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Preventing Downtime (Part 1)

The four laws of effective preventative maintenance

CHICAGO — Preventative maintenance probably isn’t the most exciting thing on any dry cleaner’s to-do list. A proper PM schedule, however, can help them avoid the “excitement” of a blown air compressor, garment damage from worn pads, clogged supply lines and other events that can shut down a plant or provide poor results to their customers.

In this series, we’ll examine the four laws of preventative maintenance that can help keep equipment running and minimize or even prevent downtime entirely. Here’s the first:

Law No. 1: Small Things Can Add Up to Big Trouble

When you really stop to think about what goes into keeping a drycleaning facility operational, it can become almost overwhelming, says Vic Williams, the Eastern sales manager of equipment manufacturer Union Dry Cleaning.

“Think about how many moving parts there are in a drycleaning plant,” he says. “It’s not like a Subway sandwich shop, where they have an oven and refrigerator. I believe a dry cleaner has the most moving pieces of any type of small business.”

Williams, who also has owned Impressive Cleaners and Formal Wear in McDonough, Georgia, for the past 20 years, knows that when small parts fail, big machines can falter. This is why preventative maintenance is so important.

“Take a washing machine with an inverter drive, for example,” he says. “There’s a little filter on the inverter, and nobody ever cleans them. This can cause your inverter to burn up, and then your washing machine doesn’t work. And it’s not like there are any tools required to clean it; just take an air hose and blow it off.”

“Regular preventive maintenance is going to keep your machines in top working order,” says Mike Tungesvick, national sales manager for equipment manufacturer Sankosha USA. “It’s also going to allow you as a cleaner to become familiar with your machines and get to know them. That way, you’ll notice if something is starting to develop, and you’ll know you need to take care of it now.”

“The primary value in preventive maintenance is that it’s protecting your investment,” says Jerry Moore, owner of equipment supplier Moore Services in Cleveland. “It’s an asset you want to protect. Hopefully, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of that small leak that turns into a big leak, that winds up leaking down through a control panel and frying a computer on your drycleaning machine.”

A little math can make the value of PM apparent, Moore says.

“The simplest way to demonstrate value in a preventive maintenance program is to compare the cost of reacting to a breakdown, as opposed to spending an hour of your time doing PM — and it doesn’t even have to be your time,” he says. “You can pay someone in-house to do it. But that hour to hour or two a week can save you a fortune long-term.”

“Bad PM practices are just going to bring failure and frustration,” Tungesvick says. “You feel like you’re throwing parts at the machine, and it still doesn’t work correctly.”

Come back Thursday for the second and third laws of preventative maintenance — if you obey them, your equipment won’t let you down!