Keeping Your Equipment Running Properly is Mostly about Planning and Partnering
By Ryan SpencerThe most important aspect of maximizing your productivity in the field is making sure your equipment is functioning optimally. It’s a matter of fully understanding how a spray equipment system works, executing on that knowledge in the field, and leveraging whatever resources are at your disposal.
Success begins with a good foundation, and proper training can provide that foundation. Most SPF suppliers and distributors offer some form of training on the ins and outs of SPF, spray equipment, safety, and the application process. However, not all companies approach it the same way.
“On the training side, we probably look at it different than most companies,” said John Bender, Owner of Diamond Spray Foam (DSF). “We work with trade associations and chemical suppliers. We bring in their professionals and they teach the application side, and the attendee usually earns a certificate.”
DSF differentiates its training philosophy by focusing on its own expertise in equipment and delegating the application side of the training to the chemical supplier or trade association being hosted. DSF truly views it as a partnership.
“We open our doors, we don’t charge them anything to use the facility, and we allow them to use the equipment that’s here,” said Bender. “We usually have an electric machine, a hydraulic machine, an epoxy machine, an E-10–we have all of the machines they need for training.”
Comprehensive training is ideal for both installers just entering the spray foam industry, or experienced professionals looking to continue ongoing education. (DSF reports that their typical class breaks down to about one inexperienced installer for every four experienced installers.) While there is evidence of a clear desire for people to pursue excellence in their field, the biggest hurdle isn’t so much what’s learned in a class, but rather just making time to attend the class. It’s often a major trade-off for some contractors to take off three or four days of work in order to attend a training event. Yes, that’s valuable time to sacrifice, but looking at it another way, it might be more costly not to take that time off.
“Those few days of training may save you weeks of scraping off foam or coating because you made a mistake,“ said Bender. “How can you not afford to get some professional training?”
It’s one thing to know what you’re doing, but it’s another thing to do what you know. All the training in the world is useless if it isn’t applied properly. Take one of the most common issues installers may experience: pressure imbalance. This is often caused by neglecting to change any settings on the machine after switching to a new drum set that’s from a different manufacturer than the prior set.
“You’ve got to start from square one if it’s a different liquid you’re spraying,” said Bender.
It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s also an easy mistake to not make. Also, consider the common source of moisture issues: moist air infiltrating A-side drums. Taking an extra five minutes to ensure that there’s a proper seal around the drum openings when the pumps are inserted, or that the air dryer is working properly, can prevent hours of troubleshooting and gallons of compromised material, as Bender explained:
“The ISO reacts with moisture and creates a crystal,” he said. “The crystal goes through the filter and the pump and gets to the spray gun. There’s an error code and the job stops.”
Some problems will emerge outside the scope of a properly orchestrated operation. Sometimes, things will just wear out and break down. The most common breakdowns can essentially be easily and swiftly resolved with sufficient preparation, so it’s advisable for every contractor to maintain a collection of replacement parts (DSF has been providing their customers with such kits since the early 1990’s).
“That’s just part of being prepared to do your job for the day,” said Bender.
Most installers who’ve been through training understand that spray equipment is specifically designed to do what it does; it’s specialty equipment. For some people, though, the temptation of short-term savings on things like replacement parts can actually turn into long-term losses. A good example of this is opting for generic O-rings rather than OEM.
“The installer puts it in, they start spraying, and there’s an O-ring failure. It crosses over, fills the spray gun with foam all the way up the air line, and then it solidifies,” explained Bender. “The headache really starts then.”
Major problems like that can and do result from the decision to buy cheap parts–in both cost and quality–that aren’t necessarily designed for the conditions in which spray equipment functions. It really comes down to considering whether saving $20 now is worth potentially losing hours of production later from equipment failure due to inadequate parts.
“Everybody that’s in this industry has to realize that we’re using high-pressure heated equipment,” said Bender. “There is some science to it, from the chemistry to the spray equipment.”
No matter how knowledgeable or prepared you might be, no one is immune from the occasional calamity. It’s a simple fact that major, unforeseen problems can and will occur, and sometimes even the most prepared installers will be unable to fix, or even unable to figure out the issue.
“You just need to call and have someone to bounce ideas off of,” said Bender. “If you’re looking at a machine trying to figure out why it’s not working, and you’re spending too much time trying to figure it out, that’s when you need to pick up the phone and call.”
Sure, everyone wants to be self-reliant, and it’s tough to admit a problem is outside your capabilities, but these things happen. It’s an asset to be able to rely on a source of experience with your best interest in mind, or as Bender described it, a “silent partner.”
The inevitability of major issues can pose an ever-lurking threat, but the timing of those issues can be truly catastrophic. Imagine working into the night, when the job comes to a halt.
“It’s 8 o’clock at night on the East Coast, the installer doesn’t have the issue fixed yet, they’re a whole day behind, they’ve called everyone in their local area, and there’s no one to call or help,” said Bender. “Well, it’s only 5 o’clock here in California, so we pick up the phone because we’re still open.”
Who you call for technical service is just as important as deciding to seek it out altogether. When you’re in a bind, your phone can be a lifeline, and it’s a huge advantage to have confidence in who is answering the call.
For more information about Diamond Spray Foam, visit www.diamondsprayfoam.com.