RIPON, Wis. — If you want to save money in your personal life, it’s easy. You can clip coupons, watch for sales or buy store-brand products.

But if you want to save money and improve efficiency in your on-premises laundry (OPL), it’s going to take a more planned and multi-level approach.

LABOR IS THE BIGGEST COST

First, look at the staffing of your OPL since labor is the No. 1 cost of doing laundry. You really want to fluctuate your staffing to the task at hand.

If you’re a hotel that is constantly at 80% occupancy, it’s easy to staff. But if capacity is at 60% during the week and 100% on the weekends, you want to incorporate flex staffing, so workers are cleaning rooms and serving guests during the high-occupancy dates and then doing the higher laundry processing afterward.

A staggered schedule and delayed start are smart so loads are started before the full-time person gets in. Then it’s a matter of throughput—sorting, putting the laundry into the washers, moving it to the dryers and all the other activities in the laundry room.

Your full-time workers should be able to keep the pace with completing 1.5 loads per hour.

LEVERAGE THE EQUIPMENT FEATURES

Some equipment features help to leverage throughput. High G-force washing machines extract more water from the laundry, shortening dryer times and allowing wash and dry times to be similar.

For example, if you have 60 pounds of towels in a low G-force washing machine, you’ll have 50 pounds of water in those towels. But in a high-extract washing machine, those same 60 pounds of towels will only have 31 pounds of water.

Put another way, the first batch of towels will take about 40 minutes to dry while the second will take about 26 minutes. And when you’re doing a lot of laundry, those minutes add up. Removing water in the washer is also less costly than removing it in the dryer.

In addition, spray rinse cycles in your washers help to get all the contaminants out of the loads quickly, saving not only time but also water.

Large and multiple fill valves will also hasten washing machine fill times. You will pay more for larger fill valves, but if your washing machine fills faster, you will get more done in a day.

For example, water will flow much faster through a three-quarter-inch fill valve than a half-inch fill valve. The difference between the two fill rates is about 56%. In other words, you can refill a washing machine with three-quarter-inch valves almost 44% faster.

In dryers, moisture sensing will also shorten dry times. In the past, a lot of dryers just had timers, and most operators would set dryers for the worst-case scenario.

Studies show operators will over dry by an average of eight minutes a cycle when using a timer vs. when the machine just stops when the laundry is dry. That affects how many loads you can get done in a day and doesn’t even consider the extra electricity and/or gas you are using by running your dryers longer than necessary.

TECHNOLOGY MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Equipment can report and measure how often the machines are running during an eight-hour shift vs. how often they’re sitting idle.

Your laundry equipment should be kept running about 75% of the time with loading and unloading causing the machines to be idle the remaining 25% of the day. To be able to measure that run time is important since it tells you if your laundry is operating efficiently.

The machines should also be able to tell you if you are using the right cycles. For example, if you’re a hotel doing towels and linens 90% of the time, your operator/manager should be using the most efficient cycles for those loads.

Training employees how to properly do the laundry is often overlooked. Even simple instructions in your laundry room are helpful. Worded cycle descriptions like “towels” on the control vs. a numbered keypad will also simplify the process and assure the proper cycles are run.

There is a huge turnover rate in laundry workers; they often stay on the job for less than a year. But if they are never trained properly on how to load the machine, then they are likely doing it wrong for the entire year.

If employees are only loading the machines three-quarters full and trying to get 12 loads done each day, then they didn’t produce as much clean laundry as they should have in that day and the cost-per-pound processed is higher than needed.

BARRIERS TO EFFICIENCY

By far, underloading a washing machine is the most common error. A full load should leave enough space at the top so that a football would fit in. By properly loading the machine, you’ll get the proper mechanical cleaning action when the laundry drops. That drop is what gets laundry clean.

It’s also important not to over dry your laundry. As I previously mentioned, studies show that most laundry is overdried by about eight minutes per load. And that has a labor cost—$4,866 for eight minutes per load over one year.

Over drying will also cost you more in utilities. Again assuming that most laundry is overdried about eight minutes, you can cut your utility bill by about $883 per year for a 75-pound dryer, just by not over drying your linens.

Over drying also will cause your linens to degrade faster. If you have textiles made for 100 washes, over drying them by eight minutes per load means you must replace your linens a lot faster.

Most of the damage to linens comes after they are dried. Thus, the sooner you can stop your dryer once the laundry is dry, the more life you can get out of your linens. And that’s important since linen cost is the second-highest cost of running a laundry, behind only employees, at about 13-25% of the total cost.

By over drying, you’re also likely to get more negative customer reviews about poor towel quality, often explained as a coarse or rough feel, even though it isn’t a towel quality issue, but rather a poor laundry process. 

Today’s top washer-extractors usually offer leak detection, either at a certain time of the day or every so many loads.

The technology allows the machine to determine if water is coming in or draining out when it shouldn’t. The machine will give operators an error code on the controller so they know a problem is occurring and thus, can correct the problem.

KEEP EQUIPMENT IN TOP SHAPE

It’s best to follow your equipment’s operating manual about what maintenance items should be done daily, weekly or monthly.

The main daily maintenance task is removing the lint from dryers to maintain good airflow. On washers, the most important maintenance to do is to grease the bearings every 200 operating hours. Again, a good washer will have a pop-up screen that will tell you when to grease the bearings.

Preventative maintenance will keep your laundry room running. Good industrial equipment should last more than 13-15 years if you’re a high-volume laundry running a single shift of 10 loads per day every day. Industrial equipment has a lifecycle almost double of coin laundry design models.

A dryer, depending on the type, requires fresh air because that air, called makeup air, is what is doing the drying. Depending on the number of dryers, you will need a certain square footage of makeup air. Venting is where the dryer blows out the exhaust.

When the venting and make-up air are sized properly according to the install manual, you will have much faster dry times and more throughput. Like washers, a good dryer will provide an error code indicator for airflow errors.

Taking all these things into consideration, you can create 35% savings by properly running your OPL. In a year’s time of operating, those savings at a larger hotel can exceed $40,000.

In other words, you would have to sell an additional 400 room nights per year (at an average cost of $100 per room) to make up for the costs incurred by running your OPL inefficiently.