DENVER — The Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel has resurrected its on-premise laundry, part of a massive $70 million property-wide renovation designed to enhance the guest experience, with newly designed guestrooms, lobby, meeting space, public space and other offerings.
Hampered by laundry equipment that had failed or was in disrepair, the hotel was outsourcing virtually its entire linen service when it turned to consulting firm Pertl & Alexander for an operational analysis in late 2009.
“Their washer-extractors were experiencing stress fractures in the interior cylinders, as well as the ironing system wasn’t working properly,” says Matt Alexander, president of the New York-based firm.
With the hotel facing significant costs if it made “emergency” equipment purchases, the consultants recommended repairing some machinery “to get the laundry back in operation so they could gain some breathing space and take a much more detailed look at it,” adds Doug Vieldhouse, chief operating officer.
The consultants also suggested that the hotel could end outsourcing plus enjoy cost savings by investing in some new equipment.
“All possibilities were explored, from outsourcing to a local third party to the purchasing of new equipment,” says Marc Blackford, the hotel’s director of rooms. “Best feasible option for the Sheraton Denver ... was the purchasing of new equipment.”
Acting on the consultants’ recommendations, the hotel commissioned Ellis Corp. (through its Ludell Mfg. division) to repair the washer-extractors and JB Industries to repair the flatwork-finishing equipment, according to Alexander.
Then, it began a multi-phase plan that included buying six new Continental Girbau 170-pound dryers (it was decided to replace the dryers because parts were no longer available) and a new Ellis 360 Sequential Washing System (served by a new chemical-dispensing system from Ecolab), installed late last year.
Project cost was approximately $1.5 million, according to Blackford. A third phase, the purchase of an additional flatwork ironer, is under consideration.
The hotel’s linen requirement when its 1,231 rooms are 100% occupied is approximately 14,000 pounds a day. The new systems are capable of processing that amount in eight hours on a single shift, according to Vieldhouse.
TOWER AND PLAZA
The Sheraton Denver Downtown is located on the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long, pedestrian-friendly promenade that runs through the center of downtown and is lined by cafes, shops, restaurants and retail stores.
The hotel comprises two separate buildings—The Tower and the Plaza—on either side of the Mall. It’s a popular lodging choice for meeting-goers making use of the hotel’s 133,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, or attending a convention at the Colorado Convention Center just a few blocks away.
With the property renovation came the addition of all-new, all-white 300-thread-count Sweet Sleeper™ bedding in each guest-room, another reason for hotel management to ensure that the Sheraton Denver’s laundry service was equally five-star.
TUNNEL GOES ROUND AND ROUND
The laundry is located in the Tower basement. The tunnel installation presented some rigging challenges, Alexander says, because access to the laundry required moving machinery through the parking garage and through an exterior wall.
Soiled linen is gathered one level above from the laundry chutes of both buildings, sorted, and placed on the soiled-linen staging conveyor, where it is weighed automatically and identified for loading.
When the Ellis 360 is ready to receive the next load of linen, it automatically transfers the textiles through the chute to the floor below and directly into the washer.
The washer uses a continuous, 360-degree rotation to process the textiles in all chambers, and includes a self-contained water-recovery system. Ellis Corp. says the equipment allows for higher production in less space, a high-quality product, and lower water, chemical and gas usage.
Vieldhouse says the conventional wash aisle in place earlier used approximately 3 gallons of water per pound, whereas the tunnel washer uses just 0.5 gallons per pound.
Because each batch is in its own bath, and no part of the machine uses a counterflow process, a laundry can place different products, one behind the other, without dye or soil carryover, Ellis Corp. adds.
Pertl & Alexander also assisted with re-designing the laundry’s workflow for greater efficiency, such as rotating one of the laundry chutes and placing a sorting table nearby, according to Vieldhouse.
“They have the throughput capacity that they didn’t have before, and, secondly, they are smart operators in that they carry sufficient linen inventory,” he says. “It just makes everything flow so much better. They have a minimum of four par circulating at any given time.”
By deciding to pay to repair its washer-extractors, flatwork ironer and some other equipment rather than replacing them outright, the hotel was able to recoup those costs in 3-4 months by not having to outsource its laundry service, Alexander says.
“We were able to reopen the laundry, pay for itself, put all of the equipment (back) in functional condition, then pick and choose our investment and where the greatest return on investment was, and that was in the tunnel,” Alexander says.
“The equipment has allowed us to become more productive and get the best bang for the buck,” says Blackford.