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General Linen & Uniform Service -Two Million Dollar Expansion Heralds Future Growth for Family Business

DETROIT, MI --General Linen & Uniform Service (GLUS) has been providing quality industrial laundry service to its growing Detroit, Michigan community and surrounding areas for 82 years. That’s a tall task for a plant that currently processes approximately 10 million pounds per year consisting of 65 percent healthcare and hospitality work, 20 percent uniforms, and 15 percent dust control and roller towel business. But although the overall mix makes it more difficult to operate a plant, it is a task that’s been met with success by this family-owned business which has survived the test of time.

“The key to success has been to learn the value of being resilient, hopeful and overcoming obstacles on a daily task basis,” said 79-year-old president and CEO Bill Schumer, whose father Harry began the business in 1919. His 78-year-old wife Irene, company COO, views their success as a combination of dealing with daily competition from large chains, industry legislation and other hot-button issues. “Our family-owned business prides itself in its consistency of products and services despite competition from national chains and the problem du jour" she said describing the internal and external demands on GLUS.

GLUS meets the increasing demand for quality products by harnessing the power of automation. Recently, GLUS turned its two-story, 39,000 square foot plant inside out to make room for a new 200-pound, 14-module Lavatec Continuous Batch Washer (CBW). With a total wash capacity of 5,000 pounds per hour, the CBW easily eclipses the previous 1,000 pounds per hour production of a handful of conventional washers that were replaced. And the new machine has the capacity to process approximately 20 thousand pounds of mats a week.

“The key thing is that before we had aging equipment and we were nearing capacity at around 225,000 pounds-a-week. We had added a lot of Saturday work and the tunnel eliminated that. Before our capacity was 1,000 pounds per hour and now have the capacity to process five thousand pounds per hour,” said John Shoemaker, vice president of marketing and sales and executive committee member. “We now enjoy the benefits of a complete wash system including ergonomic improvements with a hands free system. Goods do not have to be handled until they reach a work station, ironer or at the finishing tunnel equipment.”

The complete system including the adjoining dryers and the conveyor system cost a little over 2 million dollars. But it was well worth it. While the old wash system "owed us no money," normal equipment aging was affecting overall production dependability notes David East, Vice President of Production. The CBW is able to produce as much work in about one-tenth the man-hours previously required, allowing the company to pursue new accounts based not only on production capacity, but operational reliability as well.

"Our 140 employees are gradually adjusting to the new system," notes East. "The old system involved a lot of difficult labor so it's hard not to be excited even if they don't fully understand the new system. The new equipment has already improved morale because the plant is cleaner, nicer, quieter, cooler, and they've got a new air-conditioned lunch room due to the remodeling."

Linen is shuttled from the CBW to five Lavatec 200 pound gas-fired dryers and then moved further through the plant by computerized conveyors for final processing. This includes the five 8-roll SuperSylon ironer lines outfitted with a variety of folder/crossfolders, as well as a separate section with small piece and apron folders. East's excitement is evident now that the challenging installation, with all the "lumps and bruises" one would expect from such a radical process flow change, is completed. Although the company is still at the tail end of the start-up phase, East is clear about the energy savings, including 30 percent reduction in gas consumption, approaching a 40 percent savings in water consumption, with electrical use holding pretty stable. "We continue to move in a positive direction with quality, consistency and reduction in operating costs," notes East.

"In looking back at the history of the additions and expansions to the plant, it's clear that every 15 years or so, major changes have taken place," says East. "I think we're going to have to start thinking about a third floor." As expected, the never-ending quest to build up this diversified company has GLUS looking to expand their current route sales, distribution centers and yes, even their equipment line-up. This constant quest for improvements is what keeps an 83-year-old business strong and able to meet any new challenges.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Faultless Laundry Spending $12 million on New Plant

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Faultless Laundry Co. is spending almost $12 million on a facility to accommodate its growing St. Louis business which has grown from 28 million pounds to 36 million pounds due to a new contract. Faultless serves more than 30 acute hospitals and over 400 retail medical locations in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.