By Dan Rodriguez , National Sales Manager, MODRoto
Carts can be constructed in plastic, fiberglass, metal or a combination of all three. However, in this article we’ll be exploring important considerations when purchasing polyethylene laundry carts that even experienced laundry professionals and purchasing managers may overlook.
Types of Polyethylene
Polyethylene plastic is offered in different types to suit different products and applications. They are waterproof, clean with common cleaning agents and allow RFID signals to pass easily through their walls. But not all plastics are created equal. Here are the most commonly specified for plastic laundry carts:
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) offers bendable flexibility with resistance to cold temperatures and direct impacts for most light-duty linen handling needs.
- Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LLDPE) offers even more bendable flexibility than LDPE plus higher puncture resistance but it also tends to stretch out under stress and high temperatures.
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) delivers high strength and rigidity with superior resistance to cracks and corrosion or sidewall bowing-even when loaded to its full capacity. Yet it’s the strength to weight ratio where HDPE excels. It allows the same amount of linens per cart to be delivered at a lighter overall weight per route truck – saving fuel and making work a little easier and more ergonomic for staffers. HDPE is also an environmentally friendly choice due to its easily recycled plastic materials.
In many cases, a cart manufacturer or distributor may just call a cart polyethylene. Not because they’re hiding something from a customer – more likely because many customers do not know the difference in materials or their properties. So be sure to ask.
Also consider that if the HDPE isn’t 100% virgin material or if it includes off-grade or wide-spec material then the strength and rigidity of the finished cart may be compromised. These quality issues need to be addressed before signing a purchase order.
Assessing Molding Quality
Go ahead! Put three or four laundry carts in a similar size and shape side by side. Without seeing a logo or nameplate, many people would have a difficult time telling them apart. It can be even more daunting to gauge molding quality.
So what do you look for? Anyone who has worked in the laundry industry knows to check whether a cart’s sidewalls bow out when fully loaded. But far fewer people understand the importance of a consistent wall thickness throughout the entire cart body. That’s not as easily viewed.
If the molder fails to use enough plastic material, blends in second quality material or uses worn out tooling then the plastic material will be distributed unevenly, causing some areas to be thinner than others. These thinner areas create weak spots that invite cart failure.
Carts that fail from a wall breaking or collapsing can cause dangerous situations. These weak spots are hard to see, but depending on the color of the cart, weak spots in the wall thickness may be revealed as patches of translucent or slightly lighter coloration.
Other places to assess quality would be to look at how covers, doors, locks and accessories open, close and fit the cart. Do they fit neatly within the laundry cart body instead of lying over the outer edges? Does the front cover open without hitting the ground? If the lid and door are intended to protect linens from theft and inclement weather than a sturdy, lid and door that shuts tightly offers far more protection than a weak assembly that leaves openings when closed. This allows the cart to be placed outside for route drivers to service. The more valuable the linens, the more important this quality check of the carts becomes. And remember to check that the cart comes with a warranty against defects.
When using shelf carts, what should you look for in a shelf? Look for a shelf that cleans fast and easily – whether fixed or removable. If you use an automated cart washer, or deliver clean linens wrapped in plastic, ensure that the shelves are compatible.
Most carts with removable shelves enable the cart to be switched from clean linen delivery to bulk bin return mode by moving the shelves from a horizontal to a vertical position. This is a handy design, but keep in mind that switching the removable shelves can take a few minutes and once shelves are removed, they can disappear. Matching shelves to their carts can also be a challenge when you have a large fleet of varying sizes and brands. An alternative option is a non-removable design that allows shelves to be quickly switched from the clean linen delivery position to the bulk bin position without the risk of losing or having to match missing shelves.
Given that there’s much more to a polyethylene laundry cart than size, shape and construction material, talk to colleagues and salespeople for their help and advice. See if your salesperson has a local representative who can tour your facility to get an understanding of its workflow and who can measure the route truck dimensions and the locations of the wheel wells. That knowledge will aid them in providing you guidance on the cart model and style that would best meet the needs of the operation.
Finally, to make sure you’re selecting the right cart, test it in the plant as part of the process – or test a number of different carts at the same time – the surest way to feel confident when choosing laundry carts.
About the Author
Dan Rodriguez is national sales manager for MODRoto (www.MODRoto.com), a member of the Tingue family of companies. Fielding a nationwide team of knowledgeable, local sales representatives, MODRoto manufactures laundry carts, trucks and baskets in four, large plants and is ranked as the 16th largest rotational molder in North America by Plastics News. Dan can be reached at 800.829.4535 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can visit the company at Clean ’17 in Booth 3535.