Each year, a number of laundry projects are completed around the country, resulting in brand-new or retrofitted plants primed and ready to convert soiled goods to clean textiles for the benefit of end-users and customers.
But before one of these plants goes online, there are months, sometimes even years, of effort spent in preparation. As a way to celebrate all the hard work that goes into funding, designing, building and equipping a modern laundry plant, American Laundry News has created this feature coined Designing Success to feature portraits of memorable plant installations.
Here, institutional/OPL, commercial and industrial laundry equipment manufacturers, as well as firms that offer design/build, engineering and mechanical contracting services to the laundry industry, were invited to tout their latest and greatest projects of the past two years.
AMERICAN LAUNDRY SYSTEMS, FOR FAULTLESS LINEN
In early 2011, Susan Witcher and her team at Kansas City-based Faultless Linen approached American Laundry Systems (ALS). Faultless’ healthcare operation in the area was continuing to expand, and the company planned to build a new healthcare processing laundry plant in St. Louis. It would become Faultless’ second new laundry in the St. Louis area in a span of five years (the first was designed and built by ALS in 2007).
Faultless hired ALS for complete design-and-build services, which included complete laundry design, equipment and construction RFP services, equipment installation, mechanical process piping, and overall project supervision and management.
ALS represented Witcher and her Faultless team when dealing with the construction contractor, equipment vendor and all other subcontractors, enabling Faultless personnel to focus on keeping the existing plant running efficiently, providing service to existing customers and seeking new business to fill the plant being built.
It was clear the new project would not be a typical installation, ALS says. Faultless Linen wanted a showcase that would make it proud and its competitors envious. A key design feature of the plant is that it can handle both bulk healthcare and medical retail accounts under one roof. Both accounts use the same sorting system, washroom and finishing equipment, maximizing return on investment and providing the most flexibility for future growth.
Faultless was able to find a 100,000-square-foot building within a few miles of its existing healthcare plant. The ALS team traveled to St. Louis to check the structure and ensure that it had the potential to become a laundry-friendly building with some minor modifications.
With new paint, upgrades of plant lighting and diamond polish of the floor, the building was made to look brand-new. Existing gas service was upgraded to accommodate laundry needs. The building already had plenty of office space, and some of the offices were retrofitted to make a new employee cafeteria/break room while others were upgraded to house the Faultless management team. Local company HDB Construction completed all of the building-related work.
Faultless wanted consistent, reliable equipment and a high level of automation throughout the plant, to help maximize equipment productivity, lower production costs and reduce energy usage.
ALS prepared a new concept layout drawing after studying Faultless’ existing laundry operation, incorporating industry best practices and implementing new processing technologies (such as a steamless washroom, shuttle-free dryer loading, etc.). The layout was used for the equipment RFP process, creating a competitive bidding process, ALS says.
The ALS/Faultless design had many options to consider upon reviewing the proposals received. Weighing pros and cons of each vendor, the design team decided to go with Milnor washroom equipment (accompanied by a Kemco process water system) and Chicago Dryer Co. finishing equipment. E-Tech supplied the material-handling system, including automated sort on rail, automated soil, and clean-side monorail. Softrol supplied the semiautomated garment sorting system. A custom-built cart washer was designed by Automation Dynamics, with input from the ALS/Faultless team.
The plant has a 250-pound-per-module tunnel washer system with hydraulic press and associated dryers; two 900-pound four-pocket washer-extractors; two self-contained thermal ironing systems with high-production feeders, folders and automated stackers; eight small-piece folders; a blanket folding system; a garment steam tunnel with associated hand-press equipment; garment sorting system; and fully automated soil/clean monorail system with sorting platform that provides up to 39 different sort classifications. A semiautomated cart-washing system is used to wash and sanitize all soiled-linen carts. A vacuum count system, integrated into the soil monorail system, is used for medical retail accounts.
All the equipment installation, process mechanical piping, equipment ductwork and final connection work was done by ALS. The mechanical process piping, such as city cold water, hot water, tempered water, natural gas and compressed air, was designed to handle future plant growth and addition of equipment. Electrical services were upgraded and designed so that future equipment can easily be installed and brought online without any major disruption to plant operations.
The entire process, from building construction to equipment installation and final commissioning, lasted approximately six to eight months. The new plant has total capacity to process 43 million pounds of healthcare /medical retail laundry annually; it was processing approximately 18 million pounds annually in serving 20-plus hospitals and more than 400 medical retail customers at the start of 2012.
The entire plant is accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), which ensures that it is meeting the highest compliance standards in the healthcare laundry industry, ALS says.