Keeping costs low while continuing to provide premium services for customers is a daily struggle for any operations manager. With so many areas to oversee, it’s easy to overlook one of the most important—the laundry room.
The laundry room is an essential behind the scenes operation, where there are a number of ways to save money and still provide customers with the quality linens they expect. Newer technologies, coupled with reliable, durable, industrial-strength machines can save owners thousands of dollars in the first year alone.
The initial investment in laundry equipment is the most important aspect of making sure a laundry room is cost efficient in the future. Choosing machine features such as high G-Force extraction, advanced controls and industry-leading technologies, combined with proper employee processes, allows managers to operate an efficient laundry room.
The best place to remove water from linens is the washer. As laundry technology advances, G-Force extraction speeds continue to increase. Certain manufacturers are producing washer-extractors that spin at up to 400 G-Force—removing more water from linens than lower G-Force machines.
If you ran a 60-pound, 100 G-Force machine 365 days a year, 12 loads a day and at $1.00 per Therm, it would cost approximately $4,630 in gas to dry the linen completely. Comparatively, assuming you used the same amount of linen and previously mentioned data, the cost to dry linen in a 60-pound tumbler after withstanding 400 G-Force extraction speeds is $2,746 a year in gas costs. The difference is $1,884 per year, per machine. As many on-premises laundries have multiple machines, this is a significant cost saving in just one year.
As you can see, investing in a machine that offers high G-Force extraction will pay for itself over time, and help laundries reduce water and utility costs.
Over the last few years, manufacturers have begun to truly automate machines through the development of advanced controls. These controls typically offer additional features to help make machines more efficient and can amount to thousands of dollars in energy, maintenance and labor savings.
Advanced controls have the ability to monitor machine performance and provide reports that show error messages, and maintenance information and alerts. Additionally, the reports give managers a continuous log of maintenance history, which can be used to keep track of how the machine is being used.
Alerts provide managers with important maintenance information in order to make sure machines are running at maximum efficiency. This feature helps prevent unnecessary downtime, repair costs and disruptions in service. For example, after every 200 hours of machine use, managers are alerted that the main bearings need to be greased. This prevents unnecessary wear and tear and allows managers to focus on other aspects of their job rather than manually recording.
Another feature available allows for actual time and date stamping of the last 25 loads completed. With this function, managers can see what time a cycle started and ended. If long periods of time pass between cycles, it could mean employees aren’t working efficiently. Reports like this can be used as a training mechanism, showing managers where supervision needs to be focused or where more training is needed.
Labor and quality issues can also be combated by restricting the fast forwarding of cycles. Some owners have reported employees skipping certain cycles in order to expedite the laundry process, which allows the employee to leave earlier or do less work during their shift. When this feature is turned on, managers can rest assured that the linens are being cleaned to the standards they have set in the time frame specified.
Since labor costs are such a huge expense of the laundry operation, one other feature to look for in machine controls is a head start option, which allows machines to begin a cycle before employees report for the day. Employees can load the washing machine at the end of one day and the machine will automatically start and finish so employees can immediately move the linens to the dryer at the beginning of the next shift. This allows for one extra load to be processed per day.
OVER-DRY PREVENTION TECHNOLOGY
Along with advanced controls, other technologies are becoming readily available for on-premises laundries, such as over-dry prevention. This technology tells the dryer to shut off when a load of linen has reached an optimal level of dryness. This reduces energy costs associated with over-drying and protects the integrity of linens, decreasing the need for replacement.
In a survey of commercial laundry distributors and laundry managers, 79 percent believe on-premises laundries over-dry by more than eight minutes per cycle. If these eight minutes were eliminated, annual savings could be as much as $883 in utilities and nearly $5,000 in labor. Also, the linens experience 31 percent less fiber loss when over-drying is eliminated.
An easy way that managers can make sure they’re running an efficient laundry operation is by properly training employees on how to load machines. A common issue among on-premises laundries is that employees don’t load machines to their full capacities. Underloading machines wastes water and chemicals. Additionally, underloading requires employees to clean more loads of laundry, causing unnecessary wear to the machine and increases in labor expenses.
The most important decision an operations manager will make is the type of machine that is purchased for use. It’s vital to invest properly upfront for high quality equipment since it will pay for itself in the long run. Make sure to invest in a machine that is built for on-premises use and not a refitted coin machine. True OPL machines are engineered to work harder for longer periods of time. Additionally, always look for machines that provide you with lowest cost of ownership, which can be found with OPL machines that have features such high G-Force extraction speeds, advanced controls and over-dry prevention technology. To understand the exact savings available, contact your local on-premises laundry distributor. They will be able to provide you with detailed information to help increase efficiency in your laundry room.
To retain top talent it is critical to ensure they are motivated.
In difficult times, this is often not high on the priority list of managers. Most people are working long hours and doing the job of two people, stress levels are soaring, fear of layoffs abound, salaries are frozen and pay cuts have been implemented. For many companies this is their current culture.
So how do you motivate your top talent to achieve the company’s goals? How do you keep them from contacting recruiters? How do you keep them passionate about coming to work? And how do you keep them engaged day after day?
The answer to all of these questions is ‘culture.’ Even in difficult times top talent, by definition, will always rise to the occasion and strive to be the best. If they don’t, they aren’t top talent. However, even top talent can burn out, get frustrated, not see the light at the end of the tunnel or wonder if they are really contributing. It is a manager’s role to ensure these things don’t happen. There seems to be a consistent theme as to what great managers do in difficult times to hold on to and even attract top talent.
The following are six areas managers must focus on to ensure they keep their top talent motivated:
- Companies must have a performance based culture. Even in difficult times there must be clearly defined company goals. These goals must cascade down to your top talent. They must have quantifiable objectives that motivate them, so when reached, they feel a sense of accomplishment. Providing specific time-based goals with achievable results clarifies exactly what is expected of your people. Your best talent will embrace the goals and not stop until they reach the goal. Employee engagement is critical to retaining your best people.
- Dysfunctional culture. This is probably the biggest reason top talent begins to think outside the company. Do you know your company’s culture? Can you define it? Will your executive staff define it the same way? Will the in-the-trench worker bees define it the same way? You can’t claim to have a culture of teamwork if the manager’s idea of teamwork is, “As long as we do things my way, without any questions, you can be on my team.” Once the culture is well defined, do behaviors match the culture? Do managers from the CEO on down demonstrate this culture day-to-day in how they deal with the employees, customers and vendors?
- Respect and appreciation. This is probably the least expensive and least used method to motivate and retain top talent. Small things can make a big difference with top talent. Respecting their contributions, listening to them, including them in the decision making process, asking for their thoughts and ideas all make them feel respected and appreciated. Consider building a culture that respects your top talent so they feel appreciated. Top talent does not want to be taken for granted.
- Consistent feedback. This includes regular and structured 1-on-1 feedback sessions. Not hallway conversations, but sit down meetings focusing on the individual. Give feedback, encourage and listen to what your employee needs are. Even if you can’t meet those needs, taking an interest in their career and building a shared bond makes them feel their manager cares about them as a person, not just an employee.
- Praise. You may have experienced a manager with the philosophy, “That is what they get paid for. Why should I thank them? They should thank me for having a job.” Compare that to a manager with this philosophy, “Thanks, I know it is just part of your job, but I appreciate the pride you take in your work. It helps everyone in the department.”
Which would you rather hear? A little praise goes a long way to motivate people. In difficult times when people are doing more than expected, demonstrating appreciation will be returned when the economy turns and their job options flourish.
- Education and Growth. Top talent insists on improving. They know that once their learning curve flattens, future opportunities can be limited. Top talent does not like to have their growth potential limited. Giving your best people the opportunity to take some additional classes, lead a project outside their normal job, challenge them with new opportunities, give them a chance to serve on a cross functional team or take an on-line class will ensure they are becoming better. All these pointers will not only ensure your top talent is growing, but also makes them more valuable employees.
Consider these six areas as a way to motivate your top talent. Your best people will appreciate this more than most managers realize. The increase in productivity by having motivated employees is the best ROI any company can receive.
About the Author: rad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through corporate workshops and speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Remillard is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.” He can be reached at www.bradremillard.com.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry decided they needed the capacity to process more goods, they were faced with a challenge – build a new facility or enlarge the existing laundry. But that wasn’t the only important decision the hospital laundry made. They were also the first large healthcare laundry facility in North America to go ‘steamless’.
“Our original facility was built in 1975 to accommodate the laundry needs of 13 members with 15 million pounds capacity,” says Duane Houvener, the laundry’s Executive Director. “Because we continued to add members and pounds externally, and our membership continued to grow internally as well, we had to do something to maintain our operations and service level with our customers.”
Houvener knew that they needed to increase the capacity of the laundry but he wasn’t sure if they should expand and retrofit the existing facility or build a new facility from scratch. Facing a variety of important decisions, he requested a peer review from three colleagues from the International Association for Healthcare Textile Management (IAHTM).
The members of IAHTM, a healthcare laundry organization, provide service to approximately 3,000 healthcare facilities in U.S. and Canada and process 700 million pounds of clean linen yearly. The review conducted for Houvener included an analysis of the current state of the laundry, its equipment and the financial aspects of building a new laundry vs. updating the existing laundry.
IAHTM members Charles Olin from Virginia, Ed McCauley from Indianapolis and Rocco Romeo from Ottawa, Ontario, worked with Houvener. “Between us all, we have decades of laundry experience and millions of pounds of laundry,” said Houvener. “So it helped expedite our process.” Their findings, which validated the need for a new laundry, were
presented to the Board of Directors. When all was said and done, the existing laundry was set to expand from 55 thousand-square-feet to 88- thousand-square-feet.
“As we started examining all the possibilities, the issue of having the laundry go steamless became part of that decision making process,” said Houvener. “When we looked at the potential cost savings and utility savings going steamless was an attractive alternative for us.”
Houvener credits the steamless design to a brainstorming session with Gerard O’Neill, President/CEO of American Laundry Systems (ALS). ALS provides laundry construction and project management services. “Gerard and I were going over different layouts of retrofitting our potential plant and the more we looked into a steamless design, the more attractive it became.”
Ultimately it was the utility savings that made Houvener want to create a steamless laundry. “Knowing that utilities costs are going to continue to rise in the future, everything we could do to reduce our consumption and carbon footprint put the idea in a favorable light.”
But what did going steamless mean to Houvener’s laundry? “We are not using boilers to heat water for the wash system and not using boilers to heat up and drive the ironers. We installed self contained thermal fluid ironers so each iron is powered and driven independently of each other. And now in the wash process we’re using closed loop indirect contact water heaters,” he said.
“From the ironer side it was quite simple for installation,” Houvener continued. “From the wash side it meant a new infrastructure and system. We needed new water heaters and a new delivery method to get the hot water to the washer where you need it. In a boiler setup you inject steam into the washers, but in our steamless laundry, we inject hot water into the washers, same goal – different delivery method.”
The WMSHL maintained their laundry operations through the expansion process. “We didn’t miss one production day as a result of the expansion and retrofit,” says Houvener. “After all, we couldn’t tell the hospitals that we couldn’t deliver sheets so we changed four tires while driving at highway speed.”
The new laundry has 120 fulltime team members that work on one 10-hour shift Monday through Saturday, 4:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. The facility processes all types of goods
including bed linens, patient linens, surgical linen and housekeeping linens for their member facilities. In the last fiscal year they processed just over 30 million pounds for 36 healthcare facilities. They have the capacity to grow to process 60 million pounds.
Houvener adds that the cost to go steamless was estimated to be less than it would have been to retrofit and purchase new boilers.
Since the rededication of the facility they have had the opportunity to see just how much they have been saving – financially and in energy consumption.
“We’ve reduced our overall energy consumption upwards of 35-40 percent and we’ve reduced our water consumption as well just under 40 percent yearly while cutting 2.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide from going into our environment,” said Houvener. “And when you consider the increase in the amount of goods we now process – it’s more of a savings.”
“I’m not saying that going steamless is the only way for every laundry, but for us it was the obvious choice,” says Houvener. “We’re very happy with the decision we made and the fact that we’re saving money and energy while decreasing our carbon footprint.”
Medical centers, casinos, hotels, and laundries are discovering the value of ultra-high frequency, radio frequency identification (UHF-RFID) systems to improve their operations. This technology is a game changer for laundries that transport tons of goods.
LaundryTODAY discusses what going steamless means for today’s laundry with Gerard O’Neill, President & CEO of American Laundry Systems.
Q : What has brought the concept of a steamless laundry to your attention?
A : We at American Laundry Systems have been going to Europe for a number of years now and looking at the advances they are making with their laundry processes. Europe has the reputation of producing cutting edge, state-of-the-art laundry technology - more advanced then the typical American laundry. For the most part, Europe is advanced on the production, finishing and washroom side with state-of-the-art systems. But at the back of the house, with boilers, water systems, water reuse and reclamation - we have the advantage.
However, the one thing that they did do is design the steamless concept. Their energy costs are much higher than ours and their operational costs are much higher than ours. So it was their way of jumping ahead. Where we recycle and reclaim in the US, they typically don’t. But they jumped that era of advancement and went to steamless.
Q: What exactly does it mean to go steamless?
A : The concept of steamless works like this—to eliminate using steam to heat water or to heat the equipment that is being used on the finishing side. What American Laundry Systems did is that we educated ourselves on the steamless process, and then realized that we can use that technology here in the United States but we can also use our technology of reusing water and heat reclamation combined with the steamless concept. Now, we’ve leapfrogged Europe on the steamless technology.
Q: What are the advantages of going steamless?
A : When a laundry goes steamless and plugs in the utility savings while considering the ROI, there is an advantage. But when you take the steamless technology from Europe and combine it with our technology of reusing and recycling water – there is a greater advantage for a facility when considering utility costs.
West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry was the first large scale healthcare steamless laundry in North American. Now, they are 100 percent steamless. However there are other facilities that have dabbled or experimented with going steamless but they are not near the 100 percent. Some facilities may have purchased thermal ironers but they still use steam to make hot water or use hot water in the tunnel washers.
Steamless is a catch phrase and at present out of the six new plants that we will be building in the next 18 months – 50 percent – or three of them, possibly a fourth, will be steamless. That is turning the industry on its head. I think that the steamless technology is here to stay and the wave of the future. I believe that if you’re building a new plant or retrofitting an old plant with new state-of-the-art equipment – steamless is definitely for you.
Q: Should everyone consider going steamless?
A : Absolutely not. It’s not for everyone. Industrial laundries would be a clear exception. They need steam because they do a lot of pressing and hand pressing, dry cleaning pressing, etc. It’s not for them.
Now, steamless works really well for general linen, healthcare, hospitality, retail, and medical plants. They don’t do a lot of pressing – if any. But you can still use the steamless concept with a customer who has minimum requirements for presses because you can always buy a small steam generator and use it for that department alone. Those types of laundries can be 95 percent steamless.
Q : Are there other exceptions?
A : Yes. Not everybody can afford or can get a budget together for financing all new equipment either when they are rebuilding a new plant or retrofitting a plant. Sometimes your budget will not allow you to buy all new thermal ironers and you may need to keep your steam ironers which do a good job. But if you are going to hold on to your ironers, then steamless doesn’t make a great case. If you have to have a boiler anyway to make steam for your ironers, then you might as well use it to make hot water for your washroom.
But for those who just need a little steam, they can purchase a small steam generator – a box the size of a large air conditioning unit. You’d buy that to do your presses and everything else in the plant would then be steamless. That pays for itself for sure. But if a laundry is going to keep 2, 3, 4, or more ironers, then you’ve got to buy a boiler to provide steam to those pieces of equipment.
My philosophy is that if you have to buy a large boiler, 200 or 300 horsepower – you might as well use it to heat the water for your washroom. And there are very efficient boilers out there – boiler technology has advanced in the last few years. They may not be as efficient and green as steamless, but they are very good.
Ultimately though, the steamless concept drastically reduces your carbon footprint. Not only is that good for the environment, it is also very attractive when you’re with new green eco-friendly clients.
Quick Rinse - News From Around The World
G&K Fined By U.S. Attorney’s Office
MINNETONKA, Minn. — G&K Services, Inc., was recently fined $450,000 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, G&K discharged too much oil and grease into wastewater at one of their facilities. G&K is headquartered in Minnesota and the facility that was fined is located in Iowa.