In Part one of Selecting the Right Laundry Cart, we reviewed why you need different carts for different facilities, we compared bulk and shelf carts, reviewed material considerations and calculated pounds-per-trip. Today we’ll take a look at payload capacity, cart bases, ergonomic considerations, appearance, and we’ll review how to choose a cart manufacturer. Read part one here.
Laundry operators naturally want to stuff as much in each cart as possible and cart manufacturers have responded with quality improvements that accommodate upwards of 1,000 lbs. per cart. The more technologically advanced rotomolders use 3-D solid modeling during the design stage to pinpoint critical load bearing points and engineer the carts with hidden, internal ribs for structural strength exactly where it’s needed. Older carts, when workers overstuff them, for example, can bow outwards causing the shelves to collapse inside the cart and eventually deform the cart’s outer shape. But the more advanced designs offer stronger, rounded corners and reinforcing bars around the perimeter to maintain the shape even when stuffed to the brim.
All About The Base
Holding up to 1,000 pounds of laundry also demands a sturdy cart base with equally sturdy casters. In fact, many cart failures can be traced to a base that had weakened over time or to casters that were underspecified and not up to the task.
Just like it’s hard to see the internal rib design inside a modern laundry cart, it’s also hard to see inside a cart base to evaluate one from the next. On most carts, the plastic body is bolted at the bottom to a cart base. This cart base has often been made from plywood or metal and sometimes from plastic. The problem with plywood is it absorbs moisture and rots. Then it cannot hold up the weight required, and nobody enjoys the splinters, either.
The problem with metal is it can rust, and when bumped, it curls up into sharp points that become a hazard to workers and to facilities. Plastic bases were intended to solve these issues since they are waterproof, smooth and resists bumps and scratches. But they haven’t matched the strength and rigidity of the other base materials.
The latest bases, however, encase smooth plastic around strong steel. This integrated base is waterproof to thrive in cart washers, smooth for safety and rigid so it doesn’t bow down in the center.
As for casters, many of your workers consider them the most important feature. Either they help the cart roll easier or they make it more difficult. To make sure they roll smoothly even when fully loaded, consider the flooring surface in your plant and at the customer’s location.
Will the cart travel well over concrete onto a metal tailgate onto wood onto pavement then onto tile or carpeting – without leavings marks and streaks? Hard rubber caster wheels roll well over a variety of different surfaces. In some cases where the wheels may come in contact with oils or chemicals, polyurethane may roll smoother and last longer. Since we know that casters must bear the entire weight of both the cart and laundry (and more, if catching from a chute!), it’s better to overspecify than to try to save a few dollars by underspecifying. And be careful about the use of imported casters, some of which have been found to use inferior parts.
A Rising Platform Lifts All Workers
While we’re designing the ideal cart for your system, let’s say we asked the workers what they care about most in their laundry carts. From our conversations and experience, I suspect they would consider the ability to hold up the large payloads without fail to be a given. After all, why would management put everyone at risk by buying carts that could topple 1,000 lbs. of laundry? We’ve found workers appreciate demonstrating concern for their safety. Using a sturdy base on high quality casters helps prevent such failures and the potential for injury. Reducing the chances of repetitive motion injuries through ergonomics also demonstrates concern while directly improving the process and affecting the number of workers compensation claims.
One of the easiest ways to address ergonomics is with spring-loaded platforms that sink as linens are loaded and rises as they’re unloaded to maintain a consistent work position with less bending and reaching. Some bulk cart styles are also available with extra wide front cutouts for easy access. If your system would use shelf carts, the latest carts use a non-removable shelf system that allow the shelves to be converted from the horizontal, clean linen delivery position to the vertical, soiled, bulk bin return position in a few seconds with just a quick flip. This eliminates the need to lift and remove the long shelves from the cart.
More and more laundry operators have realized that their laundry carts come into contact with their customers more often than any employee. These carts not only deliver linens but they also deliver the company’s brand and present its image.
For a company that exists for the purpose of providing cleanliness, it’s vital that these laundry carts look clean. Dirty, battered, old carts cause people to question the cleanliness of the linens inside. Whether it’s the customer at the loading dock, the hotel guest or the hospital nurse pulling linens from the cart, the condition and appearance of the cart affects their confidence in the linens. Consider how you and your customers will feel as your new carts are pulled through a lobby or hallway or on an elevator in full view of guests, patients and others.
Though falling off tailgates, bumping into walls and rolling over curbs with 1,000 lb. payloads can take quite a toll, there are several ways to get impressive style and visual appeal when buying carts:
• Start with a sturdy cart that can handle the constant punishment. Carts that can take it look fresh and new for a long time.
• Look for a modern cart design. Today’s carts offer futuristic style with smooth, rounded exteriors, smooth, rounded bases and looks as attractive to those in the know as to a luxury resort guest.
• Consider the material and color. In rotationally molded carts, the color is molded throughout the cart body, it’s not painted on or applied. The color remains visible even after impacts, scrapes and scratches.
• Choose a color that matches your company colors or your customers’ company colors. Then add the matching logo as a molded-in graphic or decal. Together, this makes the carts work as rolling billboards, as proud, visual statements worthy of the lobby instead of being relegated to the service corridors.
• Hide the laundry behind a roof and doors. Not only does this eliminate the laundry from view but it can also seal odors inside and adds a layer of security. Pay attention to how well they open, close and fit within the cart body. If they’re rotationally molded properly, the roof and doors fit flush and enhance the appearance.
• If an extra measure of security or protection from contamination is needed, then consider a cart cover. These waterproof, weatherproof, vinyl covers virtually encase the entire cart and come in virtually any color custom fitted to each cart. Logos and other graphics can be sewn or applied onto each cover to create the rolling billboard effect.
Who’s Behind The Cart?
When people buy cars, they often claim their decisions are based on the engine, the gas mileage or the sleek looks. But more often, the first step is to choose a company they trust to manufacture a high quality product, stand by it with a guarantee and respond quickly when service is needed.
It’s just as important to consider a trusted company when buying laundry carts. How long has the company been operating? Do they manufacture with modern, high-tech machines? How fast can they deliver a big order – or a very small order? Will they send a field sales representative to your plant and allow a test drive before ordering? And how about a guarantee? Be sure to work with a knowledgeable salesperson who can offer guidance and recommendations in developing your cart specifications. And if your ideal cart doesn’t yet exist, work with a company that offers custom design and development services to shape your ideas into reality.
About the Author
Dan Rodriguez is national sales manager for Meese (www.Meese-inc.com), a member of the Tingue family of companies. Fielding a nationwide team of knowledgeable, local sales representatives, Meese manufactures laundry carts, trucks and baskets in five 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.
Meese (www.Meese-inc.com, a member of the Tingue family of companies, manufactures laundry carts, trucks and baskets in five plants nationally using 25 rotational molding machines, including the Leonardo automated rotational molding system. The company can be reached at 800.829.4535 or email@example.com