Panel of Experts

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Overnight Linen-staging Practices

“How should I stage unfinished goods at the end of the day? Can I leave unwashed goods in a washer overnight? How about keeping washed goods in the washer or in a dryer? Does market or textile type make a difference in staging?”

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Vistana Signature Experiences, Orlando, Fla.

From a smaller-laundry standpoint, linen storage at the end of the day is always a challenge for us.

We operate two shifts per day with the second shift processing linen primarily for the next morning to build the day’s delivery carts. We have a period of time between midnight and 6 a.m. where the laundry is not operational. 

In a perfect world, all linen would be neatly stacked and ready to go out to the linen rooms in linen carts, but we do not have the space or labor available. We will wash and dry the linen and then store the unfolded linen before it has been put through the towel folders in linen carts at night so the morning shift can run the towels. 

There is only a skeleton team at night used to sort and wash linen. This allows the first shift to begin running the terry right from the beginning of the shift, and then the wash deck team during the day continues washing and drying to keep the towel-fold machines operational.

For our purposes, since we have all conventional washers, we will load the washers at the end of second shift with linen ready for the morning shift to start, and we have a set process of what should be loaded into those washers based on the resort needs. If you leave clean, wet linen in a washer, you must be careful not to let the linen go bad. It should be processed within one day.

Another caution is leaving linen in a dryer overnight, especially if you do not properly have a good cool-down process. Combustion can take place if you are not extremely careful with unattended linen. I have personally seen once in another laundry, firsthand, how quickly this can happen, and fortunately in that case, the sprinkler system saved the laundry.

Every laundry has different challenges and production requirements, but one should always make sure it is not sacrificing potential safety or cleanliness of linen issues for the sake of production. 

Healthcare Laundry: Richard Engler, John Peter Smith Health Network, Fort Worth, Texas

The staging of goods is a key item in accomplishing a good start-up and a strong operating day.

There are so many variables in what we do and how we accomplish our duties that hard-and-fast rules will often be subject to operational needs at any given time. But, assuming all things are equal, you can plan for your preferred options.

One option is to stage your highest-volume items at the front line to allow for a strong start and perhaps an earlier finish. You can consider staging the most labor-intensive items in the front and starting your team off working with these items. This could help reduce the chance for troubles later in the day interfering with getting these items processed.  

You can stage based on your shipping order and run what goes out first at the start. Running the items that process quickly or slowly at the start, like quick-drying items or heavyweight full dry, can give your operation a fast or more measured start, and that pace could set the entire team’s tempo for the day.

The choices are only limited by the manager’s vision and the physical barriers of the operation. Since the goods mix and facility configurations are so varied from program to program, I would encourage you to experiment and trial various options and combinations to determine what works best for your program. 

Remember that as your operation continues to evolve over time, periodic review or revision will keep the “wheels” well balanced on the operation.

Healthcare operations do not typically leave linens in conventional washer-extractors or tunnel washers overnight. This is done to reduce the potential for pathogenic microorganisms to colonize the linen and/or inside of the washer.

I have seen operations that stage unwashed soiled in the washers overnight to aid a quick start in the morning, but I have not practiced this myself as I do not have confidence that the proper daily cleaning of the washer will be accomplished sometime later in the run.

Healthcare programs also do not plan to leave wet or dry goods in dryers overnight both for the potential for growth of pathogens as well as for fire/safety concerns.

Stage your product for optimal productivity and ease of processing for the facility. Product must be available when needed and should not interfere with what needs to be processed and delivered.

Equipment Manufacturing: Keith Ware, Lavatec Laundry Technology Inc., Beacon Falls, Conn.

I see no problem with items left overnight in the washer, since this rarely affects the quality of the items, unless it is 100% polyester. Then, depending on local conditions, they may dry out too much overnight and cause wrinkles in the product that will not iron out without enough moisture in the fibers.

I would not leave items overnight in the dryer for one reason: Unless you are certain of the line temperature after drying and cool down, there is always the chance the load is too hot, and spontaneous combustion can occur if the load is not properly cooled down.

If the load is too hot, it will also help set wrinkles in the product as it cools, and to release that wrinkle, the linen needs to be brought up to temperature to release the wrinkle in the fabric.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].