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Low-Cost Automation, Labor Savings (Conclusion)

“I’m looking for ways to automate some processes in my laundry to reduce labor costs, but we can’t afford major equipment purchases at this time. What recommendations do you have for less expensive automation?”

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Kelly Reynolds, Sea Island Acquisitions, Sea Island, Ga.

Kelly Reynolds

Kelly Reynolds

In order to automate, the first thing you need to do is identify the various processes you have happening.

Every laundry is going to be different in some way; therefore, you will have to look for automation opportunities.

Then, categorize them into simple, complex, remedial or intermittent. The easiest and least-expensive processes to automate are simple and remedial. The more complex the process, the more it will cost to automate.

The processes that are seldom done will just not be cost effective unless the quality of the outcome is crucial.

That brings me to another point: the quality of the process outcome must be addressed. The quality of some processes can only be achieved by non-automated means.

Partial automation can be very useful, such as folding tables with hydraulic cart lifts to allow the linen to continuously spill onto the table as items are folded. These lifts can be made in-house to suit your specific needs and are inexpensive.

Another idea is cart movers that push or pull many carts at once to save time and effort. Many times, a simple conveyor to help move linens from one place to another can free up personnel from hand-moving items and prevent injuries. Conveyors can be very simple, easy and cost-effective to put together.

I have worked at a few laundries and my personal observation is that simpler is better from cost and downtime perspectives.

If you get creative and talk to the people who do the work, they can tell you what automation they will need to do their tasks effectively.

Equipment Manufacturing: Al Adcock, B&C Technologies, Panama City, Fla.

Al Adcock

Al Adcock

If your capital budget won’t allow you to improve your laundry through added automation, there are certainly steps you can take to wring extra efficiency out of your commercial laundry by taking a hard look at your current process.

Like any improvement project, first, we’ll want to take a look at exactly how things are done currently and define and measure these operational steps. For example:

  1. Soiled laundry arrives—how long until it is sorted?
  2. After sorting, how long until it is loaded into a washer?
  3. What is the total cycle time?
  4. How long does the laundry remain in the washer after the program is complete?
  5. How long does the laundry sit in a cart until it is loaded into the dryer or ironer?
  6. After the drying process, how long do the dry goods sit in the dryer?
  7. After the goods are unloaded, how long do these goods sit before they are folded and stored?

Of course, it is likely that your laundry process doesn’t look exactly like this, but the example still stands.

By taking a hard look at your current processing and measuring it, you can begin to see areas for improvement. Many times, these improvements cost very little and rely mainly on management techniques.

However, while watching your process carefully, you may notice that your employees spend a lot of time walking from one area to another for supplies—can these supplies be located closer in order to reduce the number of steps taken?

Is it possible to reduce washer cycle times by more effective sorting (or simply start sorting)? Does the layout of the room lend itself to efficient operation? If not, adjusting the space for more efficient operation will likely cost less than automation.

In short, aiming a critical eye at the operation can yield low-cost but high-impact changes that can benefit your operation now regardless of budgetary restrictions on new equipment purchases.

Manufacturers and their distributors have seen many laundries, some well run, others not so well run, and have the capabilities to help you determine the best course of action to increase the efficiency of your current operation.

Finally, make sure that all your current equipment is in top running order and is up to date on preventative maintenance.

Unplanned maintenance is a leading cause of performance and efficiency problems in your laundry, and simple maintenance like ensuring your dryer’s exhaust duct is clean and free-flowing will save significant time and money through decreased drying time and fuel consumption.

Leaking drain valves and water valves reduce your wash efficiency and drive up your water consumption and therefore your bill. Poor lighting can make it difficult for stains to be seen, driving up rework.

If you’re still having employees load detergents and other chemicals into the washers by hand, do yourself a favor and automate that process, which will greatly reduce mistakes and always provide the correct amount of product for the particular wash cycle.

Pay attention to the details, measure, find the bottlenecks and watch your efficiencies improve and your overhead costs drop, all without taxing your budget.

Miss Part 1 with suggestions from commercial laundry, chemicals supply and consulting services experts? Click HERE to read it!

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].