EVERETT, Wash. — It doesn’t really matter what your business is or the types of loads you are processing—getting a laundry operation up and running can be a challenge.
Decisions you make on equipment will have a lasting impact on the efficiency of the facility well into the future.
Make the wrong call now, and staff may be forced to rack up costly overtime in order to manage the volume of laundry.
Likewise, paying attention solely to purchase price is fraught with its own costly pitfalls.
Oversizing, undersizing, not having the right features and function sets, things can go wrong any number of ways when determining the right equipment mix for your on-premises laundry (OPL).
FIRST THINGS FIRST
I think it’s important to be grounded in a simple concept that can guide decisions on equipment mix before diving into the details and considerations. The price-versus-cost discussion is all about gaining an understanding that the purchase price on equipment is not a one-time cost. We need to look deeper at what the overall cost of ownership is.
Often, the lowest-cost machine ends up costing more to operate over its life than a more expensive model. So, as you embark on either equipping a new laundry or upgrading an existing facility, you need to gain an understanding of the true cost of ownership of the equipment.
For instance, something as simple as super-high G-force extraction can have an enormous impact on the total cost of ownership. Consider that the difference between a 400 G-force machine and a 100 G-force washer can be roughly $1,000 in gas savings per year, based on the significant reduction in drying time.
So, once you begin building that $1,000 per year into the cost of the lower-priced machine, the cost of ownership figure becomes a very real number, one that demands considerable attention.
While a quality distributor will ask a number of questions in helping you zero in on the specific equipment needs for your facility, it’s a good idea to have some of the basics outlined to start. You will want to know the approximate square footage of the space, as well as the utility and power connections available.
If this information isn’t known, a full-service distributor should be able to assist in determining the size and rating of the hookups.
You will also want to have an idea on labor. How big is your laundry staff? (Or how big will it be?) Will you run one shift or multiple shifts?
A LOOK AT HOSPITALITY
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple chart that linked room count to the necessary capacity of laundry equipment? Unfortunately, room count alone won’t deliver an accurate read on equipment needs. We’ll need to examine the property’s service level.
Is it a luxury property or economy? What amenities does the hotel offer? Is there a conference center? Are there on-site food-and-beverage components that will add table linens to process? Is there a pool that will add pool towels? The difference in per-room totals alone between luxury and economy properties can be upward of 4 pounds or more.
Again, we’ll want to know the number of desired shifts the laundry will run. In hospitality, there can be a desire to purchase less equipment and go with larger capacity, which, on the surface, seems to make sense. However, laundry in this sector doesn’t come in all at once. Thus, a laundry can waste time waiting around for enough pieces to complete a full load.
Conversely, with multiple smaller machines, laundry staff can begin processing loads on an ongoing basis, completing the circle: as one load comes in, another is likely hitting the shelf/cart. This keeps staff productive, not waiting around.
Here, again, a count will come into play. We will want to have a bed count for the facility and drive toward a pounds-per-bed figure. Your distributor will ask about the type of facility you operate. Is it assisted living? Memory care?
Memory care carries significantly more laundry to process than an assisted living.
A distributor will want to know if you are processing only the commercial linen or if resident laundry will be part of the equation.
As the incidence rate of cancer among firefighters has grown to startling numbers, new regulations have driven departments to put together a plan for cleaning turnout gear. A 65-pound washer-extractor can accommodate four to six sets of bunker gear.
A distributor will want to know the size of the station, where the laundry will be located, utility hookups, etc. Often, the spaces planned for laundry equipment utilize radiant in-floor heating systems, which can impact the type of washer-extractor that can be installed. They will need this information as well.
It’s important to have a view of the future for your laundry and communicate that to your distributor. For instance, if there is expansion in the future, they can plan to pour the additional washer-extractor foundations and ensure the utility connections are in, which will make adding machines a simple “plug-and-play” task.
In terms of features, I recommend clients focus on the simple things that will help them reduce labor costs. Labor is the biggest expense in running a laundry. So, the focus should be on throughput and processing the most loads during a shift. That starts with the high-G-force extraction mentioned previously. To me, that’s non-negotiable; ultra-high extract speeds drive the efficiency of the laundry.
Moisture sensing on drying tumblers is my next must-have feature. This feature reduces gas consumption by drying to a preset moisture level and stopping the tumbler. Again, it keeps loads moving through the laundry by not adding unnecessary time on drying cycles.
Programmable controls will help eliminate operator error in processing loads. In the long-term care environment, programmable controls combined with laundry management systems that monitor the load selections and water temperatures will become invaluable as regulations change and may someday require documentation of this information.
You don’t need to have all the answers to begin the process of selecting the right equipment for your on-premises laundry, but knowing the basics will get the ball rolling. A quality distributor undoubtedly will have worked with a number of companies in your same business sector and will have a solid baseline to assist in the process of getting the right setup.
I also think it’s important to at least consider the price-versus-cost discussion. For some lower-volume laundry operations, a low-price machine may make the most sense. However, many operations focused on maximizing throughput and reducing operating costs will see considerable ROI by opting for better-featured models. The realized annual savings of ultra-high extract speeds and moisture-sensing tumbler dryers quite often offset the higher purchase prices within a short amount of time.
Finally, chat with your industry peers to see how they have selected equipment and what has worked for them. Armed with this information and an experienced distributor partner, you’ll ensure a successful laundry operation.