“My budget has been cut, and I’ve got to find ways to keep my costs down. Can you suggest operational changes I can make to cut or at least control costs without having to purchase anything or cause a major upheaval in my laundry?”
Equipment Manufacturing: Dan Goldman, Wascomat Laundry Equipment, Inwood, N.Y.
Ventilation in a laundry is important for dryer efficiency but often overlooked. If dryers could talk, they would scream, “Get me some air! Don’t you realize air is free? Just give me an opening to the atmosphere and I’ll take care of the rest!”
While dryers don’t talk, they do provide plenty of clues when they’re starving for make-up air:
The National Fuel Gas Code (6.4.3 (b)) states, “Provision for make-up air shall be provided for Type 2 clothes dryers, with a minimum free area of 1 square inch for every 1,000 Btu/hr total input rating of the dryer(s) installed.” A general rule of thumb is that the area of the air supply duct must be five times the area of the evacuation duct.
Many laundries could significantly lower costs and increase production by making sure there is enough make-up air entering the room.
On a number of occasions in the healthcare sector, I’ve alerted laundry owners that the sail switch (vacuum switch) was taped closed. “I’ll have the maintenance man look at it” was frequently their response. Unfortunately, the maintenance man probably reported that this was the only way to keep their old dryers running, and the owner accepted this, mindful of budget cuts.
If you ensure that the rear opening for make-up air isn’t obstructed or that an air duct from the roof hasn’t become an apartment house for small animals, your tumblers will burn less gas.
Remember, if the flame is yellow, the dryer is burning too much gas. If the flame is blue, it’s good for you.
Textile/Uniform Rental: David Gibson, ARAMARK Uniform Services, Sioux City, Iowa
I’m always looking for innovative ways to develop efficiencies that won’t compromise my team’s commitment to safety and providing outstanding customer service.
In order to help control costs, without having to purchase anything or create an upheaval, I typically look at the service department and production facility, and examine the current workflow. By taking the time to study these two areas, I can find some appropriate opportunities to generate savings.
Within the facility, one of the first things I do is examine the wash schedules. I want to ensure that each washer’s capacity is being fully utilized. I then take a look at the entire flow of merchandise throughout the plant. The way I look at it, I’m losing money if each department isn’t operating at full capacity. I adjust schedules so each department remains at 100% capacity whenever possible.
I also examine the work schedules. Using a cost/benefit analysis, I consider shifting our 40-hour workweek from five eight-hour days to four 10-hour days. Although the analysis is time-consuming and involves some up-front costs, it’s worth the effort. Additionally, the potential savings in the service department — with reduced route mileage, fuel and fleet expenses — and the utility savings at the plant help me justify making work schedule changes.
Within the service department, I find there are ways to minimize the impact of the rising costs of fuel and vehicle maintenance. A key opportunity revolves around the routes. If I either combine or redesign them, service efficiencies, as well as savings, result.
I also encourage my drivers to collect as many hangers as possible. Hangers can be reused, reducing the number that needs to be purchased. In addition, this reclamation also helps me reduce the number of wire hangers sent to the landfill.
Linen Supply/Commercial Laundering: Duane Farrington, RLLD, Hancock Co. Laundry, Weirton, W.Va.
Budget cuts aren’t new to this industry. When things get tight, support services are the first to be scrutinized in a healthcare setting. If you’re in the private sector, there’s always another dollar to be saved. Now, how do we do it without a major upheaval?
It depends what percentage we’re looking to cut compared to our overall budget. First, break down your expenditures into categories, then determine how much each one represents to your total budget. You can also break down labor into different categories to determine how that money is allocated.
Look at areas where you can make an immediate impact without sacrificing product quality or production-floor morale.
Look for equipment leaks, either water or air. Both can drive up utilities quickly. Scrutinize anything using hot water closely since leaks there will drive up more than one utility bill. Call in utility company representatives and ask them for money-saving ideas.
I recently found out that several thousand dollars were going out the door during cold months when the drivers backed up to the docks for deliveries. With a few changes, this problem was resolved.
Check to make sure that you aren’t overdrying items. This makes for a bad finish and wastes a ton of energy. It also greatly reduces the life of your textiles. Try cutting back on your drying time until the goods are just dry and no more. This will also allow you to do more loads per day.
Look on the wash side, too. Are you utilizing too much hot water or bleach? Can you save a little without sacrificing quality? You don’t want to increase your rewash as you look at this step.
On the operational side, could you be underutilizing a piece of equipment? Are you hand-folding items that could be folded automatically? Could you bag some items instead of folding and stacking them?
It’s sometimes acceptable to spoil staff in a good economy. But when jobs are at stake and the end user will see no difference on how that item was finished, it’s time to sit down with nursing or administration to discuss linen usage and propose changes. You might even get some unexpected help.
Look at the textiles you’re using. Are you throwing good money after bad? Can you consolidate items to help save on inventory? Do you really need five or six different sizes? Is it worth it to replace an item that isn’t paying a good return?
And here’s a biggie: Have you asked your staff how to save money and reduce the time it takes to process goods? They can be a huge resource for making your facility more efficient. It also helps if you can reward them with something as simple as a gift card or a paid lunch for a big money-saving idea.