2015 Panel Ready to Share Expertise (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

Our new panelists introduce themselves and their operations, share their accomplishments and discuss the challenges of their industry segments

Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Bradenton, Fla.

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Rick Rone

Rick Rone

I am the founder and owner of Laundry Plus, located in Bradenton, Fla. We are an industrial laundry founded in 1989 that primarily services the customer-owned-goods hospitality industry. Laundry Plus recently entered the linen leasing business, also primarily in the hospitality segment. We provide upscale linens complete with RFID technology.

I completed my formal education at Mankato State College, now called Minnesota State University, Mankato. I then secured a position with Medallion Kitchens, one of the largest kitchen cabinet manufacturers in the United States. I moved up the corporate ladder and achieved the position of vice president of manufacturing.

In 1989, the privately held company was sold to a publicly traded group, and I found myself looking for a new challenge. Having been born in Miami Beach, Fla., I was starting to find the Minnesota winters somewhat long and exceptionally cold. I relocated back to Florida and chose the Gulf Coast for its weather as well as its business climate.

I started in the Laundromat segment of the business, first opening one store and eventually adding many more. During my education in that business, I learned of the industrial side, and with my background in manufacturing, I found the industrial segment to be more in tune with my skill set, as well as my ideology of providing the ultimate in quality service. Upon opening Laundry Plus, it became obvious that I had found a business that could provide a service to the hospitality industry that was severely needed. My formal education in this business is lacking, but the “school of hard knocks” has proven to be an exceptional venue for higher learning.

Laundry Plus has evolved through the years into a facility that processes laundry 12 to 15 hours per day, seven days a week. This year, we will do well in excess of 12 million pounds and employ about 90 full-time workers. We have always tried to stay at the front of our chosen field, whether it be through our selection of the most technologically advanced machinery or our interest in RFID research.

It is with great enthusiasm that we enter this new leasing segment of the laundry business. We’re advocates of the word “accountability,” and with this RFID technology, we will continue to provide the utmost in service and quality.

It is with great honor that I accept this position on the Panel of Experts, and I hope that my thoughts and ideas will add some new light to the various topics.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Sheraton Vistana Resort, Orlando, Fla.

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Phil Jones

Phil Jones

I have been in the laundry industry for almost 20 years, starting in the Walt Disney World Textile Services Division. Within this operation were three types of laundries—linen, food and beverage, and costuming—and I had the opportunity to manage in all three facilities.

About nine years ago, I was hired as the director of laundry operations for the Sheraton Vistana Resort, a large vacation ownership resort in Orlando, Fla. The laundry at that time was processing around 6 million pounds in a 5,000-square-foot facility, and 30% of that was being outsourced.

Through partnerships with various equipment companies, I took on the challenge of redoing the operation without using any additional space, and currently the laundry is producing 12 million pounds per year with minimum outsourcing. I added our sister property, Sheraton Vistana Villages, during that time, and also took on all of its linen distribution, as the resort was outsourcing 100% of its linen and had no laundry on-site. We have linen distribution and soiled pickup for more than 300 linen rooms between both resorts. I also serve as a consultant as needed for other hotels and resorts within the larger Starwood Hotels company.

In 2014, one of our biggest accomplishments was our involvement in the community. We replaced the bedding in many of our rooms and donated the old items to local and international charities to help the needy. To date, more than 2,000 items have been donated for these causes.

The biggest challenge I face involves a change in guests’ stays at the resorts—they are moving away from weeklong stays to a higher degree of rentals that require daily, instead of weekly, service. The poundage processed has steadily increased over the last few years and has put our operation very close to 100% capacity, so we will need to look at how we will be able to process the required linen in the future.

It is my pleasure to serve on the Panel of Experts this year, and I look forward to providing any helpful insight I can to all of the readers in the laundry industry.

Textile/Uniform Rental: Angelo Crespo, Cintas Corp., Westland, Mich.

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Angelo Crespo

Angelo Crespo

My laundry career started in 2004, and during the past 11 years, I’ve held various positions such as supervisor, production manager, plant manager and maintenance engineer. These positions have allowed me to accumulate a great deal of experience and knowledge. In the beginning, I worked for a company called Queen Quality Laundry, which operated a facility 5.5 days a week with two shifts. An average of 13.5 million pounds of linen a year was processed for hospitals in the Detroit area and throughout Michigan.

This company exposed me to equipment such as tunnel washers, hydraulic pressing machines, automatic rail systems, automatic dryers, single-pocket washer-extractors and boilers. Also, in the finishing department, I worked with high-efficiency flatwork ironers and automatic folding machines. In my years at Queen Quality Laundry, I was involved with plant operations as well as maintaining and repairing all equipment.

In 2006, I resumed my education to keep up with the ever-changing demands in our industry. I was given an opportunity to take boiler operating classes at Local 547 I.U.O.E. I completed a degree in high-pressure boilers and received my high-pressure boiler license. This degree, along with my experience in this field, allowed me to receive my first-class stationary engineer license for the City of Detroit.

Over the next several years, I was exposed to various laundries that produced an average of 20 million pounds a year. These facilities had much more high-tech equipment to meet such large capacity demands. My contact with this equipment prompted me to further continue my education and pursue a degree in electrical/electronics engineering technologies at the local community college.

In 2014, I was able to take advantage of a great opportunity to accelerate my career by working for a top company, Cintas Corp., in Westland, Mich. The stakes are high, just as in my other positions. I work as part of the engineering team, which consists of myself, another engineer and our supervisor.

At our location, we maintain and repair nine 450-pound washers and a bank of 500-pound dryers. We operate two conveying shuttles that are programmed to carry the linens to their respective locations for drying. We also utilize an automatic overhead soil-storage area and various pony washers and dryers. In our finishing department, we have overhead conveying systems to process the linens accurately for our customers, and we also make use of a steam tunnel for a quality finished product.

As well as working in the engineering department, I am also involved in a safety program, along with several other responsibilities, to ensure a 100% safe working environment.

I love that I am a part of a company that strides for the better well-being of people at home and at work. Cintas is also involved with numerous activities that contribute to the community we serve. At this point in my career, I am glad I am a part of that.

Textiles: Cecil B. Lee, Standard Textile, Cincinnati, Ohio

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Cecil B. Lee

Cecil B. Lee

I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the Panel of Experts for 2015.

More than 30 years have breezed by since I started managing at a healthcare laundry in Saginaw, Mich. I have gone on to manage in New York and Ohio and assist in many more. I was a general manager with Sodexo for 26 years in each of these states.

In October 2012, I became the CEO of Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, an employee-owned cooperative laundry in Cleveland, Ohio, where the goal was to grow the business, add jobs for the community and empower individuals. This was a great opportunity, until Standard Textile afforded me the chance to offer my professional peers more communication, cooperation and service from a textiles perspective.

My educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. I also studied at the Laundry and Linen College at the University of Guelph in Canada. I recently finished my studies at Standard Textile’s rigorous training program, where I became more familiar with the company’s roles as manufacturer, supplier, seller and distributor to the healthcare and hospitality markets. Standard Textile also provides decorative products (through the company’s Interiors Group), workwear apparel and consultative services.

Historically, I have been a hands-on manager providing training to our associates and excellent service to our customers. I continue to be a believer in sharing knowledge and developing the individual. I am a staunch believer in laundry and linen fundamentals and using that as a springboard for growth.

I am excited to be able to share a unique point of view regarding the laundry business. Like many of you, I have enjoyed a full career which has allowed me to manage and develop people, structure and recreate plants, manage businesses, travel to Germany to assess laundry equipment and meet the diverse breadth of people in our laundry world. Past job assignments have allowed me to attend all but two Clean Shows since 1985.

Throughout my professional career, I have been enhanced personally by being involved in the communities my family has lived in. Serving on school, business and church boards has been fulfilling.

In my role with Standard Textile, I am the director of healthcare laundry marketplace. I serve as a resource to aid and assist customers and Standard Textile’s textile consultants alike, serving central, cooperative and commercial laundries. Just as I did on the operations side, I continue to work hard in my efforts to help customers understand what we do with the products we make and why—only now, from the textiles point of view.

Through all of this, what remains in me is my hunger and thirst for knowledge, and my desire to provide assistance to others and just make things and people work better. I hope something I write will help and encourage you. 

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion! 

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