By Hugh Gilmore, PhD, Senior Consultant, Water Energy/Laundry Consulting
Bob Beddingfield, Owner, Water Energy/Laundry Consulting
Whether you’re building a new laundry from scratch or updating / re-building an existing facility, the project can be rife with challenges. Although you may not be able to avoid all ensuing ‘learning opportunities’ there are certain things to consider prior to beginning work that can make the experience a little more ‘friendly’.
Commercial laundry is a repetitive motion business. The same motion is repeated tens of thousands to millions of times every year in a laundry. If you design the layout/workflow incorrectly and introduce an inefficiency that costs a few seconds each time you encounter it, that could add up to many hours of wasted time and labor – which translates to thousands of wasted dollars over the life of your laundry. That is why building a laundry correctly is critical.
Even if you are using experienced professionals to handle the job for you – it’s a good idea to know some important dos and don’ts of building a laundry for yourself.
If you’re building from scratch up, there are a number of things to consider for your new laundry. Money makes the wash-wheel turn. Obviously, nothing gets done without financing. To get proper financing you will need to have many of your ducks in line and very possibly a business plan. So the work begins…..
Ten Basic Points to Consider
1: Where are you building your laundry?
Are you building in close proximity to the customers you serve or hope to serve? For new laundries, driving distance to your customer base is something to think about since it can impact your bottom line. Think rent. Think neighbors. Think accessibility. Think time from pick-up to drop-off. Think traffic. Think drivers, vehicles and vehicle insurance. Think fuel, tires and wear and tear on your fleet. It all adds up and will take away from your bottom line.
2: Know your business.
Whether you are building a new laundry or expanding an existing facility – know the classification of the goods you will be processing – what kind of linen and what type of soil loading. This will help you decide what equipment you will need for your operation.
For example, if you are working with clinics you will be processing surgical gowns and different types of medical healthcare goods, i.e. sheets, pillowcases. Typically in addition to wash/dry/finishing equipment, you will need specific equipment for proper processing of those items which could in include barrier washers, or even a light system to inspect surgical gowns after processing. Those items are not necessary if your laundry caters to restaurants or hotels.
If you will be catering to healthcare customers, you might want to consider a professional certification from an organization like the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC). An HLAC certification will validate your hygienic procedures and reassure your customers that your operations have been inspected and certified to be in compliance with accepted industry hygienic standards. It adds peace of mind for your customers and gives you an advantage over your competitors. Being aware of the requirements of the HLAC certification when you are planning your laundry can save you a lot of time and thousands of dollars on down the road. It’s always better to prevent a problem than it is to go back and correct a problem!
3: Know your soil poundage and piece count.
Everyone wants their businesses to grow, but when building a laundry it is important to plan for your present soil poundage and piece count – then make sure you can handle future growth.
Most new facilities will begin with the minimum amount of capacity that’s necessary for the current workload. It is always advisable to build-in some flexibility to meet the needs of future growth. So before you start purchasing or adding equipment – consider the optimal laundry layout to make your facility profitable and to allow you to add more equipment in the future to accommodate desired growth.
Most laundries can efficiently process from 50 to 1000 pounds per hour with properly sized, traditional, front-loading machines. When processing over 1000 pounds per hour, a tunnel washer should be considered because it will wash the goods faster with far less labor and natural resources. The water savings alone are huge.
Keep in mind that poundage determines how many washers / extractors you will need – but piece count determines how many flat ironers, folders and steam tunnels you will need. Depending on the size of the operation, you may also begin to consider automation for your facility.
4: Estimate for future growth.
When considering building a new facility, it would be prudent to have 20 percent available space for future growth. If you are purchasing an existing facility, you should also consider purchasing a laundry with enough space available to increase the size of your building.
If you cannot add square feet to a facility – you can always meet higher production demands with additional equipment or the addition of another shift. The addition of one or two more shifts would be the route to take until you know you have the volume to justify a tunnel washer.
Another way to increase production would be to add ozone technology to your washroom. An ozone regimen will shorten your wash cycles and accelerate your workflow thereby increasing production without actually adding more equipment and more labor. Typically, with the proper use of ozone, you can shorten your wash cycles by 30% to 50% therefore accelerating your workflow by a similar factor and increasing your capacity by a similar factor.
5: Plant layout and process path.
The layout and process path in your laundry will have a huge impact on the efficiency of the operation. This may vary dependent on the type of goods you process.
For example, hospitality work is usually 60 percent flatwork (sheets, tablecloths, pillowcases) and 40 percent dry fold (towels and washcloths and bath and hand towels). If you’re processing 30,000 pounds daily, you may run 9000 sheets and do 10-15,000 pillowcases in addition to 12,000 pounds dry fold. Dry fold is not processed through a press – just washed, rinsed and extracted (up to 35% moisture removed) prior to being fed to a dryer then folded.
Healthcare incorporates various types of goods, rehab – patient gowns, bedsheets, pillowcases etc.; surgical and neurology – towels and uniforms with different process paths for the various item types. In addition to normal washing and finishing – washcloths are manually handled and surgical gowns / scrubs can be processed through a steam tunnel.
Your laundry should be set up to achieve the optimum processing times for each classification of goods. The equipment needed for each type of activity should be measured and integrated into the processing path with precision to eliminate unnecessary labor to move the pieces through the process. You must consider the number of pieces and total poundage to be processed to ensure you employ equipment that is properly sized to efficiently achieve your production goals. It isn’t rocket science but it isn’t child’s play either. The cost of an experienced individual’s advice is peanuts compared to what permanent mistakes built into your laundry will cost you!
For Part 2 of Building a Laundry go here.
About the Authors:
Hugh Gilmore, PhD is a Senior Laundry Consultant at Laundry Consulting and Water Enery Tech, Inc. He is also a former Director VA Laundry System with over fifty years in the industrial laundry industry.
Bob Beddingfield, is the owner of Laundry Consulting & Water Energy Tech, Inc.
Laundry Consulting offers a comprehensive set of consulting, engineering, construction, optimization and training services to the laundry industry including laundry planning and design; equipment sales; installation, startup and optimization, training and more.
Laundry Consulting is a division of Water Energy, a manufacturer and distributor of advanced water treatment systems including ozone laundry systems and water recycling systems.