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Laundry Management in Hospitality Operations

The lodging industry, like most other trades, is experiencing rapid change. Today, fewer customers have brand or name loyalty than in the past. While customers are still patronizing the type of establishment they prefer or can afford, most are making choices based on the quality of service and the amenities they receive.

This has prompted hospitality companies to provide higher standards of service and products to the discriminating users of hospitality establishments. Management has accepted the fact that to stay competitive they must maximize standards but minimize costs. Typically, one of the targets for operational cuts is the laundry department.

Often, as the bottom line shrinks, directors of housekeeping are told to eliminate supervisory positions and to hire part-time workers in their laundry department to avoid paying benefits and other payroll-related expenses. This solution, although having a short-term positive effect on the overall cost of laundry operations, tends to have a negative impact on the quality of the linen provided to guests. The elimination of supervisors in the laundry room causes, in most cases, a deterioration of effective operational procedures. At the same time, hiring part-time laundry workers leads inevitably to higher turnover and to the loss of reliable, knowledgeable employees. The purpose of this article is to emphasize that improper supervision in the laundry department and the lack of well-trained workers lead, in most cases, to severe deficiencies in the quality of laundry output. Some of the signs in finished linens that point to a poor operation are:

  • Graying or yellowing linen
  • Stains
  • Color fading
  • Over-wrinkled or abraded fabrics

While it is true that lodging operations should possess state-of-the-art laundry machines and equipment and the right selection of chemicals, it is also a fact that to achieve the optimum results that today’s discriminating travelers demand, the laundry department must be adequately supervised, manned with properly trained workers and fitted with enough pars of linen to go around.

If the department is adequately supervised and staffed with a sufficient number of well-trained employees and the costs of operating the laundry are still too high, management should look into other existing factors. Specifically:

  • Washing/drying capacity. The laundry room should be equipped with enough washers and dryers to process the poundage generated by the property at 100 per cent occupancy in a reasonable amount of time (ideally in less than eight hours). This will prevent labor overtime and over usage of energy and supplies. Operators of hospitality establishments should consider adding more machines or changing the existing ones for others of greater capacity to be able to process larger amounts of soiled linens per washing/drying cycle.

  • Linen pars. By letting linen pars drop below recommended levels, shortages are bound to occur. This disrupts the work of the housekeeping department which must wait for supplies of clean linen to make up guestroom. Guests who have to wait for rooms to be cleaned become upset. At the same time the life of linens is shortened as a result of increased laundering. Directors of housekeeping must determine how many pars of linen are necessary to achieve effective operations and request adequate budget allocations to maintain pars at optimum levels. Ideally, a lodging establishment should operate with three pars of all items: one being used, one being laundered, and one on the shelves. The additional investment in linen can be easily offset with the overtime, energy, and “linen fatigue” costs that will be incurred if the linen inventory is too low.
  • Water consumption. If water charges are too high in the area where the establishment is located, a system for recycling washer water should be installed. These water recovery systems route rinse water from the washer’s dump valve into a recovery tank to be reused in the wash cycles. Over 25 per cent of water usage can usually be saved.

  • Type of linens. Choosing the right linen will result in substantial savings of equipment and labor costs. For example, most nylon and polyester/cotton blend fabrics require less washing and drying time and do not need to be ironed. One negative aspect of synthetic material, however, is its sensitiveness to high washing and drying temperatures.

  • Linen sorting. The sorting function of soiled linen should be performed adequately. It must be done by degree of soiling, by the type of fabric, and by the use assigned to the linen. Sorting by degree of soiling should be done because heavily-soiled linens require heavy-duty wash formulas while lightly-soiled items can only be washed with weaker formulas and in fewer cycles. Sorting the linen by type is necessary because different fibers and colors require different washing methods. For example, wool fabrics require mild formulas and colored linens should not be washed with chlorinated formulas because of fading. The use given to linens should also be taken into account during the sorting process. Heavily-soiled kitchen aprons and cleaning rags, for instance, should not be washed together with sheets and towels used by guests.

  • Personnel Management. Two basic ways to reduce turnover and absenteeism are:

  • Following the basic rules of hiring, training, and evaluating workers effectively and providing adequate employee compensation and motivation.

  • Creating a working environment conducive to employee satisfaction. In all cases, the success of the operation depends on attracting applicants that have the skills required to work in a laundry room environment.

  • Laundry chemicals. The director of housekeeping or laundry manager should always pre-test and approve all products used in the laundry department, making sure that the chemicals are appropriate for the different types of linen owned by the establishment: bed linen, terry cloth, napery, and uniforms. This function should be delegated to nation-wide chemical distributors of good reputation having a representative in the area. These experienced companies conduct routine chemical tests on the water and processed linens to guarantee optimum quality of the final product.

In summary, directors of housekeeping must realize that attempting to cut costs by replacing full-time workers with part-time ones, operating with obsolete or insufficient equipment, and using inappropriate chemicals leads inevitably to poor results in the quality of linens that today’s competitive lodging market demands.

Matt A. Casado is a Professor at the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management in Northern Arizona University.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Crothall Employee Critically Injured

ROME, Ga. — A steam explosion which critically injured a maintenance worker is under investigation at Crothall Laundry Services. There were no other injures. Crothall Laundry Services provides linen and laundry services to medical facilities.