- Created on Wednesday, 03 March 2004 04:23
- Written by Staff
"From a safety perspective, the advances made in the design and technology of this laundry will serve as a model of how a laundry should operate," said Dave Taylor, general manager of the facility. "It's a benchmark for safety."
Employing 300, the 114,000 square foot facility was designed to process over 50 million pounds yearly from over 35 Northern California hospitals and hotels. The properties serviced by the facility are located in a 150-mile radius including Sacramento, Fresno, Monterrey, Santa Rosa and San Francisco. The plant has 11 tractors, 16 trailers and 6 straight trucks running the routes, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. Trucks outfitted with GPS systems travel more than one and a half million miles a year. If a hospital or hotel calls for the status of their arriving linen, the Sodexho dispatcher can check the GPS system and respond with specifics. The GPS systems provide detailed reports including how fast a truck traveled, what roads were used, where it stopped and for how long.
In addition to providing customers with clean crisp linens – on time, the plant’s linen systems managers work with their hospital / hotel customers in a value-added program called SLAMS, or Sodexho Linen Asset Management System, in which equal attention is paid to the processing, distribution, product purchasing and product utilization functions.
“Our relationships with our customers is based on added value of our services, rather than what we refer to in the industry as commodity pricing,” said Emeka Okeani, national vice president for all Sodexho USA laundry facilities. “We can take the experiences and lessons we have learned through our working with many healthcare and hospitality facilities nationwide and share them with our customers in Stockton, California, or anywhere else in the country. What we do for our customers goes well beyond linen processing and helps make us more competitive in the marketplace.”
THE PROCESS BEGINS
When a truck arrives at one of six incoming bays, a dock coordinator (DC) receives a receipt from the driver telling him the customer name, how many carts are onboard and what items are in the carts. Each cart has a bar code identifying the customer. As the DC pulls the cart onto a scale, he puts a color-coded flag identifying the customer into the cart, scans the bar code and the information is entered into a computer. The cart is then sent to the staging area for the soil sort department.
A Dunnewolt soil sort computer system tracks linen being sorted by product mix and according to customer history to let the sorters know how many bins will be needed for carted items. Electronic readers on top of the bins may say sheets, pillowcases, bath mats, etc. for a hotel, but then change to patient gowns, baby blankets, surgical towels, etc. for hospital customers. The sorters know exactly what product to sort for each customer in real time. The computer keeps a record of what item is entering the bin and its total poundage. Filled slings are then sent by computer control, via a Dunnewolt overhead rail system, to a staging area for washing. Color-coded flags travel with the loads identifying each batch.
An operator then programs, the slings, directing each to the appropriate barrier-walled tunnel washer. Sodexho has three Lavatec tunnel washers, each with fourteen 150-pound batch modules. One customer’s linen is washed before another’s enters the tunnel. Tunnels, dryers and ironers are connected by a Lavatec computer control system. Forty-bar Lavatec presses at the ends of the tunnels eliminate the need to condition sheets. They travel directly to the flatwork department for ironing. This department uses six Lavatec 3 roll, deep chest, 60” roll diameter ironers with Chicago Edge and King Edge feeders and Chicago folders. Linen requiring conditioning is shuttled, two 150-pound cakes at a time, to fifteen 300-pound Lavatec dryers that are system-integrated with the tunnels.
Four Lavatec washer extractors, two 350-pounders and two 250 pounders, alongside the tunnels and also utilizing the barrier wall, handle heavier soiled surgical goods, as well as food and beverage linen. On the clean side, table cloths and napkins proceed to the ironing stations and the balance is taken to two, 400-lb Consolidated dryers for conditioning.
The plant also has a “clean room” for preparing sterile packs for hospital operating rooms. Surgical towels are tunnel washed, dried, and then staged by customer for the clean room. Here, the towels are examined on a light table, de-linted and hand folded dictated by the particular hospital according to their surgeons’ preferences. Folded packs have an integration strip included that turns black when autoclaved at the hospitals to indicate sterility. Completed packs of 4, 6, or more towels are wrapped in 2-ply ChemGuard and staged for shipment, again with a color-coded flag included to identify the customer.
COMPLETING THE PROCESS
After conditioning or ironing, clean linen is bundled using a Felins bundle tying system. Over 5,000 Chem-Tainer Maxi Mover carts handle soiled, clean and in-transit linen. Cart tickets note customer, contents and quantity. Each cart is staged, weighed and bar code scanned, eliminating human error. Nine bays on the clean linen side receive trucks heading back to customers. A Linen Master software program maintains an accurate count of all linen travelling into, through, and out of the plant, a portion of which is rental linen, kept in the plant for shipping as needed, and pooled linen that is specially packed for customers on exchange carts according to their par requirements
Much of the energy management systems in Stockton are provided by R. F. MacDonald Company and are designed to exceed one of the country’s strictest set of environmental regulations. Flue gases from their two 600 hp Alzeta burner/Cleaver-Brooks boilers are used to heat incoming city water that is then sent to a tempered water tank for the tunnel washers. Raising this water from 60 degrees, to 80 degrees, saves a considerable amount of energy. Water exiting the tunnels at about 120 degrees is used to further heat this 80 degree water using a tube-surrounding-tube system to bring the clean water temperature up to about 100 degrees before final heating by the boilers, saving even more energy. Effluents leaving the plant are monitored 24 hours a day for ph levels and temperature, with samples sent daily to an independent lab.
The Lavatec dryers have also been designed with a unique energy conservation tube-within-a-tube system. Hot air is exhausted through a tube from each dryer that leads to the outside environment. These tubes are each surrounded by a second tube that brings in air from outside the plant. Not only is the outside air being preheated to reduce the burners’ gas usage, but exhausted air is cooler and more environment-friendly.
Throughout the 40’ high ceiling of the plant is a network of forty-eight Circulair overhead cleaning fan units from LUWA/Bahnson Parks Cramer. Timer operated, the units keep air moving down to the floor. This keeps lint off the ceiling, girders, conduits and equipment, eliminating the need for personnel to clean overhead areas while helping maintain lint-free premises. Associates are responsible for the 5-foot radius around their workstations, reducing janitorial labor even further. Monitoring of each station on an hourly basis allows supervisors to quickly identify deficiencies and make corrections or improvements to prevent bottlenecks.
BEHIND SODEXHO’S SUCCESS
“There is a consolidation of healthcare facilities going on that is resulting in what we see as a trend to consolidate laundry facilities, as well as the need to build larger and more efficient facilities such as we have in Stockton,” said Okeani. “Then, there is the rapid growth of affiliated neighborhood walk-up clinics that are extending out in a ten or twenty mile radius from an area’s main healthcare facility, all requiring special logistical support from the laundry. And, let’s not forget the increasingly ‘graying’ of America. As people live longer, more healthcare services are needed and this, in turn, creates the need for more linen services.” But Okeani also credits Sodexho employees a.k.a. ‘associates.’ “They [the associates] are our most important resource, the engine that drives our business. Through training programs and opportunities for promotion, and by listening and responding to their suggestions, we continue to strengthen the foundation for our continued success.”
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