Photo by Ken Parry

Photo by Ken Parry

With the New Year just around the corner, many begin to think about what resolutions they should make. Last year, I resolved to get my arms around maintenance of our network’s equipment. In my first year as a franchisee, I had my service tech’s phone number on speed-dial. In fact, he probably took his family to Disney just on the money he made rescuing me from what seemed like constant equipment failure.

After I took every service class offered by the DCP, I came to realize that a network of Dunkin’ Donuts stores needs the same kind of maintenance plan as a sophisticated manufacturing business.

When I graduated college, I was hired by the Ford Motor Company in their Assembly Operations Department. There, I learned how to apply predictive maintenance and preventive maintenance techniques to reduce machine failure and improve efficiency.

Ford’s assembly plants were capable of producing a new truck every 1.2 minutes. That’s 1,200 trucks every day in a plant running three eight-hour shifts, six days a week. Any failure that took the system off-line could result in a loss of tens of thousands of dollars a minute. The company had sophisticated predictive maintenance schedules to reduce unplanned repairs and improve overall uptime.

So, how does that apply to Dunkin’?

Preventive maintenance, which is performed at specific intervals, is designed to keep equipment operating and extend its useful life. Because preventive maintenance is scheduled, you can pre-order the parts needed and determine exactly when to take the equipment out of service. Most of the equipment used in a Dunkin’ Donuts shop comes with a recommended maintenance schedule which determines how often parts should be checked, cleaned or replaced.

Predictive maintenance is based on using specific indicators, diagnostic tools and, even sophisticated algorithms to predict when a machine will fail. This approach also allows you to order parts and schedule downtime for repair prior to any equipment failure. But, you only work on equipment that actually needs attention; you can also keep a smaller inventory of parts because you can order extra parts precisely when you need them.

At Ford, we would regularly monitor the amperage a motor was drawing. We knew that when the amp draw increased, the motor was beginning to fail. At that point, we would schedule maintenance. The same approach could be used with refrigerators, ice makers or Coolatta machines. If the unit has a condenser coil and you notice temperatures are slowly rising – even if they are still within operating specs – the coil should be vacuumed because temperature fluctuations could be a sign that the coil is clogged with dirt or grease. It could be the manual says the coils should be vacuumed quarterly and it’s been less than 13 weeks. But, the signs indicate a need for corrective action. This kind of predictive maintenance can prevent spoilage or, worse, a total machine failure, necessitating a late-night call to an emergency technician and, possibly a capital purchase.

It’s important to remember that different Dunkin’ shops in the same network can use their equipment on vastly different schedules. A busy drive-thru store may use its grinder three times more than a small stand-alone store in a suburban strip center, yet the schedule for cleaning and maintenance on each machine is the same. If you stick to a short schedule to accommodate the drive-thru’s schedule, you are likely replacing parts in the stand-alone’s grinder long before it is necessary. If you base the repairs on the slower store, you could find your drive-thru’s grinder failing because it was long-overdue for its preventive maintenance. This is why predictive maintenance can help you stay on top of your overall program, save you money and keep things running smoothly.

Corrective – or reactive – maintenance, on the other hand, is the costliest and least efficient way to take care of your equipment. Every franchisee has a story about an unexpected failure, like the Coolatta machine failing at the start of a three-day summer weekend. That is a situation that ends badly for everyone involved.

Last January, as I sought to fulfill my New Year’s resolution, I created a spreadsheet that lays it all out. It’s divided into two categories: one featuring all the equipment you need to operate the store; the second listing every item associated with the physical building—things like HVAC units, grease traps, signage, lawn sprinklers and door closers.

We use these category listings for our spreadsheets:

• Equipment Type

• Manufacturer

• Serial Number

• Service phone number

• Service to be performed

• Parts required

• Frequency of service
(weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually)

• Time required to complete

• Name of service tech

• Status of work (open or complete)

• Comments

Be sure to include the manufacturer’s serial number because some replacement parts are only for specific serial number groups and occasionally the numbers wear off after many cleanings.

Since implementing our maintenance program last January, we have cut our overall maintenance and repair costs by nearly half and the function of our equipment has improved significantly. That means a better, more consistent product delivered to customers in a timely fashion. And, that is just what all franchisees want.