“My budget has been cut, and I’ve got to find ways to keep my costs down. Can you suggest operational changes I can make to cut or at least control costs without having to purchase anything or cause a major upheaval in my laundry?”Consulting: Tom Mara, Victor Kramer Co., Oceanport, N.J.
Laundry operators everywhere have been forced to find ways to reduce costs and do more with less. Those who effectively respond to the current economic challenges will be better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities sure to arise when the economy regains momentum.
As a result of the dramatic reduction in hotel occupancies forecast for 2009 and beyond, I worked with one of Crothall Laundry Services’ regional managers, Sheldon Anderson, to develop a plan to control operating costs.
Anderson oversees Crothall’s hospitality laundry interests and manages the shared laundry and valet departments of a large central Florida resort complex that includes two 5-star luxury hotels (1,600 rooms total). Crothall pays most operating costs, including payroll-related expenses, and the hotels pay a fixed rate per occupied room-night for services.
Our objective was to ensure that each hotel’s circulating linen inventory was sufficient to foster a flexible operating schedule, while continuing to operate the plant for optimal productivity with the standard crew complement.
The savings came about when we shortened the schedule in direct proportion to volume changes — as often as possible, we sent the laundry crew home early or closed the plant for an entire day.
Based on the budget and occupancy forecasts, we calculated how much money we could spend for labor each day and then tried hard to stay within that allowance. Most importantly, we treated overtime as a “disease” to be avoided like the plague.
We also worked to convince the hotels to adopt a green program intended to reduce linen usage. It called for changing bed sheets, pillowcases and certain bathroom items on an every-other-day or every-third-day basis, with the guest’s approval and sometimes without, in an effort to reduce poundage.
Although some hotel brands implemented such green programs years ago, upscale luxury chains typically resisted consideration until recently.
Once we showed the hotel managers the savings in labor, supplies, utilities and linen replacement that are linked to reductions in laundry volume, they realized there was no better way to cut their operating costs.
We reviewed purchasing habits and looked for opportunities to trim expenses by using generic materials in lieu of expensive brand-name products; by buying in larger-sized containers; by buying a year’s worth of product at one time, with scheduled drop shipments throughout the year; and by taking advantage of recycling programs.
The final part of our plan was to review and modify:
- Supply usage habits to ensure that no product is being wasted;
- Washing formulae and final extraction periods;
- Chemical dosing standards and water usage;
- Equipment loading procedures to ensure full washer and dryer loads; and
- Operation of the flatwork ironer — Turn it on only when there are a couple of hours of work to do, then use a full complement of operators to process the work as quickly as possible to save on energy costs.
Equipment Distribution: Bill Blumel, MHS, Reliable Equipment & Engineering, Ogden, Utah
If my laundry budget was cut due to the economic downturn, I would look “outside the box” to get the biggest bang for the bucks saved.
Begin by looking into implementing a workweek of four 10-hour days. Laundries have successfully made this a permanent change. In one instance, the industrial laundry was able to change its delivery-and-pickup schedules while also improving its ability to maintain production equipment, support equipment and vehicles on Wednesdays instead of at night or on weekends.
Changing to a four-day workweek would immediately save employees 20% of their work-related transportation costs. They should buy into this change for many reasons, and feel positive toward making the adjustment.
By taking care of maintenance on the idle day during the week, the long-term cost reductions should be significant due to minimizing the frequency of equipment failure and parts replacement. If your operation adheres to the concept of preventive maintenance, your budgeted equipment replacement costs should also be significantly reduced.
Focus your equipment maintenance efforts on machines that are the biggest energy consumers. For example, if your laundry has large dryers with capacities of 200 pounds per hour or greater, be sure to maintain their efficiencies to keep Btu waste to a minimum during operation. Seals on these dryers should be maintained at all times to the original manufacturer’s specifications.
Make sure that automated, dry-type lint collectors have an adequate supply of compressed air so that manual cleaning of the units is required only infrequently. There are ways to temporarily increase the compressed-air supply required for lint blowdown without purchasing more capacity. This will result in shorter dryer cycle times and less natural gas consumption.
If you utilize washer-extractors, remember that a longer final extraction will reduce the natural gas consumption and drying times of your dryers and flatwork ironers. Also, make sure that the washer-extractor operators are given an incentive not to shorten the extract time by manually turning the machines off before the automatic control stops them and signals the end of the programmed cycle time.
When all of the production equipment is turned off, walk around the facility. Listen and look for leaks in the delivery system and equipment — compressed air, steam and water. Check for water and steam leaks while the washroom equipment is operating. Eliminate these leaks as soon as possible.
Contact your chemical vendor to find out what can be done to improve your productivity without compromising product quality and linen life, while also reducing your water, chemical and energy consumption. Your representative should be able to assist you with identifying realistic cost savings that can result from implementing recommended improvements.
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