As a laundry owner, your customers pay your bills – and, above all, your ample selection of efficient, reliable, smooth-running washers and dryers are what attract those customers to your business in the first place.
To keep that equipment in service and making money for you, it’s crucial to have a well-stocked inventory of replacement parts on hand for when you really need them.
“Parts are what keep a coin laundry running, so being prepared is the most important thing to remember,” advised Craig Gilbert, parts manager for Star Distributing/Partsking.com.
“Laundromat owners should always have ‘fast’ moving parts on hand,” added Darwin Uruchima, sales manager for Doxon Manufacturing Co. “These are parts that commonly break or get damaged – things like belts, water valves, pumps and relays for washers; and belts, lint screens, door switches and touchpads for dryers. These types of items are not very expensive and will help avoid a machine being down for too long. In fact, you should always have at least two of each of those items on hand at all times.”
Dion Marcionetti of Laundry Concepts agreed that coin laundry operators should keep what he called the “wear items” in stock.
“You would need one spare belt for your washers and one for your dryers,” Marcionetti said. “One water valve for each of your different washer brands; one door switch for your washers and one for your dryers; one ignition control for your dryers; two water inlet hoses for your washers; one lint screen for your dryers; one drain valve for each size of frontloader in your store and one pump for your toploaders. That would be a minimum of replacement parts stock for laundry owners to have on premises, if they do minor repairs themselves.”
Of course, keeping up with your regularly scheduled equipment maintenance is an important factor with regard to how many parts you need to keep in stock.
Parts Inventory Mistakes
Among the inventory miscues he’s witnessed over the years, Rich Herpel, parts manager at D&M Equipment, said the most frustrating is when a laundry owner simply orders the wrong part.
“When ordering parts, always double-check the model and the serial number,” he stressed. “You don’t want to received the wrong item when you’ve got a busy weekend coming up.”
“The one big mistake I’ve seen is laundry owners stocking expensive electrical parts, like computer boards, main motors or inverters,” Uruchima said. “Electrical parts typically have a very limited warranty and can be damaged easily if not stored properly. A service technician or parts store can order these parts for a laundry owner very quickly, so there’s no need to have it on hand and risk getting stuck with an expensive, faulty part.”
Another common mistake Uruchima sees laundry owners making is to place a parts order and then not inspect the items once they arrive. Occasionally, a part can be damaged during transit or the incorrect part could be shipped, and if not noticed in time, it can be difficult to return that part if too much time has passed.
Laundry owner also should give some thought to where they store their parts inventory, according to Herpel.
“A lot of customers – when purchasing belts, for instance – will store them near their dryers,” he said. “Unfortunately, the heat dries them out and cracks them. Basically, the belts dry rot. So it’s always good to keep your parts in a relatively cool place.”
For Gilbert, another typical mistake he sees among self-service laundry owners is having too much of the wrong part in their inventory.
In addition, Marcionetti advised against simply buying too much stock for your laundry in general.
“You will never have everything that you might need, so don’t tie up your money in inventory when it is locally available from your distributor,” he said. “Having said that, when a distributor has a quantity discount, you might want to take advantage of the savings. The typical replacement part warranty is 90 days to one year, so if you keep it on your shelf too long and the part is defective, it’s very difficult to get it replaced under warranty. Most electrical parts – such as timers, computers and motors – are not returnable; but, if under warranty, they will be exchanged for the same part.
“Keeping the right inventory depends on many factors: the age of your store, your past experiences and the amount of service that you will personally perform,” he added. “It’s very convenient to have the spare part handy, but in most cases, it’s locally available. With all of the online parts stores that have part numbers and pictures, an owner can browse and, in most cases, buy parts and have them delivered within a few days.”
Herpel sees another reason why laundry owners aren’t necessarily overdoing it when filling up their stock shelves with parts.
“People are not stocking as much as they used to,” he noted. “The equipment is becoming more efficient, so it requires less and less components. Back in the 1970s, there were several different little components that were necessary to keep in stock. There were a lot of relays and other items. But now it’s coming down more and more to the microprocessors; one or two boards will control the entire machine.”
Yet, it’s still important to always have “the basics” on hand.
“Laundry owners should make it a priority to have the common items stocked to avoid losing money on down machines,” Uruchima explained. “A simple broken belt can cost a laundry owner by having to pay a higher cost for the item, for a service technician and for the days being out of service. It’s better to be prepared by having the item on hand to avoid the machine being down for too long.”
Herpel urged laundry owners to really start paying attention to what’s going on in their own stores.
“Start watching and understanding what your parts needs are,” he said. “Begin writing down the items that seem to break down more often. Plus, for us, since everything is computerized now, we can always tell a laundry-owner customer: ‘You’ve been buying a lot of such-and-such item. It’s might be a good idea to stock one or two in inventory.’ Above all, devise some sort of system and checklist. During your busiest times, you certainly don’t want your machines down.”
Clearly, it’s going to take some homework and a little advance planning, but knowing your laundry equipment and its needs will help you keep those washers and dryers humming along… and your customers returning week after week.
Replacement Parts Checklist
Idler Assembly Parts
Water Fill Valve
Water Level Switch
Door Lock Solenoids
Door Lock Micro Assemblies
Water Fill Valves
Water Level Switch
Mixing Fill Valve
Airflow Parts and Switches
Gas Valve and Coils