Michigan Co-op Plant Becomes 1st ‘Steamless’ Healthcare Laundry in U.S. (Part 1 of 2)

Bruce Beggs |

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. —When Executive Director Duane Houvener and board members for the West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry (WMSHL) clipped a ceremonial ribbon in late September, they “rededicated” the newly retrofitted plant, reportedly the first fully “steamless” large-scale healthcare laundry in North America.
What does steamless mean? The plant uses two natural gas-fired indirect water heaters rather than a steam boiler to heat water for its production needs. The steamless concept has been utilized in European laundries for several years.
Before the retrofit, WMSHL was processing 28 million pounds a year in a 1970s-era facility that covered 45,000 square feet. Its equipment was outdated, and an antiquated process-water system left it no room for growth, according to American Laundry Systems (ALS), the consultant and mechanical contractor that oversaw the project.
“We had used every possible productive square foot the old facility would allow,” adds Houvener, who started with WMSHL as a soil-room supervisor 11 years ago.
Thirteen original members formed the healthcare cooperative in October 1975, and it now has 26 “full owning facilities,” he says. The laundry operates six days a week, 10 hours a day, to supply common linen to 31 acute care or long-term care facilities and approximately 200 clinic sites. It employs approximately 120 FTEs, including staff.
“Ninety-nine percent of the linen we process on a daily basis is pool linen shared between all the facilities,” Houvener explains. “It doesn’t matter who returns it today, I can process it and ship it back to another member tomorrow for their use. Obviously, part of the co-op’s mission is to take advantage of efficiencies of scale.”
With its new, state-of-the-art equipment and layout, WMSHL is capable of producing 38 million pounds a year, Houvener says. And there is ample space—the facility was expanded to approximately 75,000 square feet—to add more equipment to boost capacity to more than 60 million pounds annually.
“The facility is ready to accept additional equipment to continue to increase poundage so that a decision like this doesn’t have to be made for the next two or three decades,” Houvener says.Please check back Friday, Nov. 12, for Part 2 of this story.

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.


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