SAN JOSE, Calif. — There often comes a time when hotels examine their on-premise laundry and decide whether to keep processing their linens in-house or to outsource. Reasons can range from aging equipment and escalating labor and utility costs to pressure from unions and/or outgrowing the allocated space. The luxurious 800-room Fairmont San Jose recently faced this dilemma. With equipment replacement imminent, the pounds-per-operator-hour number low, and labor costs rising, the hotel decided to take a hard look at its options.
Processing up to 16,000 pounds per day, Fairmont looked into the option of outsourcing by evaluating bids from several local linen service providers. Simultaneously, the hotel reached out to equipment distributors and manufacturers for their input on design, equipment recommendations, laundry assessment, and pricing. Western State Design was awarded the contract to supply, install and commission new flatwork finishing equipment from Chicago Dryer Co.
The Fairmont San Jose decided to take a three-phase approach to replacing its laundry equipment, with finishing equipment being the first phase. Western State Design’s Phil Charlton and Mike Boelk worked diligently with hotel management—Assistant Director of Housekeeping Jason Lustbader and Chief Engineer Larry Wick—to ensure a successful project and to provide the facts and figures in support of why reinvesting in new equipment and keeping the laundry in-house made economic sense.
The long-term partnership between the hotel and the distributor plus Fairmont’s proven success with Chicago® equipment at other properties around the world provided an extra level of confidence that the laundry renovation would go smoothly and deliver the promised results.
New equipment includes a Chicago King Edge Vac CT, Century 2-roll 5200 CT Steam Ironer, Skyline S-16 CT Folder, and Stacker. The complete flatwork system was designed with CHI•Touch, a state-of-art, PC-based, color touch-screen control.
The CHI•Touch easy-to-use graphical interface provides operators, floor management and service teams at the Fairmont San Jose with real-time information to maximize productivity and machinery uptime. The system on all three pieces of equipment allows the ironing line to function more seamlessly than ever before. An operator simply touches the screen at the feeder to select any of the property’s seven programs and the ironer and folder adjust accordingly. The color touch screens indicate simply and clearly what is happening in each machine component.
Installing the new flatwork finishing system has eliminated the Fairmont’s need to pre-condition sheets, increased processing speed (from 65 feet per minute on the old system to 138 FPM on the new system), eliminated three FTEs at the ironing line, and reduced flatwork finishing operating hours by roughly 50% (from 10-16 hours per day to 6-8 hours per day).
The Fairmont San Jose triple-sheets its beds and commonly has the need to process up to 3,000 sheets per day on a full turn with the Chicago flatwork system, which also handles all of its table linen, pillowcases and napkins.
The Fairmont San Jose made an educated choice to keep its laundry in-house and is realizing the savings and efficiency resulting from investing in the first all-CHI•Touch ironing line in the country. The property is now able to effectively process at the speed and cost of a well-automated and efficient commercial laundry, while controlling and producing linen quality that consistently meets the high standards of the hotel’s rooms and food-and-beverage management, project managers say.
COMPARING IN-HOUSE TO COMMERCIAL
Whether an on-premise laundry is benefiting a hotel by providing better service at lower cost or is a financial burden to the property is unique to each location. Several variables—such as floor space, equipment age, utilities, access, and property location—need to be considered. Additionally, true operating costs and the outsourcing provider’s proposal need to be compared dollar for dollar. What to purchase and from who are also key questions to answer.
Equipment providers that can offer turnkey solutions are likely the best choice, but often are not easy to find. The decision as to whether investing in in-house operations is prudent and offers the required monthly savings ultimately belongs to hotel management and ownership. These are some items to consider:
- In-house laundries generally benefit from maintaining lower par levels, reducing overall linen cost and inventory while freeing up valuable storage space
- Tighter quality-control measures can usually be met when processing in-house, resulting in brighter whites, less staining, a higher-quality finish, and longer linen life
- Some commercial laundry service providers do not process food-and-beverage linen or uniforms, creating the need to use two or more outsource companies
- A commercial service in need of increasing production to process a wide variety of quality and linen types may use stronger chemicals, acids, alkaline and bleach, which can weaken fabrics and increase discard quantities
- Does the linen service provider have a contingency plan for power outage, flood, fire, or other disaster that could interrupt service?
In some cases, it may make economic sense to outsource, or a hotel may need an outside linen service provider to meet its excess demand or for emergency service, and there are many reputable linen service companies to meet these demands. It is necessary, however, to periodically visit the laundry provider to check on the process, chemicals and detergents being used and the quality of finishing and folding. It’s also important to check the water source to ensure the water is soft and will not discolor or damage the linen.
PHASE TWO AND THREE IN WORKS
The Fairmont San Jose carefully followed this evaluation process and chose to keep its laundry in-house, saving at least 12 full-time jobs within the hotel and local economy. Today, its efficient laundry operation meets the quality demands of a top-rated hospitality property.
Moving forward, the hotel will complete the planned second and third phases to revamp the remainder of its laundry services and provide the state-of-the-art property in the heart of Silicon Valley with a laundry that will meet its needs for many years to come.