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CHICAGO — I recently had the opportunity to visit some of the laundries that I helped design, build, and manage. I was saddened at the condition of these facilities, in terms of general housekeeping, but also, possibly more important, because of the obvious lack of routine preventative maintenance that was precipitating the early replacement of production systems years before their full life cycles could be realized.
The key factors for managing a maintenance program, in my eyes, have always been establishing performance requirements, having a routine plan, documenting processes, establishing a maintenance schedule as recommended by manufacturers, and maintaining control from an organizational point of view.
Performance factors should represent the pertinent details associated with your maintenance plan. These details represent data, figures, and, finally, a report that demonstrates how your maintenance program is actually performing. This data should represent how the overall business is doing, so maintenance, production, and management must work as a team; none of them should be organizationally fragmented from the others.
Those who run the business need to understand how important a good maintenance program is, and what happens when such a program isn’t in place or if it’s only partially in place. In other words, pay now, or pay later.
Whatever happened to the “see no evil, hear no evil” exercise in our business? Does anyone sniff for residual odors coming from improper washing or the improper selection of products? Does anyone inspect and touch textiles on a routine basis to see if the whites are white, or if bright is bright? Do the textiles look like they’ve been finished properly, folded, ironed, etc.? Do those items feel soft or not?
A routine meeting with your maintenance personnel will provide an indicator of how well this part of your organization is being managed and what teamwork elements need to be exercised. How well is the department organized? How clean is the department area? Any negative aspect will probably indicate that things are disorganized internally, which means the mission of performing routine and general maintenance is likely lagging.
Maintenance must be managed and organized so planning can be accomplished, not only for the equipment, but also for those who perform the actual maintenance. There must be documentation to match any maintenance outcome. In other words, the work orders, no matter how they are generated, are a must. Work orders must identify the exact piece of equipment upon which maintenance is performed, how it is performed, and the time in and time out.
When equipment failures happen, managers should never be complacent. Always ask how failures can be prevented, what action was required and how prevention comes into play.
For some reason, whenever a laundry operation needs to cut costs, maintenance is usually on the list of cost-cutting measures. This shortsighted view indicates a clear misunderstanding of the importance of maintenance and the severe implications such decisions can cause.
Good maintenance programs offer a business model of continuous improvement in the overall laundry process, making product quality and the optimum use of employees essential in surviving the competition. Your maintenance program supports production and is part of your team; manage accordingly.
Final thought: Take advantage of the training programs offered by all laundry equipment manufacturers. All of these programs are managed efficiently, inexpensive, and worth their weight in gold.
Pay now, or pay later.