MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Hospitality Linen Service (WHLS) has been a growing business since it first opened its doors in 1996.
Keith Scheffler, CLLM, general manager, says that the service was originally designed and built to launder 3 million pounds of soiled hospitality linen annually.
The service quickly grew to 5 million pounds.
By 2016, WHLS was processing 10 million pounds of hospitality linens, including sheets, towels and restaurant linens—and further growth was on the horizon.
The company underwent a $2.3 million equipment expansion, which it opened with a “sheet-cutting” ceremony in December. The expansion will enable the company to double its current capacity.
“At WHLS, we are excited to expand,” says Scheffler. “We were working at capacity with the 10-mod tunnel washer and wanted to improve efficiency in staffing.”
WHLS provides commercial laundry services for Marcus Hotels & Resorts’ Wisconsin properties, as well as for other hotels in the Midwest. Scheffler says the company services 13 customers, all of which are hotels that provide rooms, spas and food-and-beverage services to guests.
“The new equipment, including an additional (tunnel) washer, dryers and finishing lines, will position us to double our capacity over the next five years,” says Tom Mason, senior vice president of Marcus Hotels & Resorts, who oversees WHLS operations.
WHLS was created out of a need to launder linen for three major hotels, Scheffler says.
“It was determined that the best way to do that was to build a central laundry facility in the Milwaukee area,” he says.
The business was founded by Marcus Hotels & Resorts in 1995, and WHLS started processing hospitality goods in 1996. By 2001, the company’s business had outpaced its first location. So, WHLS moved to its current location across from Mitchell International Airport on Milwaukee’s south side.
That move enabled the service to double its 5 million pounds of business to its current 10 million pounds.
The plant has 32,000 square feet of space for its operations. Scheffler says 26,000 square feet is used for production. Engineering and office space takes up the remaining 6,000 square feet.
He says it takes between 32 and 40 associates to process the linens. That personnel total increases or decreases based on the season.
In terms of production equipment, Scheffler says the company had been using a 10-module, 110-pound Lavatec tunnel washer; five Lavatec dryers and towel folders; and two two-roll, 32-inch Lavatec thermal ironers.
The recent equipment expansion added another 10-module, 110-pound Milnor tunnel washer and five Milnor dryers, according to Scheffler. WHLS also added two 60-hp Cleaver-Brooks boilers and replaced its air compressor with two 75-hp Quincy compressors.
The expansion included two two-roll, 48-inch self-contained Jensen thermal fluid ironers, which Scheffler says has helped with one of the company’s bigger challenges.
“Fitted sheets were always a challenge,” he says. “They still are, but with the Jensen spreader, we can now run them through the folder rather than full-dry and hand-fold.”
Another challenge, according to Scheffler, is the fact that WHLS is a customer-owned goods (COG) plant.
“Being a COG plant requires us to turn linen around in 24 hours,” he says. “This is difficult when we don’t have enough of one product to meet our 110-pound requirements for a washload. That means we have to combine products (not customers) and then sort them back out after the washing process. That takes time, and time is not our friend.”
Fortunately, the new equipment is working well for the company.
“So far, all equipment is operating as expected. Production and productivity has increased as we planned,” Scheffler says.
He says WHLS is positioned well for the future. The company is poised to bring on an additional 8 million pounds of business and increase the number of clients it serves, all while keeping a high standard of quality and consistency.
“Many hotels prefer to outsource their laundry services to a third party,” says Mason. “As the only central laundry facility in the area that is owned and operated by a hospitality company, we understand the needs and challenges of the industry.”