If you recently started shopping for new laundry carts or if you haven’t been in the market for a while then you may be surprised by the range of choices and by the latest advances now offered for linen transportation. There are so many styles and options that it can be hard to know where to begin.
Selecting the right cart for your operation can allow you to deliver more linens per trip, boost route efficiency, save on fuel and support worker safety while effectively raising margins without announcing a dreaded price increase. Selecting the wrong cart can cause a variety of daily headaches from diverting staff to cart repairs and damaging the linens to delivering excessive, empty space in every truck and triggering a rash of complaints from your workers. “These don’t roll right!”, “We can’t fit everything in one cart anymore!,” “The RFID reader doesn’t work with these carts!”
Before you sign a new account and need hundreds of new carts ‘yesterday,’ the considerations below will help you be sure you’re buying the right carts for you and your customer.
Different Carts for Different Facilities
I’ve enjoyed seeing how many laundry operators work together to come up with and share what works and what doesn’t with each other to improve everyone’s business. But just like you have to be careful comparing metrics for a plant in Florida serving the Orlando resort hotels to a plant in California serving healthcare facilities, you have to be careful thinking one type of laundry cart works for every laundry plant and/or for every customer.
Every operation is different. In a perfect world, the cart needs to be designed to fit each, individual system, as opposed to using only one type of cart regardless of the situation. For a textile services company where attentive service can be a competitive advantage, it hardly makes sense to use a cart that works well internally but requires the customer to change its system. The right cart can accommodate these differences and customer preferences without disrupting your plant operations and logistics systems.
Bulk Carts or Shelf Carts
One of the first steps in configuring your cart is to determine whether to use the a standard bulk bin style cart or to use a shelf cart that organizes the clean, folded linens in neat stacks. The bulk bin style cart sets a rotationally molded, plastic bin on a durable poly-steel base on casters for smooth rolling from the plant to the customer and back. It has a wide opening at the front for easy access when loading and unloading. It’s typically used to transport large amounts of a single type of linen such as hotel towels or sheets and to return bagfuls of soiled laundry. A lid and lockable door can be added to protect and secure the linens. Its versatility has made it the easy, default choice for decades.
Shelf carts offer a different approach. Commonly produced years ago in metal, these laundry carts today set a rotationally molded, plastic cart body on a durable, poly-steel base on casters and the interior includes two or more shelves. Since we’re configuring your cart based on the system, know that nine out of 10 hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities choose shelf carts. Clean, sterilized sheets, gowns, scrubs, curtains and the like arrive organized as desired by the customer.
Yes, cart makeup may take longer but the customer is happier and medical care can be provided more efficiently. The shelf cart stays on-site and linens are drawn from it until it’s empty. Then, the cart may be returned empty, or, if it’s a round-tripperTM style, then the cart may be converted into a bulk bin by moving the shelves from their flat, horizontal position to a vertical position. It can then be loaded up with soiled laundry for a more efficient return trip to the plant. The shelves may be wire metal, or smooth, rotomolded plastic.
If you wrap your linens in plastic then use the smooth, plastic shelves since they won’t snag the shrinkwrapping and break the seal. A roof and lockable doors are available for these too.
There was a time when heavy, steel laundry carts and other metal carts were the standard for linen transportation. But despite being strong, they had a number of drawbacks. For example, metal rusts; rivets can snag linens, weaken and fall out, leading to shelf collapse; the fabricating process typically uses hard corners that can get sharp, and the corners and gaps in metal can harbor bacteria. It can block RFID signals and in a sanitary, sterile environment, there may be cause for concern. Laundry pros first welcomed the use of rotationally molded plastic for carts because a skilled manufacturer can mold the polyethylene material in a form that delivers strength that’s comparable to metal yet virtually eliminates the drawbacks.
For example, instead of riveting and welding numerous metal parts together, the entire cart body can be rotationally molded in one, smooth piece with rounded sides and corners. This is structurally more sound, lasts longer and offers major savings in maintenance. Plus, plastic is waterproof and won’t rust, doesn’t promote bacterial growth, it’s RFID-friendly, and can handle automated cart washing year after year.
It wasn’t until diesel fuel prices threatened to top $5.00/gallon a few years ago that many laundry managers started paying extra attention to the cost of hauling empty space on every trip and to how their laundry carts contributed to their fuel costs. But since we have time to consider a variety of factors before selecting a laundry cart, we have the luxury of considering how choosing a cart based on your truck fleet can yield big savings.
Let’s say you can fit 46 shelf carts, three across in each 53-foot trailer load. Due to the size and shape of the carts, each load also transports a 53-foot long by 14-inch wide column of wasted space.
Now, let’s replace these shelf carts with a new cart designed with a different profile. Just 24 inches wide, it’s slim to fit four across and a bit taller to accommodate the same volume and make use of some of the height inside the trailer.
Your hypothetical laundry can now fit 52 carts in each 53-foot trailer load. For a typical, fully loaded cart, that translates to an extra 1,500 pounds delivered per trip. Or, applied to a 26-foot box truck, 26 of the slimmer laundry carts would fit four across where only 20 of the older carts would fit. That translates to a 30 percent increase in pounds per trip. This increase in efficiency would likely allow for routes to be cut or consolidated for immediate savings in fuel consumption. Or, it would also allow for new business to be developed without requiring a new route or a truck to be added.
With today’s carts available in such a large variety of sizes and shapes, it’s easier than ever to match the dimensions of your carts to the dimensions of your trucks. And, conversely, before investing in a new truck for your fleet, consider how the size and shape of your laundry carts would fit inside.
End of Part 1. In Part Two of Selecting the Right Laundry Cart we’ll take a look at more considerations that need to be addressed when choosing laundry carts to fit your operation. We’ll look at payload capacity, cart bases, ergonomic considerations, appearance and we’ll review how to choose a cart manufacturer.
Go here to read Part 2 of Selecting the Right Laundry Cart
Photo Caption: Starr Textiles: At Starr Textiles, Foley, Ala., a worker makes neat stacks of clean linens in laundry shelf carts.. The 102P carts from MODRoto use a non-removable shelf system that allows the shelves to switched from the horizontal to the vertical position in seconds.
MODRoto (www.MODRoto.com), a member of the Tingue family of companies, manufactures laundry carts, trucks and baskets in four plants nationally using 25 rotational molding machines, including the Leonardo automated rotational molding system. The company can be reached at 800.829.4535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.