SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — HSHS Shared Laundry Services has been up and running for more than six months and by early 2011 will be responsible for supplying the laundry services for 10 hospitals in Central and Southern Illinois.
The new facility on the northeast side of Illinois’ capital occupies a former tanning supply warehouse. Its location just off I-55 offers easy highway access to any of the hospital customers within its roughly 120-mile service area.
As the on-premise laundries serving the Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) various Illinois hospitals deteriorated with age over the past decade, the prospect of a centralized laundry became a more frequent topic of conversation, says Mark Davis, the laundry’s director. But it wasn’t until a feasibility study illustrated the benefits of such a setup that the decision to consolidate was finally made.
HEADED FOR 10 MILLION POUNDS
At the time of our visit, the 28,000-square-foot laundry was processing approximately 4.8 million pounds annually for St. John’s Hospital in Springfield (owner of the shared-services facility), St. Mary’s Hospital in Decatur, and St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield—part of HSHS—plus Dr. John Warner Hospital in Clinton and Pana Community Hospital. It was at roughly 50% capacity, and some of the washing and flatwork-finishing equipment was idle because the workload didn’t justify its use.
The laundry will add St. Mary’s Hospital in Streator in July, followed by St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland and, finally, St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham by the first of the year, Davis says. All are HSHS institutions.
The added poundage will push the laundry’s workload to approximately 10 million pounds annually, but there may still be some capacity remaining to consider taking on additional accounts, he adds.
Carl Rees, who oversaw the HSHS laundry project for suburban St. Louis-based distributor Loomis Bros. Equipment Co., quipped that he hopes the plant doesn’t take on too much more work, since 10 million pounds is what it was designed to process.
Davis and Rees have been friends for 20 years and had many conversations about the health system’s laundry needs. Both say they are pleased to have seen the project they envisioned finally come to life.
CENTRAL LAUNDRY DEEMED MOST COST-EFFECTIVE CHOICE
“All the hospitals (once) had their own laundry,” Davis says of the HSHS institutions. “But the hospitals didn’t put the capital into them over the years, so all the facilities were needing upgrades.”
For example, one hospital still uses an ironer that was installed new in 1961 and later rebuilt, he explains.
“Corporate decided to do a study and see if they wanted to put (laundry) funding into the hospitals or if it would be feasible to build a central laundry, put all the capital money into this, and truck it out.”
In 2007, a consultant was hired to examine different scenarios, including possibly upgrading the St. John’s Hospital OPL to handle the workload generated by multiple facilities.
“They decided that building a central laundry would be more cost-effective, more feasible, than upgrading or trying to upgrade a facility already there to do it all,” Davis says.
The decision to proceed with the central laundry was made in early 2008 and announced to the system’s hospitals late that year.
There was some debate about whether to build the laundry in Springfield or in Decatur some 40 miles to the east, but when the warehouse building became available, its proximity to the health system’s corporate office and its highway access made Springfield the ideal choice.
The laundry operates a single, 8-hour shift Monday through Friday (deliveries occur Monday through Saturday). There are 37 employees, with 28 working in production, two in maintenance, three drivers, and a secretary. Don Beahringer is operations manager, and Jim Bishop is chief engineer.
Because there is more office space available than the laundry needs, some of the health system’s corporate staff members are headquartered there, too.
PROJECT FOCUS: GREEN OPERATIONS AND EQUIPMENT REDUNDANCY
Based on a consultant’s plan, HSHS solicited bids from vendors and selected Loomis Bros. to head up the project, Davis says.
“We basically handled all the project management” after the health system selected a construction firm, says Rees, who is Loomis Bros.’ vice president of sales. “We put together all the layout drawings, the installation drawings, and engineered the entire laundry.”
The project evolved through several different layouts, according to Rees, until the final design allowed for a minimization of worker movement.
Construction began in January 2009, and the plant came online in November. The total project cost was approximately $9 million.
The plant is anchored by two eight-module Milnor CBW® batch washers. “They (HSHS) had wanted as green a facility as they could get,” Rees says. “And the poundage dictated that we went with tunnel washers because they reuse the water.
“We also kept in mind that we wanted backup in case we had any equipment failures or anything. There’s a lot depending on what’s going on here, so we decided that instead of a large tunnel washer, we would go with a couple of 8-mod units. We’ve got built-in backup there. The equipment has been backed up everywhere.”
There is also a water-reuse system and a TEA wastewater heat-recovery system in place elsewhere in the plant.
“We got it as green as we could, except for the real expensive (water) purification system that they decided not to go with at this point,” Rees says. “It’s set up so if they want to add that in the future, we can go there, too. That’s almost total reuse and cleaning of the water.”
Equipment selection throughout the plant was also based on the laundry’s estimated poundage and the types of items it would be processing, Rees adds. The plant required heftier water/sewer service than was supported by the former warehouse site, and the electrical service was improved, too.
The plant uses laundry chemicals and injection systems made by Gurtler Industries and supplied by H.H. Coleman. Two 200-hp Lattner boilers generate heat for the plant, while Kaeser compressors supply the needed compressed air. Lint-collection and cart-wash systems are by Energenics.
STANDARDIZATION DESIRED, BUT SPECIALS STILL A MUST
An E-Tech automated rail system—completely floor-supported, Rees points out during our tour—is used to load the two eight-module, 150-pound Milnor tunnels. Each tunnel has its own single-stage extraction press, and there are four 275- to 300-pound dryers on each system.
Three stand-alone Milnor washer-extractors (60, 170 and 275 pounds) and another 300-pound dryer are available for rewash and small loads of specialty items.
“We’re trying to standardize all the hospitals as much as we can,” Davis says, “but there are restraints and all kinds of paraphernalia that the hospitals have that they want washed.”
The laundry purchases basic linen items from Phoenix Textile. “Everybody uses the same sheets, the same pillowcases, the same blankets.”
It doesn’t process mops and rags, so each hospital keeps small wash equipment on-site to process those goods, Davis says.
CHICAGO DRYER EQUIPMENT DOMINATES FINISHING AREA
The Milnor dryers automatically dump goods to a conveyor that carries the just-dried linen to a finishing area dominated by Chicago Dryer Co. equipment.
The inventory list reads like a Chicago® showroom: two Pik-Quik linen separators with cart shufflers; an Edge Maxx spreader-feeder; a King Edge spreader-feeder; two 2-roll, 52-inch Century ironers; one 2-roll, 42-inch Century ironer; two Air Chicago small-piece folders; two Air Chicago XL small-piece folders; a Skyline Mini folder; and a Blanket Blaster blanket folder.
The folders and stackers are equipped with Bridge linen-transition conveyors. The small but integral machines extend their mini-conveyors to discharge the folded items onto a master take-away conveyor, which then carries the clean linen to waiting pack-out workers. Sensors ensure the stacks are spaced on the belt.
“You’ve got various pieces of equipment on one belt, so you’ve got stacks of linen going by,” Rees says. “If you’ve got a situation with a stack coming up, instead of discharging and bumping into that one, it stops the conveyor on the folder and lets that stack go by.”
The entire system is tied into ChiLinc (Chicago® Laundry Information Network Connection). The data-collection system connects the laundry’s management team to the flatwork finishing systems, providing current and historical production data, operator efficiency rates, and individual machine utilization factors.
Rees and the Loomis team worked closely with the manufacturer to analyze the laundry’s flatwork needs and determine which equipment would fit best to reach its production and quality goals.
“It was sized to keep it flowing and keep everybody busy,” Rees says. “That’s where you get your production and keep your pounds per operator hour up where they need to be.”
“Whenever possible, we like the customer to come to Chicago,” says Carol Tyler, Chicago Dryer’s marketing director, who also toured the facility. “They can meet everybody who’s involved, ask questions of the engineers, and see how everything is made.”
PACK-OUT AND DELIVERY
Clean linen is stacked and stored by the cartload and moved to an interior staging area outside the laundry. Dozens of loaded carts covered in clear plastic fill this large room, where faxed or e-mailed orders are filled and drivers wheel the carts into their delivery trucks.
The hospital additions will require the clean-linen staging area to be relocated at some point in favor of adding more production space, Davis says.
The laundry uses three delivery trucks. Springfield and Decatur deliveries are made daily, while other facilities receive deliveries two or three times a week.
PLEASED WITH OUTCOME
“This is the largest job I’ve sold,” Rees says. “We’ve done a lot of good-sized jobs, but generally it’s (replacing) all the flatwork equipment or all the washers. But to get the complete plant, with everything, that was huge. It was great for Loomis Bros.
“I’ve got a great relationship with Mark, and have for a long time. That’s a lot about what this is—you build relationships with people. Mark is a friend more than he is a customer. It feels really good that he’s happy with it and it has all worked the way he wanted it to.”
Davis would like to form a committee of hospital representatives so the laundry’s customers can provide feedback about the service, linen selection, etc. Right now, they all have good things to say.
“Everybody is quite pleased with how things are looking, how things are going,” he says. “There really are no issues right now. Things are really going very well.”