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West Point Laundry: Keeping America's Bravest Looking Like Heroes

WEST POINT, NY -- Today more than ever, the men and women who protect and defend this country need to look their most impressive: they represent the undefeated spirit of America. West Point’s 50,000 square-foot facility in West Point, New York, keeps dress whites sparkling and creases as sharp as the minds that wear them, six days a week.

“In 2001, we washed 3.75 million pieces and processed a quarter million pieces of dry cleaning,” says Ed Oberle, West Point’s laundry and dry cleaning manager. And, like the military, “we have to make sure everything is cleaned and pressed to exact specifications--everything must be the highest quality.”

The enormous facility works 7:30am-4pm five days a week and has a military-mandated, strict 72-hour turnaround. “Unlike a commercial laundry, we know how to finish clothing to the military’s exacting standards,” Oberle says. “You can only get starch like that here.”

Although the plant is military-owned, it hasn’t been military-run since 1980. It is currently under a five-year contract with Penn Enterprises of Springfield, Missouri. Oberle, a government employee, makes sure Penn maintains military standards.

Yet it’s thanks to Penn that the price stays so low. For $25.50 a month, cadets, their families, military retirees and military employees living on the base can receive unlimited washing and dry cleaning. “Anyone with proper military ID can bring laundry here--military-related or civilian clothing,” Oberle says. Although the plant is self-sufficient and not government subsidized, the enormous volume processed makes it affordable. “Four thousand cadets pay for it whether they use it or not,” Oberle explains. The plant also washes for other local state and federal agencies including Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, and Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. To keep 4,000 cadets’ laundry straight, each cadet is issued mesh bags for underwear and socks, dark delicates and light delicates.

Because the plant is open 55 hours a week and employs only six sorters, one washer and six finishers, the machines are true workhorses. The battalion of washers includes seven, 450-lb. and one 125-lb. Washexs; one,100-lb. Unimac washer-extractor and two, 50-lb. Milnors. For drying, it’s armed with four, 150-lb. Multimatics and four, 400-lb. Challenge dryers. Dress whites and brass buttoned coats are finished with two 3-roll, 36” Jensen flatwork ironers; two Jensen folders; two Braun spreader feeders; eight Ajax and Hoffman shirt and coat pressers; seven sets of three Unipress pants pressers and one Colmac steam tunnel. Conveyors and a monorail system transport the laundry while chutes and tilt-loading machines make washing safer and more efficient.

The laundry also cleans tablecloths for the mess hall, sheets, pillowcases, and civilian clothing. For local military retirees or anyone not subscribing to the monthly plan, there is also a retail store that handles laundry on an individual basis, open 8am-6pm Monday-Friday and 10am-3pm on Saturdays.

Those not in the barracks can admire West Point’s top-notch work at major parades and political inaugurations. “Two hundred cadets will be marching in the Rose Bowl parade,” Oberle says proudly. “Check the creases. We’ll be working to make America’s finest look their very best.”

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Lapauw Acquired By Private Investor

BELGIUM — Lapauw and its affiliate Lapauw France have been acquired by Mr. Philippe D’heygere for an undisclosed amount. The Belgian based manufacturer of industrial laundry equipment officially announced that it has recently sold its rights to Mr. Philippe D’heygere, a successful international entrepreneur with special interests in global expansion.

“I have worked with the Lapauw family for 46 years. Following my first meeting with the new owner, I feel very confident that this agreement will provide the experience and resources needed to expand into new markets and bolster support to our existing distributors and customers,” said Andre Henrard, Export Manager for the countries outside Europe. The current management will remain active and no personnel change is expected.

In a joint statement to their distributors, the Lapauw family announced “Mr. D’heygere has international expertise and will reinforce the position of the Lapauw Group as a successful worldwide leader of premier laundry equipment.”