Equipment Maintenance: How It Affects Your Brand and Image

August 9, 2008
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Today’s professional textile cleaner may purchase equipment from many excellent manufacturers. He or she also has a tremendous selection of machines to choose from. This month we’ll take aim at truck-mounted cleaning systems and how important it is to have an overall comprehensive maintenance program for your equipment.

Remember, all equipment will need to be properly maintained and eventually repaired. This is why it is crucial to buy equipment from manufacturers with a capable dealer network, where technicians are certified and have specialized training to work on the equipment you purchased. A good distributor of cleaning equipment will have the proper repair facility to keep your equipment well maintained and running for years to come. It may be best to purchase your equipment locally, where it will be easy to have the unit serviced.

It goes without saying that formulating a good business relationship with the local distributor who sells and services your equipment should be high up on your “to-do” list. Said distributor may become your best business contact and an actual partner, if you will, who can help grow your business.

In today’s competitive business environment, a good distributor can be the difference between success and failure. Remember, most distributors were once professional cleaners and restorers who found excitement through helping other business people become more successful. The repair shop located where you purchase your equipment can really send you, as a potential buyer, silent messages. How clean is the shop? A large parts inventory is necessary, and how busy the shop is can give you a hint of how well you will be taken care of when you bring your machine in for service. When I ran my service company and purchased many machines, service was much more important to me than price.

When a machine did not operate, I counted on my distributor and their excellent repair facility to get that equipment up and running quickly. To be successful in textile cleaning in today’s business environment, a cleaning company must create and develop a brand for the company that clearly communicates that their cleaning system leaves the client with a healthy, clean carpet. The cleaning system, including the machine, must attempt to limit the footprint on our environment. In order to send this message, the technician’s appearance and the appearance of the truck and equipment cannot be stressed enough. To be competitive you no longer have the option of, “Well, it is a little dirty, but we can take care of it next week.” Procrastination and not moving forward with your education relates directly to poor business practices, and creates an inferior brand doomed to failure.

As professionals we realize more than ever the way contractors keep and maintain their tools and equipment is a gateway to their inner soul, while demonstrating their pride and love for their trade or craft. Professionals exhibit pride and honor by keeping equipment spotless and always in top-performing condition. There is nothing worse – next to a stick in the eye – than downtime on equipment to zap your energy and create an all-around negative tone for the day or days you are down and cannot work. It is well known that cleanliness and good maintenance practices are common among the most successful textile cleaners. The appearance of your equipment presents your company’s image before the wand even touches the carpet.

The maintenance schedule for your machine can be found in your owner’s manual. If you do not have an owner’s manual, many times it can be downloaded to your computer from the manufacturer. Following the maintenance chart provided by the manufacturer will reduce downtime, lower repair bills and reduce lost wages in addition to promoting development of a killer brand and delivering an exceptional cleaning experience. In my experience, the majority of machine manufacturers provide a maintenance log, which keeps track of your planned maintenance on your specific piece of equipment. Always record the date and machine hours in the log. Many manufacturers will need a copy of your maintenance log to handle warranty issues. For a mechanic, it is definitely a lot easier to repair a well-maintained machine than one that is dirty and exhibits a lack of proper maintenance.

Everyone wants a piece of equipment that never breaks down. Let’s face it: when the machine is not running, you are not making money. Proper maintenance and inspections are the keys to the longevity and reliability of your unit. Dedicate some time every day before the equipment leaves the shop to check vital fluids and to look for any leaks or drips that may lead to a larger problem or an image-busting situation. It is a good idea to schedule some time every week to thoroughly clean the unit. A good weekly cleaning will allow you to find any new leaks or other concerns that may crop up during the course of the week, and allow time to schedule for these repairs. During this time, a quick inspection of the drive, pressure, electrical and vacuum systems of your unit will alert you to any possible image busting situations before they shut you down on a job. If your company consists of multiple employees using multiple pieces of equipment, it may be a good idea to make a list to be kept with the truck of issues that come up during the week. A dependable, clean and well-maintained unit presents your professional image to your customer as soon as you arrive.

Dump tanks can be a sour subject. Oh, the smell! A rinse at the end of the day with a garden hose, and allow it to air dry, will keep a new tank clean and fresh smelling for years. The rinse also reduces oxidation that can develop in some tanks prolonging the life of the tank. You get all of this and a truck with no odor all for the price of a daily rinse. Your customers will love you for this.

Hard-water deposits can cause heat-related failures. Calcium and lime collect in the heat exchangers, high-pressure hoses and manifolds throughout the machine. This white residue can plug once-free-flowing heat exchanger tubes, solution lines, wands, etc. There are really two ways to combat this problem. The first would be run an acid solution through the machine. This process is commonly called de-scaling. The acid used in this process is strong enough to eat through calcium and lime. The acid also removes small particles of brass, copper, steel, rubber and almost every other material inside your machine thus shortening the life of these parts, which can contribute to downtime and repair costs.

The other way to combat this issue is to install a water softener and to keep the water softener properly maintained. The bottom line is, we want no calcium and lime to enter the unit at all. Any of these materials entering the unit can start to build up on the inside of your machine and eventually, the need to de-scale. A properly maintained water softener will eliminate the need to de-scale and reduce the cost of chemicals used per job. Soft water requires less chemical to achieve the same results.

The following is a general maintenance schedule for most truck mount slide in units and direct drive units; keep in mind that truckmount manufacturers have defined maintenance schedules.  The following is not all-inclusive to all machines, and different manufacturers recommend specialized maintenance practices depending on the specific unit you purchased. The maintenance guide listings here will help keep your machine in top running condition, but always be sure to contact your local dealer or distributor of your equipment with repair and maintenance issues.

Check Daily
  • Engine oil
  • Garden hose screen/clean
  • Empty waste tank inlet filter
  • Visually look for oil leaks, water leaks, loose or damaged wiring
  • Inspect vacuum tank/check vacuum drain/clean
  • Clean and inspect wand/check vacuum slot for debris
  • Lubricate blower inlet/check manufacturer for proper oil
  • Check and clean auto pump out if you have one
  • Clean outside of unit

  Check Weekly
  • Belts
  • Heat exchanger
  • Hose and fittings
  • Electrical system
  • Check high-pressure pump oil
  • Check pulley for pump
  • Clean vacuum tank
Note: Do not let grease, oil, antifreeze or lint build up around the hot exhaust system. It is essential to keep hot areas of the machine clear from grease, oil and lint, which can present a fire hazard.

Check MonthlyM
  • Change engine oil and filter
  • Check engine air cleaner/clean as necessary
  • Clean battery connections
  • On direct drive, grease driveshaft U joints
  • Check fuel filter/clean
  • Scale deposits; may have to de-scale your machine/check your area for hard water

Check Quarterly
  • Change blower oil
  • Change pump oil
  • Grease blower fittings
  • Check fuel lines/especially near rotating parts
  • Check vehicle wiring harness
  • On CDS machines check blower mountings  (i.e., fasteners)
  • Grease driveshaft spline if so equipped
  • Grease power pack pillow block bearings on CDS
  • On slide-in units check spark plugs; replace every 200 hours

    Implementing a maintenance schedule will help develop that killer image we strive to achieve. In addition, you will increase profits and gain the respect of your clients. With proper maintenance there will be no time for downtime.

Go forth and unleash the power of education. 

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