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Preventive Maintenance for Sweepers

Refurbish Your Power Sweepers to Get Longer Service Life

With 25 malls to manage, Crown American knows the tricks for cutting costs - but not performance levels.

by Belinda Chambers

"Both in-house sweeping and periodic sweeper refurbishing can be cost-effective if approached wisely."

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So says Sharon McDermott, C.P.M., A.P.P., who is Purchasing Manager for Crown American Realty Trust (NYSE:CWN), one of the nation's largest development companies. Crown American is the managing general partner for a portfolio of 25 regional malls located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee and Georgia. Combined, these properties total over 14 million square feet of gross leasable area.

"We believe that the first impression we make on a customer is a lasting one," said McDermott. "Keeping the parking area clean is an important element of our property management philosophy. By having a sweeper at the site, we have the flexibility to sweep as often as needed, and at times that are convenient for us. We are also able to maintain top quality control. We usually train 2 or 3 maintenance employees on the use of the sweeper at each of our mall locations. They know what we expect from them, including attention to fire lanes, islands, planter boxes, catch basins and 'wind tunnels' where debris collects.

"Also, having our own sweeper right on the property permits us the flexibility to do 'special' cleanups. We always need these before, after (and sometimes during!) outdoor events, such as auto shows, community festivals, carnivals and circuses, which are held periodically throughout the year in our parking areas. The debris can really add up, because lots of food is consumed at many of these events. As far as we're concerned, we think owning our own sweepers is definitely the way to go."

McDermott discovered periodic upgrades of their sweeper fleet to be a great way to stretch Crown American's budget without a reduction in sweeper efficiency. "As our sweepers became 5 years old, we began analyzing our options in terms of upgrading. One of the jobs of any good manager is to find ways to reduce costs without reducing performance levels. Since many of the one-ton GMC cab and chassis were in good condition and had under 20,000 miles on them, refurbishment of the sweepers seemed to be the best option. This allowed us to stay well within our budget."

Budget constraints are common among developers of mall and office building locations. Even in a strong economic climate, everyone wants and expects the most for their money. One aspect of sweeper use in a dedicated location like a mall is that the sweeper components become worn out even though there is relatively little mileage on the sweeper's chassis. Even with proactive maintenance procedures for the sweeper, the truck chassis will typically outlive the sweeper body by a considerable amount of time.

"I first started discussing a planned refurbishment program back in the summer of 1995," said McDermott. "To date, factory personnel have installed new hoppers and performed whatever other maintenance was needed on 14 of our sweepers. The factory does such a good job that many of our operators actually thought they had a new sweeper when they got them back. And because the cost of refurbishment is only about a fourth of what it takes to buy a brand new sweeper and chassis, it freed up money for other projects."

"It's not too surprising that they look and run like new, since our refurbishment team takes such pride in their work," commented Matthews. "Our team does all the little things that make the finished product look darn close to new. Some of our other customers have also found that refurbishment is a very attractive option, one that will increase the life of their sweepers significantly.

Factory trained personnel put each unit through the same quality control component checks, burn-in and sweeping check that is done on a new unit.

"Our goal is to keep our customers satisfied, and one of the ways we do that is by being very flexible on how programs like this operate. In Crown American's case, our drivers brought their sweepers down to our factory location for the work, and we also delivered the completed units back to them. On the other end of the scale, some customers prefer us to just ship them a new hopper and the other needed parts, and they take it from there. A big advantage to doing it the way Crown American does, however, is that factory-trained personnel perform all the work. Plus, when we're done, we put each unit through the same quality control component checks, and do the exact same burn-in and check of sweeping that is done on a new unit. Essentially, we make sure it performs like a brand new sweeper before it leaves."

"Over time, we've learned that consistent preventive maintenance and insisting upon strong factory support, along with our operators' high level of skill, provide us with a combination that really works. At Crown American, we're comfortable that our best option is to run our sweeping program in-house, rather than contracting out."

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, Volume 6 Number 2.

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