KEYSTONE, Colo. — You might not expect a town of 825 permanent residents to have much need for production laundry services, but try adding 230 inches of annual snowfall, 19 ski lifts, 135 ski runs, cat skiing, night skiing, high-speed gondola rides, ice skating, and hockey.
Twenty-five thousand pounds of rooms linen each day adds up pretty quick for Richard Griffin, laundry manager for the Keystone Lodge and Spa.
Griffin, a veteran laundry manager and vice president of the Association for Linen Management, operates a tight but effective production hospitality plant at the Vail Resorts property. Service requirements include three different levels of linen quality serving 400 hotel rooms and 1,600 condo units.
He recently spoke to American Laundry News about the challenges of linen management and distribution at the seasonal resort laundry operation.
“The key to our linen management success is controlling the inventory,” Griffin says. “We provide linen services here at the Keystone Lodge and Spa, but also to a number of smaller properties in Keystone and over the mountain at Breckenridge, as well as for 1,600 condo units in the area.”
Q: What type of linen products do you use?
Griffin: We process the hotels by the batch as NOG (Not Our Goods) type work. Most of their products are very nice 240- and 400-thread-count blend and full cotton flatwork.
We are in the process of upgrading all of our condo linen to 240-thread-count cotton blend flatwork and high-end terry. It is a significant capital commitment. We spent a lot of time detailing linen specifications: weight, thread count, and other quality criteria. Then we requested samples and tested all the proposed linen solutions for months, to see how they would hold up.
Once the final cut came in, it was all down to who wanted to make the sale. The lowest-cost-approved vendor won the business.”
Q: What about production?
Griffin: The heart of our wash aisle is a 10-year-old, sling-loaded, seven-module Milnor tunnel. The staff calls it The Beast. We feed it, and The Beast keeps spitting it out.
The press operates much more efficiently when we under load a bit from the 110-pound rated capacity. Our target weight per module is 95 pounds. Our real-world production is about 2,000 pounds an hour from the tunnel, which translates to an average of 21 transfers per hour.
Managing what goes into the tunnel and in what order is very important. The lead person on the soiled side is the guy feeding the tunnel. He and the finishing-side lead are in constant communication so that the tunnel keeps pushing out the right products to keep downstream in full production.
We track production on the clean side after each break. We have hourly production standards that need to be met. I want the operators to know what is going on without taking all of our time getting bogged down in numbers.
Having dedicated lead supervisors on each side of the plant really helps our operation.
Q: How does operating a tunnel differ from a conventional wash aisle?
Griffin: Tunnels give you a lot more production in less floor space. It streamlines everything. The steady flow of tunnel production provides a consistent volume of goods for clean-side processing.
Tunnel washing also eliminates operator-related issues in the wash aisle. No more restarts, or idle, unloaded machines out of production. You feed the tunnel and it spits it out.
The key to tunnel production is paying attention to what goes in. Managing the batches to avoid “single caking” the dryers, or dryer line overloading, is important in order to maximize productivity. We also don’t start the tunnel until we know that we have enough linen to keep it going all day.
Denver-based Martin Ray Laundry Systems supplied the equipment used at the Keystone Lodge & Spa. President Bill Mann says that the tunnel was a natural solution for Keystone when the resort upgraded the plant 10 years ago.
“There was a mix of washer-extractors that had been added here and there over the years as the resort service base grew,” Mann says. “It got to a point where production requirements and the high cost of water out here made the ROI on a tunnel system the best solution.”