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.
6. OPERATIONAL METRICS
The sixth point in Chadsey’s 10-point plan is for a project team to anticipate key operational metrics. Focus on the actual figures for the cost of labor, utilities and maintenance. These are extremely important aspects of running a laundry, he says. There should be project goals for each, and everything needs to be in writing.
“Projected goals for operational costs should be in writing,” Chadsey says, “and be confirmed by the consultant, the laundry manager, and the equipment vendors.”
The figures will also help with return-on-investment projections for the finance member of the team.
7. AUTOMATION AND YOU
“Automation will be more popular as labor costs continue to increase,” Chadsey says.
A polling question asked during the webinar indicated that 89% of participants would be open to upgrade if they were supported by strong ROI research, while 11% were all about the upgrades. Chadsey theorized that the 11% had seen first-hand the advantages of automated upgrades.
He did enter a note of caution at this point: “Just because they build it, it doesn’t mean it’s right for your operation.”
During the planning process for a new or renovated laundry, consider automation options for soil sorting, soil rail (there are multiple levels of automation for this step), wash aisle, dryer loading/unloading, clean rail, dry fold, flatwork-finishing options, material-handling options, and product tracking.
For soil sorting, a number of automated options are already available, from inexpensive systems to those that will cost millions, but all will have a positive impact on ROI. There are also multiple levels of automation when it comes to sorting rails.
Wash-aisle options have become more popular in the last decade, Chadsey says. Tunnel washers are better in most instances, the automation is better, they load better, process better, and include a number of options on the back side, he says.
Product tracking is the hottest thing, he says. RFID (radio-frequency identification) can help an operation not only track items within the plant, it can also track items in other locations, such as a customer’s storage areas. As long as a sensor is placed in the area, the RFID chips can be read anytime, anywhere. This offers another advantage in customer support, offering something the customer can’t get anywhere else.
His advice? Go through all the options before you start.
8. FINANCIAL BALANCE
The project team, the owners and the managerial staff for a renovated laundry, as well as for a new facility, will need to understand the relationship between capital costs, operational costs and automation costs. Most people will understand that spending more money on automation upfront will translate into lower operational costs down the road.
Keep in mind that upfront costs will probably be higher than anticipated. And that if the finance member of the team says the projected costs are too high, some adjustments will need to be made, Chadsey says.
Initial interest in automation oftentimes is abandoned as project capital costs are formally evaluated.
“You have to understand what that automation is going to do for you, and you also have to understand that if you’re doing a full plant, if you take part of that automation out, that is going to affect the operation,” Chadsey says.
He advises double-checking the operational metrics to gain a great understanding of what is going to happen going forward with the project.
A timeline with contingency plans is essential for transitioning an operation from old to new.
Break down the timeline into days, and specify what will happen on what day. Have a contingency plan in place before everything starts, so you know what’s going to happen if a step is not completed on time and how the project will catch up.
Plan for production to be affected during the transition period. Will the water supply or electricity be cut off for a time? Will workers be in the way of other workers, blocking ingress and egress from a particular area? Work it out and understand what is going to be affected and what measures will be effective in minimizing the chaos.
At the end of a project, everyone is usually in a hurry to finish up and get production started, Chadsey says. “You have to have time to train operators and engineering, and you may want to build in a soft start date.” Plan for the transition, he says.
10. PROJECT SUCCESS
Chadsey, in his last step, reiterated that 10 steps may not be all that is needed in any given project. Some will take fewer steps, others will require many more than 10.
To complete a project successfully, members of the team—the project coordinator and the consultant, in particular—will need to consider what can give during a project and what can’t. Is there leeway in the budget? Is time a major consideration? Is there built-in time for the facility to be inactive in order to work out the glitches in the process or equipment? Will the transition and training be a major issue?
Chadsey is confident that these 10 steps will help you complete a project successfully and start operations off on the right foot.