CINCINNATI — The laundry process has greatly changed over the years, from metal washboards and soap flakes to industrial washing machines and liquid detergents. Because larger facilities like hotels and hospitals run their own laundry programs, the commercial laundry industry has exploded.
Industrial laundries also keep quite busy. On a daily basis, an average-sized laundry plant processes anywhere from 19,000 to 64,000 pounds of laundry, according to TRSA, the association for the linen, uniform and facility services industry. As the volume of laundry processed increases, facility managers take on more responsibility and must utilize innovative technology and equipment, like dispensing systems, to keep up with the demand.
Today’s advancements in sensors, computing power and connectivity are making dispensers smarter and delivering additional benefits to laundry facilities. Laundries of all sizes now have the tools to improve textile care, enhance safety and reduce their environmental footprint.
It is important for managers to understand what advanced equipment is already available and to stay informed on upcoming capabilities.
THE EVOLUTION OF DISPENSING SYSTEMS
The first chemical dilution system was a simple unit that screwed onto the end of a faucet. Unfortunately, it was easy to tamper with, was negatively affected by water pressure, and allowed chemical back into the water supply, according to Becky Mollenkamp in her article, The Chemistry of ‘Control,’ published in Sanitary Maintenance magazine.
Advances in washing machine and dispensing technology began in the 1970s, improving motor control, enhancing productivity levels and allowing for greater dosing precision. By the 1990s, most machines incorporated microcomputers that helped control wash times, extract speeds and detergent dispensing, according to Howard Sures, vice president of Esporta Wash Systems.
Today, there’s a diverse range of compact and cost-effective systems for a variety of different-sized on-premises laundries (OPL). The best laundry dispensing systems feature technology to simplify the installation process, reduce maintenance and enhance cleaning results. Some examples include low-voltage machine interfaces, pre-wired systems and auto formula select.
Recent developments have even allowed certain systems to provide accurate chemical and water measurements to ensure optimal cleaning results, reduce rewash rates and improve facility productivity.
The Internet of Things (IoT), a network of connected devices delivering data in real time, has already begun paving a new path for many industries. The number of devices connected to the IoT is expected to grow from the 15.4 billion devices reported in 2015 to 75.4 billion in 2025, according to the white paper, IoT Platforms: Enabling the Internet of Things, by IHS Markit. Chemical dispensing systems in laundry facilities continue to be part of this trend.
IoT enables facility managers to have remote monitoring and control capabilities, making it possible to keep tabs on chemical dispensing, even when they aren’t on-site. Smart dispensers ensure there is always adequate water supply and that chemical doses are delivered precisely, 100% of the time. They also use safety checks to protect equipment, employees and an entire plant.
For example, if a leak arises, managers will receive an alert from the dispenser and can take immediate action. This prevents the leak from persisting, reducing the risk of damage or needless downtime.
Such dispensers also increasingly utilize sensors to check and monitor information such as the temperature of a load or the flow of chemistry, further tightening integration with the washer.
Laundries generally rely on employees or their chemical provider to make chemical, water or machine adjustments, but this time-consuming responsibility can now be controlled by dispensers. IoT tracks production processes and handles automated adjustments to dispense chemical based on feedback from an accurate flow meter. This improves cleaning while reducing costs and waste caused by rewash.
Data from sensors provides unique insight into the laundry process, encouraging managers to take a closer look at key performance indicators, like chemical usage by formula, volume of washes and average projection rate. This valuable information allows facilities to identify errors, reduce their recurrence and improve productivity.
THE FUTURE OF LAUNDRY
Connected dispensers already focus on remote monitoring, reducing downtime and delivering important data on chemical consumption, but this is only the beginning. Knowing what to expect and what to look for in new dispensing equipment will give laundries a competitive advantage. Upcoming advancements from chemical dispensing manufacturers include:
- Automated inventory management. Taking inventory is a tedious task that often results in ordering too much or too little product. If dispensers were able to take on this job, laundries could improve the accuracy of their inventory management. By integrating chemical usage data into enterprise (ERP), laundry management systems or customer relationship management (CRM) software packages, dispensers could detect when a certain amount of chemical usage is below a designated threshold and automatically trigger an order for more chemical.
- Predictive maintenance. When a dispenser or washer requires maintenance, it’s not always noticeable. Unplanned maintenance can result in downtime and costly replacements. However, dispensers may one day be able to provide predictive maintenance on downstream equipment by analyzing data and recommending repairs and upkeep before problems arise.
- Load by load data. Advanced dispensers may be able to log data for every wash for compliance purposes and to provide proof of sanitation. Having access to this data, from the weight to the temperature or pH of each load, will help laundries better manage operations and stay organized.
- Data analysis. With more data comes more responsibility, and an abundance of information may intimidate laundry managers. Chemical dispensing manufacturers will likely expand their services to include assistance in analyzing and interpreting data. They could also provide laundries with consulting and educational programs to help managers and employees react appropriately when an alarm goes off, and instruct them how to analyze and organize data on their own.
BETTER LAUNDRY FOR A BETTER TOMORROW
Chemical dispensing technology has vastly improved from only a few years ago, allowing the laundry industry to improve and grow. In the near future, additional technological advancements will make the laundry process even simpler, safer and more sustainable.
Smart dispensers are transforming the wash process for the better, providing cleaner laundry for a cleaner future. So, if your facility hasn’t yet installed a smart dispenser, what are you waiting for?
Sorting Out the Right Chemical Dispenser, June 13, 2017