RICHMOND, Va. — HandCraft Services specializes in medical linen and apparel products and services with plants here and in High Point, North Carolina, plus linen depots in Lanham, Maryland, and Roanoke, Virginia.
The company provides healthcare linen services to medical facilities in seven states—and it’s growing.
HandCraft recently opened a new facility in Wilson, North Carolina, so American Laundry News communicated with Joe McKeown, the company’s chief operating officer, about the new plant, the company’s history and its future.
Handcraft recently worked with ARCO/Murray to build out a laundry in Wilson, North Carolina. Why did you open this new facility?
We opened our new retail medical facility because we reached capacity in our Richmond-based retail medical plant.
What factors went into deciding the location, size, equipment, etc. in Wilson?
It was mostly our customers’ geography. We wanted a location that made it easier to service our current North Carolina retail medical business and also cover the areas where we felt growth was inevitable.
We chose the equipment based on our need to produce roughly the same amount of weekly volume on one shift as we do in our Richmond retail medical plant.
When did the new facility “open for business”? How will it affect Handcraft’s services?
We were open for business in December 2020. The new facility gives us a state-of-the-art presence in both bulk hospital and retail medical spaces.
We feel we have the ultimate competitive edge, as we serve each space out of plants specifically designed for that market.
Describe the operation of the new facility in terms of employees, shifts, equipment, pounds processed, etc.
Our plant operates one shift, five days per week, from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. We currently have about 50 employees.
The plant is equipped with one 110-kilogram, 17-chamber continuous batch washer with eight dryers, along with one open pocket 110-kilogram machine and one 65-pound washer.
On the finishing side, we have an automated garment system designed to sort 3,000 scrubs per hour, along with 10 hanger stations and two garment tunnels producing 1,500 pieces each per hour.
The plant also has two large-piece ironers, along with one small-piece ironer. Additionally, the plant includes a blanket system and six small-piece folders for gowns, towels, knit sheets, underpads, washcloths, etc.
Finally, we have an automated pack-out system specifically designed for our RFID (radio frequency identification) linen inventory and management system.
The plant is equipped with one 200 horsepower boiler, a wastewater heat reclamation system, along with 60- and 25-horsepower air compressors and air dryer.
The soil and clean linens are routed through the plant with an automated rail system.
Can you share a bit more detail on the company’s founding in 1970? What spurred its founding and early growth?
We are a family-owned and -operated business that still values superior customer service and integrity, which is apparent in our soft-touch, proactive customer service.
HandCraft Services was founded by John A. Nichols in 1970. He built a small drycleaning business on the philosophy of always going the extra mile, one customer at a time. HandCraft continues to live out that philosophy today and our family business continues to grow as John’s sons, Keith, Jay, and Jeff, carry the torch forward.
All of our products and services comply with or exceed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The Joint Commission (TJC), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state standards and regulations.
We stay on the leading edge of new technology and set the pace for our industry.
Also, our family-run business is environmentally conscious and community-oriented. In addition to our industry-leading green initiatives, HandCraft supports our community, health systems, numerous charities and much more every year.
You can feel great about the high-tech, soft-touch company you’re working with and what we’re doing globally and locally.
Why does Handcraft service the healthcare market? How does the laundry service such a wide area?
We feel laundries are best suited focusing on one niche. For us, it’s healthcare linen.
Operationally speaking, our plants are very efficient. As a result, we are able to allocate many man-hours to keeping our plants clean and our equipment maintained. This allows us to service more customers at the best price.
However, our focus on customer service is what really allows us to successfully provide what our customers need, as we have a team of 20 customer relations specialists and district managers throughout our territory.
Do you have any certifications? How do you ensure timeliness and quality?
We are in the process of applying for the TRSA Hygienically Clean certification.
Each plant, including the new Wilson facility, employs a team of quality control personnel.
Operating one shift per plant allows us to meticulously plan our transportation efforts. We put a heavy emphasis on delivering the customer everything they need on time, every time.
What challenges has the company faced in recent years, and how have you overcome them?
A major challenge has been growth. We promote from within, hire good people and grow our service team to meet this challenge.
What have been some of the company’s greatest successes? How were those achieved?
Building the two North Carolina plants has been a great success.
We’re relentless in our pursuit to becoming the industry’s low-cost provider—without sacrificing quality or service.
What’s in the future for the company?
We plan on opening a fifth and sixth plant in the future.