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The Happiest Laundry on Earth Walt Disney World Textile Services

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL-- When we think of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Cinderella or any of the inhabitants of Disney's Magic Kingdom our minds often wander to our childhood and the unforgettable Walt Disney characters and stories we've grown to know and love. These and other characters live on at Florida's Walt Disney World, meeting and greeting thousands of visitors daily.

And those visitors who stay at one of Disney's 17 on-site resorts are pampered after a long day at the theme park by relaxing in rooms with immaculate resort linens.

Keeping the Disney resort linens fresh and crisp is the job of one of America's biggest laundries - the 200,000-square-foot housekeeping plant of Walt Disney World's Textile Services in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This facility processes goods from 23,000 hotel rooms, plus miscellaneous items from four Disney theme parks, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and MGM Studios, and two Disney water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

The operation began in 1971 as a 60,000-square-foot facility designed to handle the laundering needs of the original half-dozen or so resort hotels, as well as food and beverage linen and costumes. In 1995, a state-of-the-art facility was constructed to handle the growing number of resort hotels, and in 2002, the Housekeeping Plant expanded to its current size - capable of handling more than 80 million pounds of linen annually. This accounts for more than 180,000 towels, 70,000 washcloths, 40,000 sheets and 60,000 pillowcases sorted, cleaned, folded and assembled for return delivery every day. As future Disney resorts come on board, the facility will have the capacity to process an excess of 110 million pounds annually.

In addition to Disney's main laundry which processes hotel linens, a separate 25,000 square foot facility was built and is used to process 11 million pounds per year of food and beverage linens for the entire property. And the original 60,000 square foot facility was recently retrofitted to launder all Disney costumes and uniforms, 12 million pieces per year.

"Keeping a two-shift, seven-day-a-week operation like ours moving smoothly and efficiently comes right down to our most important asset-our people" said Ken Miratsky, operations manager. The operation is run by 228 production staff, called Cast Members and their supervisors, called Coaches. More than fifteen nationalities work side-by-side to achieve team productivity goals to the benefit of two customer groups.
"The first group is the hotels - making sure their linen needs are met. The second group is comprised of all the guests - making sure that the quality of clean linen meets their expectations during a stay at a Disney resort" says Miratsky. "That's really the `Disney Difference' that we believe separates us from other laundry facilities."

Moving the Goods
Fourteen tractor-trailer trucks make daily scheduled pickups and deliveries to the Disney resorts and parks. As each returning truck arrives at the unloading dock, carts of soiled linen are taken to a staging area for sorting. Automatic cart dumpers empty the carts onto conveyors that bring the soiled linen up to sorting platforms. From here, the sorted linen is carried in slings via Jensen's overhead Futurail system to seven, 14-chamber Lavatec continuous batch tunnel washers. The seven tunnels process about 24,500 pounds of linen per hour, with shuttles taking pressed 'cakes' to 40 Lavatec dryers, all with fully automatic computer control. Space for an eighth tunnel has already been prepared for when Disney resorts call for increased capacity.

Energy Savings
"We save energy in different ways" says Miratsky. "The counter flow system of the tunnels uses the rinse water at the end of the cycle to wet down the soiled linen at the beginning of the cycle. The tunnels require only a gallon of water for each pound of linen, compared to three or four gallons per pound for a washer-extractor. Then, we have a heat exchange system that exchanges the heat from the wastewater with the incoming city water. This increases the incoming water temperature about 40 degrees, which translates to a substantial energy savings. Also, the clean linen being shuttled from the tunnels' presses to the dryers is at about 140 degrees and that saves energy in the dryers."

The fully automated overhead rail system for slings have two separate configurations to keep soiled linen slings on the soil side of the plant and clean linen slings on the clean side. After exiting a dryer a load of linen is emptied onto a conveyor and dropped into a waiting sling. The sling rides the overhead Futurail to a staging area located over the production offices for efficient space utilization. From here, goods are called off by priority to the workstations. Sheets, for example, go to the flat work ironers and towels go to the 22 towel fold stations. The sling bottoms open on signal and drop the linen onto feed bins where it is pulled by Cast Members.

The plant has seven hot-oil flatwork ironers from Central, Braun and Lavatec, with Chicago and King Edge feeders on the front ends and Lavatec folders on the back ends. Five of the seven ironers are dedicated to sheets, one to pillowcases, and the seventh has been retrofitted as a utility machine to handle both. For ergonomics and productivity, each of the five sheet ironers has a Weir picker that picks the sheets out of the bin, breaks them apart, and hands them to the Cast Members.

Each piece of equipment is connected to a central computer that tracks the plant's productivity. The central computer system, LINT (Laundry Information New Technology) system was developed by Walt Disney World system specialists. "Our front line coaches can see the whole operation on one computer screen. A key aspect to managing a facility of this size is to know what's happening in live time to the second" says Miratsky. "The computer shows us the entire plant and what is in each tunnel, each dryer, each bag on every rail. We know what kind of poundage sorting is doing, what kind of poundage the wash deck is doing, how many sheets and towels we've produced. We can see where schedule delays are occurring and get to the problem
area right away and provide a solution."

The linen carts, after being dumped at the soil side, travel through a Pioneer automated cart washer and are sent to the clean side of the plant. Prior to staging in the shipping area, the carts are organized with clean linen in three different configurations, according to the wishes of the individual resort hotels. The first is the bulk cart, filled with all sheets, or towels, or pillowcases for example. The second is the linen room-ready cart where linen handlers at the resorts fax inventory requests to the plant for the shipping team to prepare on a per cart basis, usually a mix of bulk items specific to each linen room. The third configuration is housekeeper-ready. Each of these carts contains the linen-sheets, pillowcases, bath towels, hand towels, etc. needed to service 18 rooms. A steady flow of trucks arrive to be filled with carts then leave to deliver clean linen to resorts over some 50 square miles of Disney property. Some trucks serve multiple resorts, while others deliver to only one, such as the 5,860-room Disney All Star Resort.

Quality Control
There are several stages of quality control at the Disney laundry. Cast Members check all linen before and after ironing, and before and after towel folding. Stained items are returned for rewash. At the resorts, housekeepers send damaged items back to the plant in special blue bags. Sheets and pillowcases with holes or tears are sold to a rag vendor for recycling. Terry goods, from washcloths to bath towels to pool towels, are sent to the costume plant to be cut and sewn into cleaning rags which are then dyed yellow and used all over the property. From housekeeping to custodial to recreation, these yellow rags can be spotted cleaning guest rooms, bathrooms, grills, ovens, theme park attractions, even the Disney boats.

Cast Members are given a deep sense of responsibility at Textile Services. "We cross train everyone to give them not only the opportunity for flexibility and advancement" says Miratsky, "but also to understand the importance of everyone else's job here in the plant - to feel the meaning of teamwork. After six months or so in the training program, we take them out to the resorts so they can go into the guest rooms and see the towels and sheets they just produced, ready and waiting for the guests. It gives meaning to the
work."

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Gulf Coast Laundry Acquired by Swisher Hygine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Swisher Hygiene Inc., a provider of hygiene and sanitation products and services, announced that it acquired Gulf Coast Laundry Services of Mississippi, LLC (“Gulf Coast Laundry Services”), a Mississippibased linen services company.

Gulf Coast Laundry Services provides linen rental and laundry services throughout southern Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, primarily to hotel, casino and resort customers. Concurrent with the acquisition, the founder of Gulf Coast Laundry Services, David Gross, will join Swisher Hygiene and contribute to the continued growth of its linen services business.

Total consideration paid by Swisher Hygiene in connection with the acquisition includes approximately $4.8 million in cash and the issuance of a convertible promissory note which may be converted into a maximum of 350,000 shares of Swisher Hygiene common stock subject to certain restrictions, including acceptance by the Toronto Stock Exchange.