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Cheo Cruz January 22, 2019
DALLAS — In the on-premises laundry world, downtime isn’t an option. No matter if it is a hotel, long-term care facility or athletic club, the laundry doesn’t stop. When a machine in the laundry goes down, it’s not just a problem; it’s a major issue.
Just think about the soft, fluffy towels and robes that spas rely on. When the laundry fails to make its daily throughput because of equipment issues, those fresh robes stop making it into rooms and service grinds to a halt.
While distributors like us do all we can to get facilities up and running as quickly as possible, we all know that small delays can back up production. This is why having some spare parts on hand and staff that’s able to make small repairs is so important.
One frequent call service organizations deal with is drain valve issues. Obviously, anything that opens and closes can encounter problems. We see a number of calls related to drain valves. Managers should make sure staff is aware of the warning signs of such a problem, as not dealing with them immediately results in wasted water and utilities. Simply put, if you hear or see water draining during a fill, there is a problem with the drain valve.
Having extra valves on hand and being able to make the repair can save a service call. Often the only issue is an obstruction. For instance, in the hotel world, room key cards frequently make their way into the laundry and can get stuck. I’ve also seen staff identification cards, cutlery and even a pocket knife lodged in the valve, preventing it from fully closing. Again, being able to diagnose the issue and replace a valve can save a service call.
Similarly, fill valves can be another frequent issue on washer-extractors, again due to them being parts that are opening and closing. Laundries should have additional fill valves on hand and be able to replace them. This is roughly a 10- to 20-minute repair. As with all repairs, take your time. Don’t rush through valve replacements.
Laundries should also stock two to four additional hoses and screens. Warning signs of an issue here are slow fill times. While today’s hoses are quite well made, the heat of the hot water used in on-premises laundries can break them down. Be sure to inspect them often. If you are experiencing slow fill times, one or both of the screens could have sediment. Inspecting them only takes a few minutes and can save a service call with a simple cleaning or replacement.
Extra inverter filters should also be kept in stock in the laundry. Keeping these filters clean and replacing them when necessary helps ensure the facility doesn’t incur costly inverter replacement costs. I’m always a bit surprised when I visit a laundry and this simple item is not addressed. One laundry was even using a dryer sheet as a filter.
Dryers are far simpler to keep operating just by having additional belts and lint screens on hand and being able to swap them out. Inspection is key. Check the belts for wear every couple of months.
Where on-premises laundries typically fall short and end up having to call for service is by not getting a handle on lint. Nothing can be costlier to productivity and efficiency than failing to address lint. Managers should have staff use a shop vacuum to clear lint from around the burners, vents and the laundry in general.
Starving the machine of make-up air can lead to serious problems, not the least of which is inefficiency. If the tumble dryer isn’t pulling make-up air from outside, it will take air from inside the building—basically, air that the property has already paid to cool or heat will be used to dry the linen.
The perils of not taking care of the relatively small task of lint control were apparent at one school we visited for a service call. Their tumble dryer was not working. Upon investigating the issue, we found two inches of lint caked around the inside and burners.
The end result of not staying on top of the lint for this laundry was costly, as the wire harnesses in the unit were actually melted—the lint had started on fire. This underscores the need to have someone on staff responsible for making sure lint is cleaned regularly. In this case, no one on staff had this task and it was never taken care of.
MAINTENANCE IS THE KEY
While laundries should have someone on staff able to make small repairs, such as belts and valves, as already mentioned, maintenance can head off a number of situations before they become larger problems requiring repairs.
This is where systems that can be configured to send reminders to staff and log maintenance items, such as when bearings were greased, can be valuable assets. They can also help identify areas where staff training is required to avoid machine repairs. For instance, frequent out-of-balance machine errors can be a sign that staff is under loading washer-extractors.
Being able to make a few minor repairs with parts the laundry inventories and doing regular prescribed preventative maintenance will help keep on-premises laundries running smoothly.
Avoiding that dreaded downtime is the ultimate goal, and with a team approach focused on staff being aware of warning signs and having the ability to do minor repairs, this will keep washer-extractors and tumble dryers turning and those fluffy robes moving out the door.