ICS Magazine

Breakdown! When Equipment Fails the Clock Keeps Ticking

August 10, 2005
Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.


It's the beginning of the shift and Bob has been assigned the task of stripping a VCT floor. Bob is a skilled technician and knows exactly what to do.

After preparing the area for service, and setting up his equipment he applies the stripping solution to the area. He waits for the stripping solution to dwell and sets the 175-rpm rotary floor machine to begin the solution-agitation function. He centers his pad and adjusts the handle. When all is set he depresses the safety and squeezes the on/off switch to start the machine. To Bob's surprise nothing happens. He tries again and again, but to no avail. The machine is not running. Uh-oh. Breakdown!

This is a technician's worst nightmare. The machine is not responding at all. There is no electricity getting to the machine. After checking the circuit breaker box, he decides that either the plug is not functioning or there may be a wire break in the cord. There is also the possibility that the on/off switch is broken. These are the primary points of breakdown on most electrical machines.

Bob goes to his duffle bag and gets a small tool kit. First, he inspects the cord to see if there are any anomalies or exposed wires. After seeing that the cord is not the problem, he begins to open the plug. Sure enough, he finds that one of the wires has pulled off of its post. Bob reattaches the wire, puts the plug back together and plugs it in. The machine starts and Bob is back in business, however he has lost precious time.

As you can see, Bob was a professional. He would not have faired so well if he did not have the knowledge and skills to figure out what was broken and how to fix it. In many situations this type of scenario would have gone a completely different way.

Preventive Maintenance
Of course we must not lose track of the fact that, regardless of whether Bob was a professional or not, he still lost time on the job. He was very fortunate: if the problem was not as simple as the electrical plug, he may not have been able to use the machine at all. He'd have to find another machine or, if none was available, do his best to remove the solution already on the floor and explain to the client why the floors look so horrible. Any way you look at it, it would not have been pleasant.

In a perfect world there would be no equipment failures, but we do not live in a perfect world. The best we can do is to try to prevent breakdowns before they occur.

Regular Inspections
The machines and equipment that you use will be exposed to wear and tear. It is important that you perform a physical inspection on them regularly. There are primarily two areas of inspection; power source and mechanical problems.

The primary power source for most hard-floor maintenance equipment and machines will be manual, electric, battery or propane. Read the owners manual: it will help to identify a majority of problems that can occur before they become problems.

Chasing down electrical problems begins at the cord, plug and on/off switch. If it is not one of these issues, the machine may have to be sent to a professional for repairs. When dealing with batteries pay special attention to the charger. Propane equipment problems are more often than not a matter of overfilling the tank, causing the regulator to freeze shut. Propane machines can be finicky and require additional education and training.

As a rule of thumb, always test the equipment at the office to ensure that it starts.

Mechanical Problems
Mechanical issues are the result of a part breaking. This could be handles, switches, gears, wheels or any other moving part. If one of these breaks, it could stop you dead in the water.

When mechanical breakdowns occur and service is needed, if you are skilled in this area, you may perform the service yourself; however, most of the time the machine is sent out for repairs. If you do not have a replacement machine, it could mean loss of revenue.

To reduce the probability of mechanical failure, visually inspecting the machine for wear and tear can help to identify problems before they occur. Check to ensure that screws, nuts and bolts are all tight. Inspect the handle and housing to ensure that the metal is intact without damage.

Start the machine and listen. It should run smoothly. If it sounds rough or like something is grinding, you should have it checked by a professional as soon as possible. It is very helpful to have the machine serviced at regular intervals to ensure the internal mechanisms are functioning properly.

Improving Productivity
When you work with properly maintained equipment, you know it will work when it is in the field. Preventive maintenance ensures that your machines and equipment will work when you need them to. Hard-floor maintenance equipment that is running at optimum performance levels increases the likelihood that productivity objectives will be achieved. If you wait until your equipment fails, just remember, the clock keeps ticking.