If a laundry manager is asked to participate in the design of a new laundry or redesign of an existing facility, what factors must he or she consider to balance workflow, equipment and space? What pitfalls are to be avoided?
EQUIPMENT DISTRIBUTION: Curtis McDowell is the general manager and head of OPL sales for Super Laundry dba Laundry City Equipment, a distributor of commercial and industrial laundry equipment. He has more than 17 years of industry experience, including service and sales.
Their primary concerns should be having the proper quantity and capacity of equipment to handle their product and setting up the proper flow to ensure that it moves through production without interruption. Equipment choices will be determined by their projected production and the amount of space available.
No matter the size of the laundry facility, proper flow starts with the receiving and sorting of the soiled product. An adequate amount of space should be allocated to ensure proper holding and should be situated to prevent any cross-contamination.
The goods should then move unobstructed to the wash area. Freshly washed goods should then be dispatched to either the drying or finishing areas and then on to folding and storage. The same considerations should be applied to clean storage as to soiled sorting and holding.
Balancing the objectives of designing or redesigning a laundry can provide many obstacles. Ultimately, you’ll want the right mix of equipment and manpower.
Smaller laundries, such as those in motels and nursing homes, will need to incorporate high-efficiency equipment, but won’t have the luxury of automation to reduce labor costs. In these cases, setting up the proper flow and selecting equipment with the fastest throughput is crucial to their operation.
It’s in the larger laundries’ best interests to incorporate as much automation as possible to keep labor costs down. Overhead sling loading, transfer by conveyors and high-speed feeding and folding can all greatly reduce the number of full-time employees (FTEs) required to handle production.
The hiring and training of end users to correctly operate the machinery will be an ongoing task. Attempts to shortcut production are inevitable. Management should be aware that a “cycle advance” button could quickly undermine the quality of the finished product.
Thankfully, many equipment manufacturers provide management capabilities within their computer controls. These can enable the laundry manager to identify problems with their production pace as well as monitor the required preventive-maintenance schedule. They can also assist in repairs by providing error records and self-diagnostics.
Having the proper flow and the best equipment can mean little if the machinery isn’t regularly inspected and maintained. Having a knowledgeable maintenance staff and/or distributor service representative available is essential to maintaining optimum production capabilities.
By paying close attention to these factors, the end result should be a laundry that will be cost efficient to operate while providing high-quality goods.
HOTEL/MOTEL LAUNDERING: Neil MacDonald has managed the laundry at the Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club in Lihue, Hawaii, since the property opened in 1995. His other experience includes managing laundries at the Ihilani Resort & Spa on Oahu, the Westin Century Plaza Hotel and the Westin Kauai Resort.
If you’re lucky enough to be asked to participate in such a project, you must rely on your experiences and acquired knowledge of laundry operations. Work positively with the powers that be and have a copy of Laundry Operations Guidelines (available from the Association for Linen Management [ALM]) readily available.
I was recently asked to think about expanding our existing laundry (at capacity) to handle another million pounds of textiles. For that, I need a new building. One of my first questions was “What are the recommended guidelines for floor space to pounds processed?” I went straight to the manual and found that the rule of thumb is 1.0-1.2 square feet per pound of textiles processed. Now we’re getting somewhere!
It’s an excellent reference book for building or planning a laundry operation or just maintaining a laundry operation. Not having this reference on your desk may be your first pitfall!
CORRECTIONAL LAUNDERING: Nancy Greene has been laundry manager for the Kenosha County, Wis., Detention Center and Sheriff’s Department for eight years. Other experience includes laundry/environmental services work with ServiceMaster, as well as in private hospitals and nursing homes.
Correctional laundry designs are usually “bare bones,” and planning for the future is not a high priority. The laundry is usually confined to a small area, with no forethought about clean vs. dirty, ergonomics, storage, future equipment needs, revenue generation or workflow. Selecting the correct firm for the design work is the first step. Many equipment suppliers will happily send you information on designing and planning a laundry.
Taxpayers are looking at the cost of incarcerating convicted criminals. The laundry could help offset expenses by becoming a revenue-generating department if it’s designed correctly.
If the laundry doesn’t comply with Health and Human Services codes, any hospital and nursing home business comes to a screeching halt. Many county facilities also have county nursing homes, which can become a selling point for an OPL in a correctional facility.
You must start with equipment needs, present and future. The installation of additional washer/dryer hook-ups and space to install the equipment helps to ensure that you have the capability to expand. If you select the wrong equipment, you’re then handicapped when it comes to maintaining production. Matching washers and dryers based on workflow will ensure the best bang for your buck.
Staffing levels depend on the type of inmate worker program your facility has established. Some facilities pay an hourly/daily rate, and some take time off an inmate’s sentence. Select these workers with care. You can have the best state-of-the-art equipment but the worst production and vandalism based on the workers you choose.
Without proper selection, prepare to replace your equipment before its life expectancy is up.
Since the correctional laundry requires safety and security setups, you’ll find that the facility is usually wide open, so it can easily be monitored by surveillance camera. This can pose problems with cross-contamination when one, big room is used instead of the proper separation of clean and soiled areas. Many items you would normally see in a laundry may be excluded for safety and security reasons.
Gaining access to the outside of the building for deliveries can also be time-consuming in a correctional laundry, so your design must also take into account these factors.
TEXTILE/UNIFORM RENTAL: Roger Bourdeau is chief engineer for the Angelica Textile Services plant in Pawtucket, R.I. He's worked 22 years there, starting as a production associate in 1983. He's completed many training programs and has a Rhode Island Stationary Operating Engineer license.
First, thank your superiors for valuing your opinion enough to include you in the design process. Often, it falls to those within your organization who control the dollars, not those who actually have to make it work every day. There should be a balance here to create the best facility you can, given your needs and your budget.
A few considerations to address:
• What kind of volume do you realistically expect to handle? Would a tunnel washer make more sense than conventional equipment? The total pounds to be processed, types of soils encountered and/or water/sewer costs can all influence this aspect of the decision-making process.
• How is your work space configured? Is it long and narrow or fairly box-like? A horseshoe-shaped workflow can make it harder to keep a good soil/clean separation than a straight-through laundry. Your property and/or building may limit what you can do but all can work given the proper forethought.
• How about your utilities? Is gas or oil the better energy choice? Maybe you should be using steam dryers instead of gas-fired ones. Maybe you’d be better served by thermal oil ironers. These choices may be driven simply by what’s available in your area, e.g. there’s no gas main running by your site.
• New or used equipment? Certainly there can be a major cost difference on this point. With new stuff you get a warranty (and the peace of mind that can bring); lightly used and/or rebuilt equipment can frequently provide good service at a reduced price; heavily used equipment may disappoint. You get what you pay for!
Naturally, there are many other factors involved as well. Involve a reputable contractor with laundry construction experience to catch as many of these things as you can before you commit to a design. You’ll save yourself many headaches down the road.
Visit some other laundry facilities similar in size to what you anticipate becoming and ask questions of the operations manager, maintenance chief and perhaps the key production associates. They should all be able to offer insights to help guide your choices.