OSHKOSH, Wis. — Let’s say your laundry area isn’t producing adequately or efficiently. It’s too small and you, as the laundry manager, are restricted to that space. What do you do?
It’s time to get creative. Ultimately, you want to elevate production per square foot (produce more in a smaller area using less labor).
On-premises and commercial laundries often struggle to meet production throughput goals simply because they lack the space to house equipment. How do these laundries improve production per square foot and simultaneously elevate production per operator hour (PPOH)? In this article, I make a case for compact, soft-mount and automated equipment.
CHOOSING EQUIPMENT: WASHERS & DRYERS
Thankfully, there are great options on the market to help amp production throughput using less floor space. You just need to know what to look for. Consider the following:
1. Soft-Mount Design
Freestanding washers make for simple installation, without bolt-down, and allow for close installation clearances (0.4 inch). By comparison, hard-mount equipment requires reinforced concrete foundations, bolt-down and clearances of up to 18 inches or more.
As the g-force of a hard-mount washer increases, so does its required installation clearances. Whereas soft-mount machines can be located right next to each other for less occupied space and improved workflow. Also, by choosing soft-mount washers, laundries realize other production benefits over hard-mount washers.
Soft-mount washers, depending on the brand, generate up to 400-g-force extract speeds. Hard-mount washers, on the other hand, generally don’t exceed 200 g-force. Or, if they do hit high-speed extract, it’s only for a short duration at the end of the spin cycle. That’s why a soft-mount washer generally removes more moisture during extract—reducing dry time.
This allows laundries to move more laundry through the wash line more quickly. Some soft-mount washers can shorten dry times by up to 50% over hard-mount washers.
Go with soft-mount washers for:
- Close installation clearances of just 0.4 inch.
- Higher g-force extract speeds for more moisture removal.
- Greater production throughput.
2. Compact Footprint with Greater Capacity/Performance
Choose washers and dryers that feature bigger basket capacities, yet smaller footprints. There are models on the market that output considerably more production, using less labor and energy, when compared with other options occupying a larger area.
CHOOSING EQUIPMENT: AUTOMATION
By saving square footage with washers and dryers, a laundry might create the space needed for automation. The most labor-intensive area of any laundry is on the finishing side because it involves folding. By adding automation—feeders, ironers, folders and stackers—laundries significantly decrease labor and operational costs while bolstering throughput. This generates more pounds per operator hour (PPOH).
If you aren’t benchmarking productivity in your laundry now, you should really start. A common benchmarking metric is PPOH. Once employee PPOH is recorded, then you can apply automation to measure the PPOH increase and justify the equipment purchase.
Consider quality, labor and production needs before purchasing any equipment, especially when introducing automation. Do you want a single ironer? An ironer and feeder? Or an all-in-one that feeds, irons, folds, stacks and accumulates? Are you ready to add a towel/blanket folder? Look for automation equipment that’s productive, compact, flexible and installable in a small area with minimal clearances.
Also, keep in mind that automation will save loads on labor costs. Take that monthly labor savings and invest it in automation. The new automated equipment will be paid off in three to five years but will last 15-20 years. Check out these examples.
1. All-in-One (feeds, irons, folds, stacks, accumulates)
Only one operator is required to run most all-in-ones. By eliminating hand-folding and -feeding and investing in an all-in-one, a laundry could eliminate one to four operators, a feeder, ironer and a folding table/station. Plus, it’ll drastically improve production.
An all-in-one machine:
- Processes sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, napkins and tablecloths.
- Lowers labor costs associated with manual folding, feeding and stacking.
- Requires only one operator versus up to five.
- Frees space previously needed for feeder and ironer (if a laundry has those).
- Eliminates folding table/area.
- Produces from 150 pieces to 210 pieces per hour for great gains in PPOH.
Tip: Look for all-in-ones that feature a compact design and return folded and stacked items to the operator at the front of the machine. This will make better use of space.
2. Multi-sort Small-piece Folder (sorts, folds, stacks)
There are two types of automatic dry-work folders: models that automatically sort and those that don’t. Both will quickly fold blankets, bed pads, hand towels, bath towels, bath mats and more. An auto-sort folder, however, offers the added benefit of automatically sorting items as they are fed into the folder. Items are then automatically stacked.
Let’s use the following example to illustrate the impact of towel-folding automation. One person can sort and fold about 120 pieces/towels per hour. By comparison, a standard dry-goods folder automatically folds and stacks 400-600 pieces per hour.
A multi-sort folder:
- Automatically sorts, folds and stacks pieces of varying sizes.
- Requires only one operator versus three to six for hand-folding.
- Slashes labor costs associated with sorting and folding.
- Doesn’t take much space and is relatively inexpensive.
- Reduces the hand-folding area.
- Produces from 650 pieces to 1,000 pieces per hour for great gains in PPOH.
ANALYZING COSTS & SAVINGS
Remember, there are always two costs when buying: The cost of the machine (automation) and the cost of ownership with or without that machine.
The cost of the machine may seem like a lot, but what’s its operational impact? Compare your laundry’s finance payment to operational cost savings. Many times, the difference in labor costs will make up for the equipment payment each month.