- Created on Wednesday, 02 April 2003 16:14
- Written by Petra Lattmann
TULSA, Okla. – Superior Linen Service Inc.’s laundry business, incorporated in 1984 with 20 employees, has steadily grown over the years to encompass three facilities, 350 employees and state-of-the art machinery. Serving 4,000 business customers, Superior Linen washes 600,000 pounds of linen a week and more than 1 million napkins monthly.The family-run business which began in 1954 was started by Irving Waldman, grandfather of Doug Waldman, Superior Linen’s current president. And through the years – much has changed. To accommodate accounts which were pushing plant production to its limit, a $2 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion was added to the Muskogee, Okla. plant.
Unlike the company's Tulsa and Springdale, Ark. plants, which chiefly launder a handful of small local healthcare accounts and hospitality linens – napkins, tablecloths and garments for restaurants and country clubs, the Muskogee facility solely services 80 healthcare facilities in four states -- Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Southern Missouri and Southern Kansas.
THE MUSKOGEE CHALLENGE
“In 1997 we had the same three plants we have now, but prior to that we were doing our large healthcare accounts at whatever of our three plants was closest geographically to that account,” said Doug Waldman, president. “Then in ’97 we moved all the accounts to the one facility. The tradeoff was higher distribution costs but the benefit was the focus at the plant. In the healthcare market, the focus of the plant was more important than the higher distribution costs.”
When additional accounts put the Muskogee facility over where Waldman wanted to be as a single tunnel plant – expansion was the solution. Originally a one-tunnel plant, the expansion allowed Muskogee to create a duplicate set of its original wash, dry and finish production lines, whose main components are a 12 module Milnor tunnel washer, five Milnor 335 pound gas fired dryers, a Jensen 3 roll steam-heated flatwork ironer with a Constellation sheet folder and a Braun blanket folder.
"I don't want to run machinery more than basically 12 hours a day because I want at least as much down time as up time to give us a safety margin," said Waldman. "With the extra equipment, we have a reliability factor [in timely production] in case one line goes down."
Additional benefits have been realized, says Jim Owens, general manager at the Muskogee plant. Before the expansion, yearly production was approximately 11-million pounds in two shifts. Current annual projections are 15- million pounds on one shift and still only tapping 85 to 90 percent of possible production capacity. In addition, energy savings have been realized.
"With the rising cost of gas, electricity and water, we now operate this building 32 hours less per week than we did in the past," says Owens. “Previous production required five days per week with two full shifts and the current schedule runs one shift six days per week.” The plant employs 103 people including supervisors.
"The biggest challenge facing us when we decided to expand was the meshing of the two shifts," said Owens, adding that the people adapted well due to a philosophy of the teamwork concept at Superior Linen. "Together, everyone achieves more."
In total, the plant launders linens and related healthcare items for 80 properties including two hospitals which account for 27 percent of total yearly production. Additional new equipment purchased at the time of the expansion includes a Milnor 125 pound washer and 135 pound gas-fired dryer, Jensen Logic sheet feeder, and one Jensen small piece folder.
Equipment already in the plant was a Uniwash 125-pound washer, a 120-pound Ajax steam-heated dryer, an American 8-roll steam heated ironer, a Chicago Edge sheet feeder and folder, a Chicago small piece folder, a Braun small piece folder, a Western Automation steam tunnel, two Norman and four Superior lift tables, three Speedcheck roll-up tables, a Norman cart dump, and Saniwash cart washer.
With the addition of the second tunnel washer, the increase in water demand propelled Superior Linen to add a water holding and distribution tank and pumps, supplied by Thermal Engineering of Arizona, so that city water pressure was no longer an issue to supply the tunnel washers. The plant is environmentally conscious - using a Kemco heat recovery system to recycle the final rinse water in both tunnel washers for initial rinse of soiled linen.
"Based on our history of growth and other potential accounts that are in our four state market, including OPLs that are considering closing, competitor accounts, and new hospitals that are being built, we think the risk to go ahead and expand the plant was the right thing to do," said Waldman
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