I recently visited a 5 year old Laundromat that was having all sorts of repair issues on relativity new washers and dryers. The owners asked me to meet with them at the Laundromat and to review the large number of service calls to determine if there were problems with the machines, the installation or the service company (HK). Before I meet with the owners I reviewed the service tickets for the last 15 months and found that about 24% of their costs were for consumables (in this case Laundry Cards), 12% were dryer parts, 3% were washer parts, 26% were Laundry Card parts (card readers & card dispensers), 27% was HK Labor and the remaining 8% was taxes and freight. There were a total of 15 service calls over the course of 15 months.
When I meet with the owners they wanted me to checkout a couple of Out-Of-Order (OOO) washers. I quickly determined that the card readers were installed in the washers but never correctly addressed so the card system could not see the washers. We found 2 such washers and I not only corrected the problem but I show the manager how to "address" the card readers. (HK has the "Addressing Card Readers" procedure on our website.) After determining that some of the OOO washers were simple tweaks and not problems, we looked at the dryers and we discussed the possible causes of their chronic dryer motor failures. When I opened the lint compartment of one of the dryers, I found it packed with lint. I knew from that point on that the majority of the service issues were related to maintenance issues in the Laundromat. (Or lack of maintenance.) This customer lacked any type of Preventative Maintenance (P/M) program. We found many dryers that had ripped and torn lint screens, which was allowing lint to out-of-balance the dryer fans blades and clog the dryer exhaust ducts with lint. We also went behind the dryers and found a nice layer of lint covering all of the dryers and covering dryer motor air vents.
I mention this example not to embarrass our customer, but to remind everyone that to "Run a Laundromat is Easy, but to Manage a Laundromat is much more difficult". We all need to be good managers of our Laundromats. To just Run a Laundromat is Easy (sometimes way too easy). But to Manager a Laundromat takes effort, planning and the discipline to follow through with your plan. If you owned a Burger restaurant and failed to keep it clean, the local health department would shut you down. But in a Laundromat, if you fail to vacuum out your dryers, nothing bad will happen until the dryers fail to operate. Many, many service calls can be prevented by just maintaining your machines. I am constantly amazed that the cleaner the Laundromat, the less service call that store has. The clean Laundromats have significantly less service calls than the dirty Laundromats.
Keep it clean and you will have fewer repairs. This customer spent over $1,000 in replacing dryer motors that should have lasted for another 5 years. But because this customer did not vacuum out the dryers and the dryer motor air vents, the motors over-heated and burned up. The labor, parts, down-time and the negative image of a broken dryers are all huge expenses that cost the customer dearly. Time and time again HK is asked to repair machines that have broken down due to a lack of P/M. Just from an economic point of view, the dollars spent on P/M are dollars wisely invested. The problem is that some Laundromat owners do not see the advantage of a good P/M program. The lack of preventative maintenance will result in less efficient washers and dryers, higher utility bills, and much greater repair costs. These un-necessary expenses directly reduce the profitability of the Laundromat.
Management needs to be responsible for creating a good P/M program. Creating a P/M program is easy. All equipment manufacturers have suggested P/M procedures (if not manuals). These are easily found on the web or are available through your local distributor. Look for the P/M schedules and charts in the operating and service manuals. Next, make a list of the suggested procedures and note what should be done and at what interval. Once you have a list of all of the P/M procedures (for the washer, dryers and water heater), organizing the procedures in a checklist format. We create our Laundromat checklists in an Excel spreadsheet, but before Excel there was always graph paper and a black magic-marker. If you find that you need to add another procedure to your checklist, then add another row in your spreadsheet. For instance if you have trouble with a dumpster padlock, add lubricate the lock on the dumpsters to your checklist. For a sample checklist follow this link to our website.
The next step is to train the staff in the P/M program. Just like any teaching process you need to train your staff:
- Inform the staff of the new P/M program,
- Explain why P/M is very important (get them to "buy-into" the program),
- Show the staff what tasks need to be done,
- Have your staff perform the tasks (make sure they know how to perform the P/M tasks successfully),
- Follow-up and check the progress of the tasks to make sure that they are completed and that they are performing the P/M procedures properly.
The creation of a P/M program takes time to organize and to implement, but is well worth the effort in utility and repair savings. Remember that very rarely do dryer fires occur in clean, well maintained dryers. There is an old saying which says it all... "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".
Some Real Life Cause & Effect examples:
Clogged Lint Screens = Longer Dryer Times, Excessive Gas Bills, Angry Customers
Lint Clogging Dryer Motor Vents = Brunt Dryer Motors
Ripped LInts Screens = Violently Shaking & Noisey Dryers
Excessive Lint Behind Dryers = Possible Dryer Fire
Rotten Washer Fill Hoses = Broken Fill Hoses & Lots of Water Damage
Clogged Washer Drains = Clothes coming out Wet & Angry Customers
Obstructions in Drain Valves = Long Wash Cycles & Huge Water & Sewer Bills
Dirty Bill Changers = Broken Bill Changers & Angry Customers
Laundry Carts Won't Roll = Pissed off Laundry Customers
I place my checklists on the backside of the backroom door. I place the checklists in a clear plastic folder taped to the back of the door. This way I can easily see the checklist and see if my staff has performed the required monthly tasks. If the work has been done, they will place their initials in the appropriate box. If not done, then the box will be blank. At a glance I can see if we are up to date with our maintenance tasks or if we are falling behind. I will also spot check a couple of the items on the checklist just to make sure that the maintenance has been completed. You can see the checklists we use for 2 of our Laundromats (one card and the other coin operated).