CHICAGO — Every step is important when it comes to processing linens.
But a weak drying process can impact and laundry/linen service in many ways, such as increased linen loss due to over drying, more employee handling and higher labor costs, a decrease in quality, and more.
How can an operation fine-tune its drying process?
American Laundry News contacted several equipment manufacturer representatives for their thoughts on how laundry/linen services can make their drying processes more effective and efficient.
Load organization plays a key part in fine-tuning drying, according to Joe Carrita, customer relations manager for ADC representing Whirlpool Corp. Commercial Laundry. This means organizing loads so that they are like materials, which he says is the best way to achieve a consistent finished product.
“This allows you to create a cycle that specifically works with the material with regards to temperature and drying time,” he points out. “Additionally, the size of the material will determine whether a reversing feature should be enabled.”
This is important, says Carrita, because large material, such as sheets and duvets, will dry fast and efficiently with reversing enabled, whereas reversing with smaller items, such as hand towels, will produce the opposite effect.
“Then as we move to finishing, having like garments will allow us to adjust the dryness level or time to produce the water retention needed for that item,” he shares.
Carrita concludes that this concept also allows the ability to set a cool-down temperature that will work with the end-of-the-line process.
Another load factor to consider is the size of the loads going into the dryer. Keith Ware, vice president of sales for Lavatec Laundry Technology, says it’s important to ensure load sizes are correct.
“Laundries often under load the dryer, thinking the load will dry faster,” he points out. “While there may be a slight improvement, a lot of the heat generated by the dryer does not pass through the linen. Instead, it flows out the exhaust duct. Heated air will take the path of least resistance.”
Gemma Colomer, communications manager for Domus, also observes that operators and staff working in an industrial laundry do not usually make complete loads.
“It affects and contributes to an extra use of energy and greater wearing of the linen,” she says. “As the linen and garments are overdried, the tissue is burnt and the garments have a much shorter lifetime.”
IMPORTANCE OF MAINTENANCE
Darrell Redler, marketing director-systems for Pellerin Milnor Corp., says there is validity to the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” when it comes to drying
“Dryers can be long-lasting and reliable equipment as long as seals are maintained, bearings greased, baskets kept free of debris, lint controlled properly, etc.,” he says. “Use maintenance management software, if available, to help maintain and follow the maintenance schedule and document issues, repairs, etc. Also, watch for the first signs of trouble and address issues sooner than later.”
Ware has a few maintenance items that are key to optimal dryer performance. First is to check dryer basket cleanliness.
“Having toured many laundries, we often see dryer baskets blocked—some as much as 70%—with plastic,” he shares. “This limits airflow within the dryer and prevents moisture from exiting the basket through the exhaust.”
Finding plastic in the dryers often starts with a poor sorting process, Ware says, but no laundry will remove 100% of the plastic from sorting, so a routine PM (preventative maintenance) schedule to clean dryer baskets is key.
Next to improve dryer performance is making sure the lint basket or screen is clean and that the lint removal system, whether automated or manual, is functioning.
Finally, Ware points out the importance of burner maintenance. Having the engineering crew clean and fine-tune the burners on a regular basis is key to energy efficiency and dryer throughput.
“Check the gas-to-air mixture, making sure the burner has a clean, ‘blue’ flame to get the most efficient use of the energy provided,” he concludes.
CHECK THE WASHERS
It may seem a bit odd to talk about washers when addressing dryer function, but a properly functioning washer can impact the drying process.
“Generally speaking, it is labor intensive to condition goods in the dryer prior to flatwork ironing,” says Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing for B&C Technologies. “Although budget may not exist for replacement of the washer-extractors in the laundry, it is still an excellent exercise to understand exactly how double handling the goods impacts the productivity of the laundry.”
He says low-speed washers require the laundry operator to “condition” or remove some of the remaining moisture from the low-speed extract in the dryer prior to sending the goods onto the flatwork ironer. This extra operation takes time, requires manpower and floor space, and increases the amount of work in the laundry.
“Slightly lengthening the extraction time on a washer extractor can help in removing more moisture from the linen,” shares Ware. “With an extraction press, it is not only the pressure applied to the linen, but the time the linen is under maximum pressure.”
He goes on to say that increasing the final rinse temperature in a washer or tunnel will help improve extraction and reduce moisture retention, which helps to lower dryer times.
“A hotter load going into the dryer allows less energy to be utilized in the drying of the linen,” he says.
USE A TEAM APPROACH
Finally, Bill Brooks, national sales manager for UniMac, says fine-tuning the drying process is a team approach between the manager, linen supplier and equipment distributor.
“They should work together to identify the perfect moisture level for finishing,” he points out. “From there, the system takes over and removes obstacles such as operator error.”
“By utilizing newer as well as widely available technologies, laundry facilities can improve their operating efficiencies and increase their bottom line,” shares Adcock. “On-premises laundries, as well as commercial laundries, can benefit and dramatically reduce overall costs and create a better laundry operation.”
Miss Part 1 on the effective use of technology, drying formulas? Click HERE to read it.