By Cliff Quick, Director of Inside Sales and Project Management, G.A. Braun Inc.
Whether your laundry project involves a new building design, renovation, expansion or even simply purchasing a “new” machine, the plant layout will most likely need to be reviewed.
This is not only to accommodate the material/process work flow but also to validate existing utility and site infrastructure concerns for the project. In a perfect world, the equipment layout would begin with a “blank canvas” and the concepts would be created by an architectural / engineering firm to design a laundry that best suits the needs of the customer. The optimization of the building space and utilization of the “cube” would be taken into consideration to support the initial production processing volume as well as any strategic “vision” for business growth. Unfortunately, this ideal situation rarely occurs with laundry projects.
More often than not projects fall into the categories of expansion or renovation/retooling. These types of projects are the most complex given the need to maintain levels of production during project implementation activity. In some cases, a compromise must be made between supporting existing processing requirements and the project implementation. We understand these unique challenges and partner with our clients to execute equipment installation projects in the safest and most cost-efficient manner possible.
During site assessments of existing facilities, whether it be healthcare, linen, or industrial plants, many operations are in older buildings with limited space to expand. Future expansion & strategic growth were likely not taken into consideration when the initial facility layout was completed. Floor space is a precious commodity in a laundry. Yet, we discover batch tunnel washer systems set into building corners with no room to expand production capacity or replace aging equipment. Building additions have been incorporated over time to accommodate new equipment to process additional capacity. Plants that have been expanded in this manner tend to resemble complex “jigsaw puzzles”. Often these expansion efforts were not well positioned to support the needs of the operation strategically. Sometimes in the haste to address immediate shortcomings, decisions are made that negatively impact the operation over time. This is why we believe in a thorough analysis and taking a comprehensive design approach, so that we take all future business objectives into consideration before we implement a solution. We place significant emphasis on designing processing solutions that will afford the operator the ability to grow the business without extensive capital expenditures for the “concrete & steel” necessary to construct additional operating space. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration future growth by allocating operating “space” for future equipment. Typically Braun will show future machines in the layout design as this approach provides a clear understanding where future equipment is to be installed and integrated.
The majority of the time expended during the laundry design process is determining the current and future production requirements, the most efficient manner in which to process the goods, and the optimal fit of the equipment.
When designing a new facility, a number of criteria should be taken into consideration. It is vital to understand the process flow so equipment is placed in a configuration that optimizes material handling while allowing ample space for projected future expansion.
Ceiling heights need to be designed with adequate AFF clearance to accommodate monorail systems. Utility systems (electrical/mechanical) need to be provided for all necessary equipment and incorporate future growth needs in the design process. Chemicals, linen storage, loading docks, office space, maintenance areas, employee locker rooms and rest rooms should also be taken into consideration with ample space provided. Parking and exterior access to the building for deliveries and material off-loading are often overlooked. This includes the modeling of various route trucks and large bulk transport vehicles. Customers often approach Braun looking for a solution to address their inability to meet production goals. Often they simply want to add equipment to address this need. This may not always be the appropriate approach. Work flow may not be the first thing on a launderer’s mind, but it may be the answer to address their inabilities to meet goals. Analyzing the flow of goods in and out of a laundry plant, reviewing the production metrics and determining the equipment needed, along with some material handling may be the best solution operationally, and this will undoubtedly be the best solution financially.
Increasing the automation level of an existing laundry facility certainly improves plant throughput. Braun has seen an increase in customer interests to include more material handling with conveyors and monorail systems to reduce the amount of carts; FTEs & non-value-adding handling. Braun has been partnering with third-party rail providers for more than 25 years for automated loading of Batch Tunnel Washers and Conventional Washers. Recently, Braun took this partnership to a new level with the design of chute loaded tunnel system dryers. The dryer has a static, face-mounted chute which allows a rail system to automatically load the dryers with limited mechanical action and maintenance needed. This patent-pending breakthrough allows for increased efficiency on the back end of automated tunnel systems. It affords end users and designers significant layout design flexibility and eliminates hazardous motion concerns associated with a shuttle system. This solution now allows the operator to establish a storage queue in advance of the dryers. This eliminates dryer hold times due to inefficient scheduling of the soil sortation, and the operational and maintenance liabilities associated with cross conveyors.
As an additional benefit, the chute loaded dryer is the industry’s first true side-by-side dryer. This saves valuable floor space and allows for identical configuration on each machine rather than a left and right hand configuration as is seen on currently manufactured and marketed side-by-side dryers.
These types of project submittals are key given the analytical details that are combined with the presentation materials so that the business owner can make important strategic decisions. It is also important to note that in most cases, many improvements are not completedly “captured” in the ROI calculations. These include: increased wash and finishing goods quality; better employee ergonomics; reduction in chemistry and potential reductions in linen replacement costs.
Braun has the ability to partner with multiple 3rd party contractors ranging from general contracting companies to rail providers and process pipers to provide complete turn-key laundry projects. Many of the projects Braun completes are laundry re-tools which require minimal machine downtime and extremely tight schedules. Through the use of tracking tools and the selection of qualified 3rd party partners, Braun has a proven track record of successfully executing these types of projects. The breadth of Braun’s experience ranges from single-point solution installations to on-premise facility projects, new construction of complete laundry plants and multiple system (BTW and Open Pocket) automated plants. Braun completes more than 150 projects annually. Upon selection as the equipment provider, your Braun Project Manager would work very closely with the laundry team in determining and completing the final scope of work for the project. Once the scope of work has been finalized, your Braun Project Manager is responsible for the equipment layout drawings, foundation/trench detail drawings, equipment utility schedules and any further submittal documentation required. Additionally, the Braun Project Manager would interface directly with the retained architects, electrical and mechanical contractors, installation/rigging contractors and utility systems engineers throughout the lifecycle of the project.
Ultimately our goal is to complete value adding projects on-time and on budget, in line with the goals and expectations of our client partners.