When is it time to replace your laundry equipment? This is an interesting question and I have some observations as to when store owners should replace their laundry equipment. Replacing laundry equipment is a very expensive proposition. There is the huge cost of the equipment itself, the installation of the equipment and then modifying the Laundromat to operate with the new equipment. (These costs would include electricians, carpenters, plumbers or other trades people to make the machines operate properly.)
Laundry equipment is just plain expensive. I would love to think that as a distributor am make these huge profits, but unfortunately, year after year our profit margins are shrinking. The manufacturers are making their respectable profit but they also have to contend with the increase in cost of materials (SS, Copper & Nickel), the cost of production and the soft costs of healthcare, retirement, and inflation. So the reality is today's machines are just plain expensive. Today's washers & dryers, although expensive, have several advantages over yesterday's machines. Today's laundry equipment is much more energy efficient, more reliable and has many more useful features & benefits.
When I think of the washers & dryers we were using in the 1980's compared to today's machines; there is a huge world of difference. Today's washers are larger in size, use about � the water and spin a whole lot faster than the old washers. This all amounts to easier troubleshooting and reduced utility costs and happier customers. Today's dryers now come in 2 different stack dryer sizes (30 & 45 lbs. drums). Today's dryers are more energy efficient with the axial airflow and are more reliable and easier to maintain due to constant improvements in dryer design. Given a choice, today's laundry equipment is far superior to yesterday's machines. The only advantage of yesterday's machines is that they are already paid for and have no monthly payments.
Why would anyone replace perfect good operating laundry equipment if they didn't have to? I suggest that there are 3 reasons (or combinations of reasons) for replacing your old laundry equipment:
- The laundry equipment is just Too Expensive to maintain,
- The laundry equipment to Too Expensive to operate, and
- The parts to repair the machines are No Longer Available.
- The machines cannot longer be operated Safely.
At some point in time your Laundry Equipment will become Too Expensive to Repair. Laundry equipment (like anything else mechanical) has a certain number of cycle hours of operation before the wheels fall off the machine. Things just wear out and need to be replaced. If you have a bunch of washers that all are going to require very expensive bearing jobs all at the same time, you will think twice about spending major amounts of cash to fix old machines. The problem is always what else is going to fail? This is similar to when do you replace your car? How expensive and un-reliable does the car have to be before you bite the bullet and get rid of the "junker"?
Mathematically once the repair cost (parts & labor) start to come close to what a note payment would cost, then that is the tipping point where it makes absolute sense to replace the washers with new ones. How much is the note payment per month for new machines? That is a good question and one that your Laundry Equipment Distributor can help you with. It is always a good practice to have a rough idea as to the replacement cost of your laundry equipment. This is helpful for making sure you have adequate insurance coverage and also when to replace your old laundry equipment. It is important to have accurate information to make the intelligent decisions. (Please give me a call so we can quickly figure out what your monthly note figure would be to replace all of your washers or dryers.
In my Briarcliff Laundromat, the Operational Cost to run my old Wascomat washers was just too high. I was operating 24 year old Wascomat Generation 4 washers that are good solid reliable washers, but these washers, with 5 water changes, were energy hogs. Although the washers looked good and ran well, these machines were costing way too much to operate. As I mentioned in a prior article, the recent 40% increase in our water & sewer rates was the tipping point and made this decision a "No Brainer". The water saving from the brand new Huebsch washers is paying for my note payment and I am getting brand new state-of-the-art washers for Free. In addition to Free washers I am gettinga 3 / 10 parts warranty, some labor warranty and protection against future utility price increases. I have the same net cash-flow for the Laundromat while enjoying brand new washers. What could be better? Only that I get a tax break with the depreciation with the purchase of new machines.
In recent years, we are finding that replacement laundry parts are just no longer available. The laundry equipment manufacturers have made a promise to maintain replacement parts for their machines that are up to 10 years old. But when you figure that many washers can operate for 20 or more years, there is a very good possibility that some replacement parts will not be available.
Manufacturers can have parts "un-available" for several reasons. Sometime the tooling for manufacturing the parts has broken or just worn out in which case it does not make sense to spend thousands of dollars for making just a few parts per year. Other times the specific part manufacturer which supplies components to the laundry equipment manufacturer changes or discontinues the specific part and does not have a replacement part available. This is the case with the Elmo washing machine motors. Elmo, a West German motor manufacturer, just decided to discontinue the washing machine motor used in a majority of Laundromat washing machines. This left all of the laundry equipment manufacturers scrambling for a new motor supplier for their washers. It also left many laundry equipment manufacturers without a supply of motors for their old model washers.
Some of the OEM manufacturer parts that are discontinued or in limited supply are:
- Elmo washer motors,
- AKO timers,
- Microprocessors for older Dryers and Washers (18+ years old),
- Side Panels and Top Panels for old Wascomat washers (Gen 3 & Gen 4),
With the limited supply comes opportunity. There are several companies who have made contact with Chinese manufacturing plants to make "generic" parts for some of the more popular replacement parts. In addition there are small electronic repair shops that will repair and refurbish your old computer boards. So probable the rule is, if it is a popular replacement part on a popular make of washer or dryer, then someone will probable build a "generic" replacement part.
I replaced a store full of old "Blue Top" type 3 Wascomat washers (W-181, 121 & 71) because the insulation on the washers was cracking and exposing the copper conductor. This was a unique case, but instead of replacing all of the wiring in every washer we decided just to replace the washers. This was a case where the safety for our technicians and our customers forced us to replace the washers. Cracked wiring insulation is a unique example, but defective door lock mechanisms have caused several manufacturers to discontinue support some of the old washers. The manufacturers are forcing the retirement of these un-safe washers (and for good reason).
Look at your current washers and dryers. Are the machines costing you too much in repairs, lost revenue or utilities that are way too high. Do you have machines where replacement parts are un-available? Do you have washers or dryers that present an un-safe condition to you or your customers? Then give your local laundry equipment distributor a call and see what it would cost for new machines. Find out what your current payment per month would be and see if it doesn't make sense to replace some of your old dinosaurs.