Dispensing Systems: Fine-tuning the Laundry Process

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John Goetz |

Author says chemical dispensers can lower costs, improve way facility managers run laundries

CINCINNATI — Industrial and on-premises laundries (OPLs) use a lot of chemical, water, energy and labor in order to clean linen for customers and guests. To avoid unnecessary mishaps, maintain productivity and keep costs in line, it’s essential for these operations to have accurate and reliable chemical dispensing systems.

Laundry managers should understand the role of dispensers in perfecting the laundry process and how to select the proper dispenser for their needs.

While it may be counter-intuitive, investing a little more into the dispensing system can produce outsized savings in other, larger cost categories. Take a closer look at the key costs within a laundry and how the right dispensing system can impact the operation.

KEY FACTORS 

Factors affecting a laundry’s bottom line include labor, chemical, energy and water.

Labor. Having a more efficient workforce and less downtime helps a laundry keep labor costs from spiraling out of control. 

For employees to be productive, the equipment provided must be effective, reliable and easy to use.  

Chemical. Chemical usage per wash is important beyond its direct impact on costs. If too little chemical is used, cleaning results can be negatively impacted, requiring another cycle. Re-wash drives up costs associated with labor, water and energy. 

If too much chemical is used, this can lead linen to wear out more quickly, resulting in unhappy customers and guests. Excess chemical use is also wasteful and unnecessary.

Energy. Energy is required to power washer-extractors, tunnel washers, dryers and other equipment, and to heat the water in order to remove stains and bacteria from linen. Most washers use water at 160 F to reduce the amount of chemical, time and mechanical action required to clean. Using more energy results in more expensive bills and leads to more pollution. 

Again, just like any other type of equipment, certain dispensers use less energy than others. For example, eductor-based chemical dispensers use solenoids in lieu of the more power-hungry AC or DC motors that traditional dispensers use. 

Water. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, water and wastewater costs can represent as much as 50% of a laundry’s total operating costs. Given that most traditional washer-extractors use 2-3 gallons of water per pound of linen, a facility washing 10,000 pounds per day would use roughly 10 million gallons of water per year. Increasingly, laundries are moving to tunnel/continuous batch washers, which use 1-2 gallons per pound, or are installing systems to recirculate rinse water in order to reduce water consumption. 

The choice of chemical dispenser can also impact water usage. For example, eductor-based chemical dispensers use less water than traditional peristaltic units with a flush manifold. The flowrate of the water is naturally regulated through the eductor, creating savings of up to 66% when executing a four-product chemical formula.

Oftentimes, laundry chemical providers and end users have complaints related to dispensers using squeeze tubes, which deliver the product in traditional peristaltic pumping systems. While the benefits of peristaltic pumps are many—they can be dry run, are economical and tubes are widely available in many materials—they also have some challenges.  

Most notably, as squeeze tubes and other parts wear out over time, their output drops and delivery becomes inconsistent. They either dispense less chemical or dispense the same volume more slowly. This reality means that squeeze tubes require regular service to maintain high standards of cleanliness. Laundries and chemical providers must pay to have their equipment serviced or spend more time, money and chemical to rewash linen. The costs of this maintenance can quickly add up.

FINDING THE RIGHT DISPENSER

Outside of their ability to directly reduce laundry costs, laundry managers should also look for dispensers that have capability and flexibility for all scenarios, consistency, intelligent features, and easy installation and maintenance. 

Capacity and flexibility for all scenarios. Laundries are not one-size-fits-all operations. They use a variety of chemicals and dispensers that must be able to deliver chemistry to numerous sizes and types of washer-extractors, including tunnel washers. 

Small OPLs will use less chemicals, such as a detergent, softener and perhaps bleach, typically with top-load-style machines. Medium and large OPLs, such as an operation in a hotel, launder a wider variety of linens, including whites, colors, sheets, towels, tablecloths and more. Dispensers for OPLs should accommodate two to eight chemicals, be expandable over time and handle up to 20 formulas. 

Consistency. Dispensers need to deliver product consistently over their entire life. Dispensers whose output drift require increased maintenance. Look for dispensers that do not require squeeze tube maintenance or regular calibrations. This not only reduces downtime and labor expenses, but can also reduce rewash rates. With less rewash, laundries will see better water efficiency, energy use and productivity. 

Intelligent features. Dispensers with smart features, like data collecting sensors, reporting capabilities and remote access, provide greater transparency for managers. Sensors allow managers to track things like load weight and chemistry flow, and then compare it to key performance indicators, like chemical usage by formula, volume of washes and average projection rate. This helps reduce the reoccurrence of errors and improve productivity. 

Alerts can also signal when a potential issue arises, like out-of-product conditions, to encourage immediate action and further reduce downtime. Meanwhile, remote login allows managers to make changes to settings and pull reports easily without needing to be on site.

Easy installation and maintenance. The purchase price shouldn’t be the only cost consideration. Factors like the time required to install and commission the dispenser can have a big impact on costs. Laundry dispensers that are compact and come pre-wired from the factory save time, thereby reducing costs. Units that can be programmed and commissioned quickly via software also minimize downtime and accelerate the time to first revenue. 

Rather than relying on peristaltic pump technology, look for units that don’t require routine maintenance, and consider a central-dosing system if the facility utilizes more than four washer-extractors or a continuous batch/tunnel washer.

IN PERFECT HARMONY

To run a profitable operation, laundry facilities need to find the right balance for their chemical, water, energy and labor outputs. One way to achieve perfect harmony is by installing chemical dispensers with proven performance and features that simplify the laundry process. 

By providing greater transparency and reducing maintenance, today’s chemical dispensers can drive down costs and improve the way that facility managers run their laundries.

About the author

John Goetz

Hydro Systems

Global Product Manager

John Goetz is a global product manager with Hydro Systems, an independent manufacturer of chemical injecting, proportioning, dispensing and medicating equipment.

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