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Tips on Planning a New Facility or Equipment Purchase 

By Ken Tyler, Sr. Laundry Industry Consultant

If you’re thinking about upgrading your facility, there are many things that you should consider prior to taking the leap.  Of course, you want any upgrade or purchase to add to its value.  One wrong move though, and that value-added could turn into a drain on your budget.

So, what should you consider before you start writing checks and tearing down walls?

1:  Define your objectives.

Why are you considering new equipment?  Does the amount of goods you process justify the cost now – or are you banking on growth that will justify the cost later?

Are you looking to add square footage?  Does the amount of goods you process now justify that cost?  What is the amount of poundage you will need to process to justify that cost?

Are you looking to reconfigure your laundry?  Will the end result make your facility ergonomically friendly?  Will reconfiguring the laundry make it more efficient?  Cost less to operate?  Do you know how long it will take to break even financially?

Okay, so you’re moving forward with your plans.  Now that you have your objectives and financial plans laid out – gather information that will help you reach your goal.

2:  First steps.

Consider how you would like your facility to run and what you would like to change.

What is your energy usage now, what would you like it to be?

Do the same with degrees of automation and interior design objectives.

3:  Share.

In a public forum, share your ideas with potential offerors, contractors etc.  Listen to what they bring to the table. Always be open-minded and think objectively.

Additionally, talk openly to all end users, senior management, nursing, environmental services, and transportation team members.  Again, be open-minded and think objectively.  Consider their suggestions.

4:  Establish a checklist.

Use your checklist to compile information and develop specifications in line with your objectives.

Now it’s time to look at the nuts and bolts of laundry construction.

5:  Things to consider.

If you are building a laundry in a new location – is it accessible to staff, customers and visitors?

Is public transportation available?  How accessible are nearby highways?  How far are you from customers?

Are there enough parking areas for staff, customers and visitors?

Where are the loading docks going to be situated?  Be sure that the location works well with your new laundry layout.

6:  Evaluate – and evaluate again.

For a new facility, always evaluate ceiling heights, mechanical support areas, lighting requirements-natural lighting considerations and HVAC needs.

What are the water and sewer conditions and requirements?

Speak with – and listen to – engineering, union and equipment representatives.

7:  Location, location, location.

Make sure you are aware of, and construct for, the location’s weather zone.  If tornado, hurricane, or earthquake potentials exist, ensure installation and construction codes are followed.

8:  Equipment considerations.

Purchasing new equipment? Review past performance on equipment and equipment manufacturers.

Visit facilities where similar systems have been installed and are fully operational.

Ask about manufacturer support.

Ensure that you have warranty provisions laid out in detail.  Suggest 1-year parts and labor.

Develop a quality assurance plan outlining how the system will be paid for and how it will be inspected, accepted, etc.

Make sure you are clear on trade act provisions – made in the USA or other stipulations.

Avoid downtime. Provide employee training during the installation construction process.

9:  No one has all the answers.

Get ideas from every source available – but do your own homework because at the end of the day the responsibility lays on your shoulders.

Good luck!


About the Author:

Ken Tyler, industry veteran, retired as VP Government Operations at Encompass LLC. He currently consults for Standard Textiles. Tyler managed the entire textile and laundry operations for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for 23 years. Prior to that, he was the director of textile and uniform operations for the Department of the Navy, US Marine Corps where he was responsible for all fleet and base laundry operations. He retired from the VA in 2000, ending 35 years of government service. Tyler planned and managed the design and construction of 57 VA laundries and he established quality standards for laundry system and textile inspections.