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New Duke University Mega Laundry

In the wake of architects' dreams, laundry planners' hopes and equipment manufacturers' promises, Duke Laundry in Durham, N.C., which serves the laundry processing needs of Duke University Health System (DUHS), is leaving its post-startup phase in quest of fulfilling projections of $400,000 yearly savings and a three-to-five year return on investment.

The $14 million "mega" laundry project, replaced two on-site facilities at Duke Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital and folded in the outsourced laundry needs of Raleigh Community Hospital. It officially opened on July 16.

The laundry was built on a three-tiered cost-saving premise. The first is a reduction in labor costs by streamlining the number of full time laundry workers (currently at 52), accounting for approximately 50 percent of the projected yearly savings. Second, added savings is expected in all utilities that run the laundry equipment and supporting HVAC and boiler systems by virtue of their energy efficiency as compared to the previous older equipment in use. Third, the combined processing volume of the three medical facilities allowed negotiation for a better deal on chemical purchases, which are stored in new 2,500 and 1,500 gallon tanks.

Duke Laundry, at 60,000 sq. ft. is currently operating at 40 percent capacity, just as planned. This translates to approximately 25,000 pounds per day in an eight hour shift.

"With everything working at 85 percent efficiency, we can process 24 million pounds per year working one shift, seven days a week or 16 million pounds in five days," said Shane Woodson, Director of Hospital Linen Services. "And so right now we are at 8.9 million pounds out of the possible 16 million pounds."

The additional capacity was figured in the business plan to offer neighboring independent affiliates, such as the Veteran's Association (VA) Hospital, located across the street from Duke Laundry, an option to outsource their linen to Duke Laundry.

"This area is not well-served with the well-known national linen services, and the closest commercial laundry is two hours away in Halifax, N.C.," noted Woodson. "We estimate that we can save a good 50 to 60 percent on the VA's cost per clean pound just in transportation costs."

In designing the laundry facility, Woodson explained that the team used a backwards approach. "We wanted to be able to finish more than we could dry, to dry more than we could wash, and to wash more than we could sort."

Automated conveyor belts are used for soil sorting, a Speed Check monorail system moves loaded laundry and Norman lift tables position laundry according to worker's needs. The level of automation built in to the system has significantly reduced the need for employees to lift or push heavy loads. The annual $50,000 in workman compensation claims was unacceptable noted Woodson, adding that advanced OSHA ergonomic standards were integrated into all workstations.

The laundry process starts at two Milnor 130 pound continuous batch washers with the ability to process 3,900 pounds per hour using just 1.2 gallons of water per pound, along with with two 170-pound and two 275-pound Milnor washer/extractors. Drying power is provided by 12 Milnor two batch 260-pound dryers. Flat goods are finished using two sheet separators, four automatic feeders place in front of four two-roll 52 inch steam-heated ironers and then sent to a folder. Towel and blanket folding are also used.

Laundry and linen management services are provided under contract by ServiceMaster. Woodson looks forward to the completion of phase two of the project, which will provide visibility to all aspects of linen management via web-based browsers.

"It is an exhausting experience," concluded Woodson. "While we are savoring everything that is already done, the expectations are mounting every day to meet the complete business plan goals."

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Sodexo Laundry Services Technology Recognized By CIO Magazine

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — An innovative use of computer technology that increases operational efficiency by providing key metrics for its commercial laundry operations and has saved more than $100,000 since its implementation has earned Sodexo, Inc. IDG’s CIO magazine’s 2010 CIO 100 Award. The award recognizes organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology (IT). Sodexo’s Laundries Dashboard is a central decision-support tool that combines information from multiple systems to monitor core processes in Laundry and Linen Services businesses.

The dashboard presents Sodexo leadership and field management with key metrics in a customized, easy to use presentation. The dashboard uses Pureshare® Active-Metrics® software to gather and display appropriate information in the form of metrics for each level of management; the metrics are used to make business decisions. Because the dashboard is web-based, it can be accessed from any computer or mobile device. It also sends realtime email alerts that enable management to resolve operational issues immediately. Sodexo’s Laundries Dashboard allows for the effective management of critical areas as well as providing detailed analysis and comparisons.