability of technicians to repair equipment has been scarce. 
  • Parts cost more, if you can get them.
  • Modern electronics are, for a laundry with dust and temperature and humidity, still a problem.
  • Time, parts, money and skilled labor … all things that are at a premium today.
  • It’s difficult to have some of the right parts on hand. If you run into an issue while you’re doing preventive maintenance, you may have to shut the machine down for several weeks or months to get parts. You have to decide if it’s worth the cost to try and baby something along and hope it doesn’t break another component or lose productivity. 
  • Reliability and maintenance best practices is a new culture that is going to take time to implement. Maintenance feels like it’s getting better, but according to the data that I’ve collected in a year, nothing has changed much.

“New staff does not realize the importance of maintenance,” shares a respondent. “It is usually too late to fix something if you do not keep up with a schedule.”

“Costs are getting out of hand,” another respondent writes. “Availability on items is getting worse. Wait times can be devastating. Preventative maintenance is vital.”

However, one survey taker writes, “You can’t maintain your way to reliability. More maintenance means more failures. The case studies are in and we have been thinking about this all wrong.”

While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.

Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each quarter. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.

Laundry Operators Concerned About Equipment Maintenance
Laundry Operators Concerned About Equipment Maintenance

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