After labor expenses, there’s typically no greater cost for a franchise owner than equipment. The tools of the trade can be pricey, but well maintained equipment is what allows you to do your job effectively, efficiently and profitably. Therefore, protecting that investment should be a top priority.
With proper care, machines like vacuums, buffers and scrubbers can run reliably for many years. Without it, however, you’ll be dealing with unexpected costly breakdowns and machines that need replacing before their life expectancy has been reached.
What are the keys to properly maintaining janitorial equipment?
Start From Day One
Caring for your equipment begins the day you purchase it (not months later when it starts to show signs of wear). People tend not to pay much attention to the owner’s manual once the vacuum has been assembled but, in a lot of cases, it is in the owner’s manual where manufacturers share best practices for operating and maintaining their product.
Also, take advantage of any training the distributor or manufacturer has to offer. For example the ProTeam website has numerous operation videos on their equipment which are excellent tools for training. Other commercially rated vacuum manufacturers also have excellent websites where they sometimes post training videos. This is particularly important with any new technology or complicated machinery, especially if you have staff with heavy turnover. You want to be certain everyone on your team knows how to use and care for every tool in their arsenal. Create and update your procedures manual, and remember to offer training to new employees and abbreviated retraining to the entire staff on a regular basis.
Proper Care of Vacuums
For most franchise owners, the vacuum cleaner gets more use than any other equipment. Daily maintenance is key to keeping this important tool running smoothly. Each day, perform the following inspections:
- Check the bag and replace it when it’s half full (letting the bag overfill prevents the vacuum from working effectively).
- Examine the filter for excessive soil. Clean (if washable) and/or replace if needed. Also look for obstructions in the clog ports or fan chambers.
- Look inside the hose to make sure it’s not heavily soiled or clogged (clean as needed) and make sure the hose is properly attached to the machine.
- Check the cord for cuts or frayed wiring and the exterior of the vacuum for cracks or broken parts. (Damaged vacuums should be replaced or sent to an authorized service center for repairs.)
- Remove any obstructions that are wrapped around the brush roller or beater bar on an upright vacuum.
- Also, the brush roller typically needs to be replaced every two to three months. Also, if you notice a difference in motor sound or smell burning rubber, shut down the vacuum immediately and reinstall or replace the belt.
Maintaining Carpet Extractors
Carpet extractors are a much larger capital expense than vacuums. So it’s important to avoid replacing a machine that costs thousands of dollars sooner than is necessary. Routine maintenance of these machines (whether self-contained, wanded, or truck-mounted) is simple, requiring just 10 to 15 minutes each day to perform the following inspections:
- Tanks and water lines: Check for cracks or leaks daily, and clean them immediately after use.
- Nozzles and wands: Look for dents or cracks in the wand head that could contact the carpet. Make sure the tips of the sprayer are free of debris and mineral buildup.
- Hoses: Examine the hose connection for leaks, and check for tears, cracks, or obstructions in the suction or solution hoses. Clean the hoses and hose connections after each use
- Other parts: Check the brush roller for damage and excessive debris. Look over the wheels, tanks, cord connection, and switches for wear and tear.
These simple tips—along with safe storage—can extend an extractor’s lifespan from two years to as many as 10.
Caring for Auto Scrubbers and Buffers
Complex machines like auto scrubbers and buffers can require more time consuming maintenance. Daily maintenance tasks include:
- Check the squeegee for debris (which can lead to streaking) and clean as needed.
- Inspect pads/brushes for wear; clean and replace as needed.
- Wipe down the entire surface, including the cord, after each use. Also, check the machine for cracks or damage and the cord for frayed wires.
- Rinse out the tanks after each use.
- Rotate blades
- Rinse and flip pads after every two hours of operation.
- Verify vacuum shut-off device is working properly.
- Charge batteries after extended use.
Each week, take the additional steps of inspecting the solution filter for clogs/debris, doing the “sniff test” for mold or other foul odors, check the water level of acid batteries, inspect terminals for buildup and tighten as needed, and check the recovery system for leaks. Every other week, take time to blow out the motor. Finally, once a month, check the wheels for damage or wear, inspect and lubricate moving parts, and verify all screws and bolts are and tight.
Record your maintenance efforts by keeping a log for every piece of equipment. Keep notes of daily and routine inspections and cleanings, as well as any repairs. This maintenance log will help supervisors ensure maintenance is being performed in a timely manner. They can also check the entries when problems arise to determine if any employees need training.
It’s a good idea to have at least one person on every crew trained in the basic mechanics of every machine. When it comes to technical maintenance and expert repairs, however, these more complicated procedures should be left to qualified service professionals.
Check equipment warranties carefully because some will be voided if anyone other than a service professional attempts machine repairs.
Remember: First impressions matter. Dusty or damaged equipment may send a subtle signal to your customers that you’re not running a professional operation. On the other hand, when customers see that your equipment is clean and well cared for, they’ll know that you pay attention to detail.