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Consider Every Angle Before Building New Laundry (Part 1 of 2)

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Jean Teller |

ALM webinar focuses on 10 things to know before building or renovating plant

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — When looking to renovate an existing laundry or building a brand-new facility, there are many questions to ask before the process begins and while the process is ongoing.

David Chadsey, the managing director for Laundry-Consulting.com, addressed the issue during a recent webinar, 10 Things You Should Know Before Building or Renovating a Laundry, sponsored by the Association for Linen Management.

While Chadsey focused on 10 questions to ask, he emphasized that for each application, there may be more than or fewer than 10 items, and that the list is not intended to all inclusive.

1. WHAT AND HOW MUCH

Chadsey’s first question focused on what a laundry needs to process and how much needs to be processed.

“This is the first thing you need to evaluate,” he says. Best practices are based on volume and classification and will differ depending on the type of laundry facility you are working with.

“When calculating what and how much, we want to confirm the volume and then we want to estimate for projected growth,” Chadsey says. “If you’re building or renovating, obviously you don’t want to build just for today.”

Look down the road; what are the possibilities that might be in store for the facility?

Chadsey suggests looking at what equipment you have and want, and perhaps allowing the facility’s plans to contain contingencies for expanding square footage sometime in the future.

Another suggestion is to evaluate the capacity per each process path, whether it’s dry fold, flatwork, wash aisle or finishing line. Take a look at manual labor and automation, and what may change in the future. You can design a finishing line, for instance, more effectively if you know it’s only going to handle hospital sheets.

Always allow for flexibility in a project. If the projected production is to be maintained, laundry managers must look at the ebb and flow of a plant as the linen moves through, as well as the times of day and the days of the week. If a change occurs, whether it be in equipment or in processes, the laundry must be flexible enough to handle the change.

2. SELECT A PROJECT TEAM

As a way to maintain checks and balances during the building process, and to be sure that everything is covered and the project is moving forward, select a well-balanced team to oversee the project.

Such a large-budget undertaking will typically require a project coordinator— usually a member of the organization behind the project—and an outside consultant, one to help the team navigate the process, will be hired. Other members of the team are typically the laundry manager, contractors, the architect and engineer, and there may be more than one engineer, equipment vendors, plant engineering staff, human resources, and a person who will speak for those financing the project.

The project coordinator needs to understand the work scope of all members of this team, as well as their responsibilities, Chadsey says.

3. INDUSTRY PRACTICES

Before the building progresses too far, it is best to identify best practices for the particular type of operation intended for the renovated or new facility.

“Processing 20,000 pounds of linens for healthcare is different than processing 20,000 pounds of hospitality linens, especially on the finishing side,” Chadsey says. And processing industrial textiles is certainly different than processing table linens.

He suggests talking about automation, different types of wash wheels, as well as volume considerations before too much time, money and energy has been expended on the project.

4. CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS

Any building project involves considerable amounts of money, Chadsey says.

While people most often consider equipment to be the major expenditure for a laundry operation, it may be true only for some renovation projects. If the laundry is brand-new or the facility will be undergoing a major redesign, often the planning and design stages can be a major budget item, as well as the construction costs.

Consider these factors:

  • Planning and Design
  • Construction
  • Utility Upgrades and Connections — Will the new facility require more electricity, higher water consumption, greater sewer capacity?
  • Equipment
  • Impact Fees — Depending on the locale, these fees can be significant, Chadsey says. Consider the fees that will be charged by the municipality for the facility, for new connections to water lines and sewer, or for other utilities. One project on which Chadsey worked encountered impact fees in excess of $1 million, he says.
  • Downtime Processing — During renovation, is a plant going to experience downtime? A project team must look at how the operation’s processing will be completed during building or renovation, and plan for that downtime.
  • Transition and Training — If a new plant is being built to replace an older facility, a project team must consider how operations, equipment, personnel and support staff/equipment will be moved from the old facility to the new. In the case of a renovation, how does management propose to work around and then integrate a new line or new room of the facility? And after the transition is complete, production numbers will be lower as the staff is trained and learns new equipment, procedures and systems. Staffing issues may include the need to downsize.

5. FOOTPRINT REQUIREMENTS

One of the major considerations for both a new build and a renovation is the facility’s footprint. If you are currently operating a laundry, you probably will have a general idea of the space required for current needs. But what happens if you want to expand? Chadsey has a production area formula that he picked up along the way during his 28 years in the industry, and while he can’t remember where he found the formula, he thanks those who came up with it.

“I use 5 square feet times pounds processed per hour. Plus soiled and clean staging, plus the mechanical room,” he says.

The staging area or areas encompass the space needed to process incoming soiled linen, as well as processing and storing clean linen after it comes off the process lines.

“An on-premise laundry may require a relatively small staging area,” he says. “If you’re a shared hospital laundry with a large number of trucks coming in each day, or if linen goes to a certain customer and that customer can only pick up three days a week, then staging requirements can be significant.”

Green initiatives are another consideration, he says. Take new innovations in water-reuse equipment, for instance, which may take more space.

The formula example that Chadsey provided during the webinar was:

A laundry processes 10 million pounds per year for 312 days per year (that’s 32,000 pounds processed per day). Divide that figure by the number of hours the facility is operating each day—in this case, 12 hours—and you have 2,700 pounds of linen being processed each hour. Multiply that figure by five and you arrive at a total of 13,500 square feet required for production.

For this example, Chadsey used 2,500 square feet for both the staging areas and the mechanical room, making the facility’s total size 18,500 square feet.

Check back tomorrow for part 2, including operational metrics, automation, transitioning, and more!

About the author

Jean Teller

Contributing Editor, American Trade Magazines

Jean Teller is contributing editor at American Trade Magazines. She can be contacted at jteller@americantrademagazines.com.

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