RICHMOND, Va. — Dedication of the new $9.6 million HandCraft Healthcare Linen Services Facility here heralds a new era of healthcare linen management innovation and another milestone for the family-owned company that began with a single drycleaning store nearly 40 years ago.
HandCraft Services President Keith M. Nichols, Vice President John J. “Jay” Nichols, and President of Sales and Marketing Jeffrey S. Nichols — sons of company founder John A. Nichols — welcomed Virginia Lt. Gov. William T. “Bill” Bolling and other guests to the new corporate headquarters and healthcare laundry facility on Richmond’s Southside.
Their brother, Father Neal A. Nichols, blessed the facility, and family matriarch Mrs. John A. Nichols received congratulations from well-wishers.
“During my term as lieutenant governor, I have worked to create jobs, grow our economy and improve healthcare delivery for all Virginians,” Bolling says. “HandCraft Services supports this mission by helping hospitals reduce costs and increase efficiency, thereby being able to allocate more resources to patient care.”
“We congratulate HandCraft Services on opening their new, state-of-the-art facility,” says Carthan F. Currin III, director of economic development for the City of Richmond. “The City is proud to see this Richmond company of over 40 years expanding their operations to meet new local and regional business opportunities in healthcare linen service.”
Under the roof of the renovated 60,000-square-foot building — once a paper manufacturer’s warehouse — is a multilevel, state-of-the-art design driven by advanced software, the company says.
The entire plant, which opened Sept. 15, was designed primarily around three criteria: employee ergonomics, energy efficiency, and high productivity/quality control.
Every workstation was evaluated and designed to be as ergonomic as possible. Employees are not required to perform heavy lifting or to stoop to perform their tasks.
The dryers were placed on a mezzanine to reduce noise and heat transfer to the production floor.
Material-handling equipment such as the soil-sort deck and overhead sling system are utilized to achieve one of the highest productivity levels in the country, the company says.
Further, a number of “green” practices were incorporated in the operation, including the recycling of 230,000 pounds of plastic linen bags and 276,000 pounds of worn-out hospital linen annually.
The plant includes energy-saving features such as new-concept boilers, wastewater heat recovery and boiler stack heat recovery.
Besides 5,000 square feet of renovated corporate offices, the building is divided between production areas: soil sort, 19,000 square feet; dryer mezzanine, 5,000 square feet; boiler room, 1,000 square feet; and the clean side/pack out area, 30,000 square feet.
Altogether, the new facility doubles HandCraft’s processing capacity to 50 million pounds annually, the company says.
Turn-Key Industrial Engineering Services, Charlottesville, Va., aided HandCraft in the plant design and later teamed with general contractor ARCO/Murray National Construction Co., Chicago, to complete the building design, equipment installation, and construction process.
The building is the 92nd building and/or site that HandCraft looked at for its new plant.
“This building has been our collective passion for the past decade,” says Keith Nichols. “It embodies the best of how innovation and technology can affect the design of a building, and how the design of a building can transform the process that takes place within its walls.”
John A. Nichols founded the privately held company with a single drycleaning store on Richmond’s north side. In 1978, he expanded into the laundry business by purchasing Richmond Steam Laundry. Five years later, Johnston Willis Hospital approached him to handle all of its laundry services.
To meet its demands of productivity and volume, Nichols purchased a 90,000-square-foot building in northwest Richmond focused solely on healthcare. Soon, Richmond’s St. Mary’s Hospital (Bon Secours) followed suit.
Today, the company provides linen services to 38 hospitals and more than 400 physician practices, surgery centers, dental practices and nursing homes throughout Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina.
While the dedication was certainly a day to celebrate, Keith Nichols noted the significant absence of his father, who died in 2006.
“We are proud to carry out our father’s legacy of hard work, exemplary service, and forward thinking,” Nichols says.