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Meritex LLC, A Subsidiary Of Hilton Hotels Corp. – Inner Workings Of A Mega Laundry

LPISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Established in Piscataway, New Jersey, in the summer of 1998, the 100,000 square foot Meritex laundry, a subsidiary of Hilton Hotels, employs high tech capabilities to service eight Hilton hotel properties in New York City, Westchester County and New Jersey and two Park Place Entertainment casino resorts in Atlantic City. Meritex currently supplies linen to an average of 2.4 million occupied rooms a year, making it easily one of America’s biggest laundries. By all accounts, it also seems to be one of the finest examples of the marriage of new technologies, state of the art equipment and progressive management techniques.

Attention to detail sets the tone for cost-effectiveness at the facility. A wall of unloading bays are where carts of soiled linen are offloaded from a fleet of tractor-trailers. Ryder Logistics handles all the transportation, with four tractors and nine leased trailers in the fleet. “It’s working out very well, “ says Mark Lindbloom, chief operating officer. “We don’t have to deal with any of the issues involving the transport of our linen to the hotels, which can be quite intricate.”

Ryder handles the procurement and maintenance of the tractors and trailers, the required licensing and permits, and all of the logistical details and challenges of transporting the linen. The drivers are all employed by Ryder, including the Logistics Manager who is on-site at the Meritex facility. The Logistics Manager is considered part of the management team at Meritex and is an active participant at our staff meetings and operations meetings. “It’s an ideal situation,” says Lindbloom. “We interface beautifully. Another benefit of working with Ryder is that if one of their trucks breaks down in the middle of the night, we don’t have to worry about the delivery. Ryder shows up right away with another rig to ensure delivery.

From the unloading bays, the soiled linen is taken to a Dunnewolt soil sort area and sorted by type of article. Because Meritex operates as a central linen pool, the labor intensity required to sort by hotel is eliminated. Sheets, pillowcases, towels, washcloths, bath mats, restaurant tablecloths, napkins, etc., are sorted separately and loaded into slings that are transported to an overhead Dunnewolt computerized rail system. There are ten rail lines on the soil side, with a capacity of approximately 68,000 pounds of soiled linen, and the computer sends the slings to the proper rail line based upon linen classification. "The usual classification calls for eight lines of room linen and two rail lines for food and beverage linen,” says Lindbloom. “We wash room linen and food and beverage linen separately, long runs of each according to demand, and the computer system knows exactly what’s in each sling, on which rail, at all times.”

As linen is called from the soiled storage rails, a sling is directed to one of three Lavatec 16-module continuous batch tunnel washers. The tunnels are configured with twelve 250 pound Lavatec dryers and the entire wash/dry system is computerized. Further, this computer is integrated with the Dunnewolt computer to result in a completely “hands-off” operation. “The computer even tells the conveyor receiving the cakes of clean linen coming out of the tunnels’ membrane presses which dryer to go to according to which type of article it is,” says Lindbloom, “and from there the separated clean linen is dropped into clean slings and stored on another closed-loop overhead rail system with storage capacity of approximately 40,000 pounds on the clean side.”

One 450 lb. Lavatec washer extractor and one 400 lb. Lavatec dryer are used for reclaim and small items along with two 125 lb. Unimac washers and two 100 lb. Lavatec dryers. Being added to their finishing department is a new Jensen JenRoll EX10 3-roll 40 in. diameter flatwork ironer with a Jensen Variant 2000, 137 in. width, spreader-feeder and a Jensen Classic folder.

Computer monitors are ergonomically located in key positions around the plant for the benefit of supervisors and managers, as well as in Graham P. Ward’s office, Meritex’s general manager. “From my office,” he says, “I have control of the entire system. I can enter a program that changes the parameters and monitor what’s being washed, dried, or hanging. From this same system, we generate all of our reports, from poundage separated, to poundage washed, to poundage ready on the clean side ready for ironing. This state of the art equipment has made a high volume laundry operation such as ours manageable on a very cost-effective level.”

Meritex not only sorts food and beverage linen by article, they also sort by the color of the article. The standard colors for the hotels they provide service for are white, sand, sea foam green and dusty rose. Slings are filled with all dusty rose table napkins, or sea foam green, for example, and are identified as such throughout the production program. After ironing and folding through the equipment, all food linen is wrapped in plastic and brought to a staging area for packing into carts.

The facility has 1,500 Orbitron linen delivery carts in circulation and each has an identification number imbedded in its side. As the carts are filled with clean linen, they are taken to scales that are regularly calibrated by the Bureau of Weights and Measures. As each cart is weighed, a ticket is generated that travels with the cart to the hotel. The ticket includes a bar code for easy scanning and lists the cart number, type of linen, weight of the linen, and hotel name. At the same time, a waybill is generated and also the paperwork for the weekly invoicing. Meritex’s computerized system allows them to account for each pound of the 85,000 to 100,000 pounds of clean linen they ship each day, depending on hotel occupancies, reaching more than 30 million pounds a year.

This system also lets them track where each cart has gone, which is important since the cost of replacing linen delivery carts can be an expensive proposition. “Since we know which hotel each cart has gone to we can track down missing carts,” says Lindbloom. “The hotel then assists us in locating linen delivery carts that may have inadvertently been sent to another facility filled with drapes or other dry-clean items which we do not process here.”

When it comes to energy management, it seems as though Meritex has explored and instituted the best of all worlds for a laundry their size. One of the first things they did was retrofit their boilers to run on either gas or oil and put a 10,000 gallon oil storage tank on their property. This allows them to volunteer for “interruptible” gas service. During the winter, when residential gas customers in New Jersey create a demand greater than supply, Meritex can switch to oil for up to three days at a time and this qualifies them for substantial energy rebates.

Meritex has also installed a Thermal Engineering of Arizona unit (TEA) in their plant. A counterflow system in the Lavatec tunnels brings rinse water back to the wash modules and this hot water is eventually evacuated as waste water. The TEA runs the waste water next to the incoming city water, heating the 60 degree city water up to 90 degrees. This 90 degree fresh water next goes to a flue stack economizer which uses the heat of the boilers’ exhaust gases to heat it further, up to as much as 150 degrees. All of this “recovered” heat amounts to a “substantial savings,” according to Lindbloom. “We also have an energy consultant,” says Lindbloom. “He uses the futures market to purchase gas for us at opportune times. He has in-depth experience dealing with gas and oil companies and recommends purchases according to supply and demand forecasts. Dealing with the volumes we have here, using a qualified consultant makes sense. Adding up all of our energy management measures, we’re saving thousands of dollars every year.”

Meritex employs 150 production line people, or “team members” and all are on an incentive program. “We find that a cash incentive goes a long way toward maintaining and even increasing productivity,” says Ward. “We know the quantities that must be processed at each work station to keep us on schedule and we set the goals accordingly. For example, the sorting crew has a goal of eight thousand pounds an hour. For each hour they reach that goal, every member of that crew gets an additional dollar per hour. We pay fifteen to twenty thousand dollars in incentive bonuses every month and it’s worth every cent in maintaining cost-effective productivity, to the benefit of our ten hotel customers.”

Helping Meritex management keep a handle on all the plant’s activities is a 16-camera surveillance system that digitally records all production areas and has motion-sensored cameras at all of the property exits 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All carts are tracked coming in and going out. Records are maintained to make sure equipment is being properly operated and serviced. Recorded Workman’s Compensation issues can be questioned and reviewed. Violations of the “package pass” policy can be recorded. “And,” says Lindbloom, “it gives the hotels a comfort zone in knowing that we are taking steps to ensure loss prevention.”

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Got Bedbugs? Help Is Here

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ecolab Inc. and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) launched the, a free online resource to help hotel owners and operators stop bed bugs before they spread. The kit features downloadable materials on how to train staff to detect bed bugs early and actions to take when they suspect a guest room is infested. The digital toolkit includes a fact sheet about how bed bugs spread, their life-cycle and where they like to hide; a poster on bed bug detection; an instructional video showing where to inspect for bed bugs and what signs to look for; and a convenient pocket card for housekeeping staff with directions on how to inspect a room and what to do if bed bugs are found.