- Created on Saturday, 03 January 2004 04:11
- Written by Jamie Kiffel
COLLEGE POINT, N.Y. -- Over a decade ago, when Bill Ritter and his father-in-law, John Tortorella, first opened a laundry, they couldn’t have imagined 85,000 pounds of starched, sparkling linens whipping through their doors. But they’ve come a long way...“We opened in my wife’s garage,” Ritter laughs. “We literally started with one customer.” Today, Quality Linen and Towel Supply in College Point, New York, is a booming success with approximately 450 customers in the restaurant industry. And to keep up with the growing business, and their customers expectations, owners Ritter and Tortorella decided it was time to update their finishing department, to increase the quality of finished goods and remain competitive.
THE COST OF GROWTH
“When we first opened this facility,” Ritter says of the 8000 square-foot building Quality Linen now occupies in Queens, “we were doing about 35,000 pounds a week.” At that time, three refurbished gas ironers and two refurbished folders did the job well. But as time passed, and the customer base grew, the company—which owns and rents all the linens (tablecloths, napkins and towels) it processes-- outgrew the equipment which was hampering their growth and straining the system.
“We do a lot of tablecloths, and we couldn’t get the crispest finish out of our old ironers anymore,” Ritter explains. “Sometimes, the pieces came out extremely hot, so there was a little moisture left.” The folders could only process napkins or tablecloths, not a combination. Plus, the old machines could only press 30 feet per minute. Production and quality was suffering until the principals brought in two new Lapauw thermal fluid self-contained ironers, a Jean Michel Mini Neptune small piece feeder and two new Lavatech folders.
“The new machines are night and day to the old ones,” Ritter marvels. “And the money they’ve saved the company has already paid for them. The Lavatec folders do everything now, not just napkins and tablecloths and run at 60 feet a minute -- twice the speed of the old ones.”
“And we’ve cut our labor about 15 percent in the pressing department DUE TO THE NEW IRONERS,” Ritter states. The company presently has approximately 50 employees, working 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a 48 hour turnaround. Thanks to the new equipment, “we were able to eliminate four positions, so we’re saving salaries of about $1200 week.
In all, we’re probably getting 40 percent more production out of the new ironers and folders than we were getting out of the entire finishing department before,” Ritter says. “It simply took more people to feed the ironer than it does now.” The system is also twice as fast as the old one. And because the new ironers are heated by oil, “with the price of gas today, they’re much more cost efficient,” says Ritter.
Additionally, Quality Linen recently installed a new Kemco hot water system. “This saves us ten to 15 percent on our gas bill,” Ritter boasts of the $120,000 installation, which now washes at a much hotter temperature and yet saves on gas consumption.
“Our next step is automation,” says Ritter, who is hoping to expand the facility by up to 5000 square feet, and is considering a self dumping, self-loading, overhead sling system and updated wash kitchen with heat reclamation system. For now, two 450 lb. Washex wash wheels, two 250 lb. Washex wash wheels and one 125 lb. Braun for specialty lots (carpets, for example) do the job. Two 200 pound Cissell tumble dryers are used for uniforms and towels and a Unipress automatic press finishes specialty coats and waiters’ jackets which are sent back on hangers.
With so much success, Ritter looks forward to the future. “We’ve generated more new accounts based on what people see at the restaurants that we’re serving---people want the same quality,” he says. “I’d say we’ve probably put on 25-30 new accounts just from people seeing our product in a location—because we really care about the product. Not every laundry in The Big Apple can say that.”
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