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Panel of Experts: Waste Not, Want Not (Part 4 of 4)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“What would you say are the most common errors in laundry processing that lead to higher-than-necessary energy, fuel or water costs?”

Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Sarasota, Fla.

Utilities in general are usually the second-largest item on any laundry’s budget, so any and all energy and utility costs should be scrutinized carefully and thoroughly. The single biggest error we make is taking the proper operation of our plants for granted!

rick roneOne of the largest expenses for laundries is natural gas. Whether it is used for firing hot-water heaters, steam boilers, thermal fluid ironers or dryers, natural gas has been deregulated and can be purchased from suppliers other than your local pipeline. Once you are confident that you are purchasing at the best price, you can concentrate on the day-to-day efficient operation of your plant.

If your dryers are set by time and temperature, is everything working properly? Have you been maintaining your thermostats and sensors? If a load is not completely dry, is your staff leaving the load in for a complete extra cycle?

Is your staff cleaning the lint filters as often as necessary? When was the last time you had all your gas burners checked with a combustion analyzer and recalibrated?

Check with your washroom chemical supplier to see if it has any new products that might let you wash at a lower temperature, thus saving money.

When was the last time you confirmed that your steam traps were working correctly? This item alone can be a significant resource saver.

When you process sheets through your ironer, how close together are they? If they are not almost leading edge to trailing edge, then you are probably running your iron faster than you need to, and therefore at a higher temperature than necessary. This wastes gas and causes additional wear and tear on your equipment.

Not everyone needs nor can afford an efficient tunnel washing system. If your plant is using conventional washers, are all drains sealing correctly? A leaking drain will cost the operator in both time and utility cost.

Are all level controls set and working properly? Quite often, the greater mechanical action available in an open-pocket washer will let you set your water levels to a lower point.

Have you ever watched your drain during high-speed final extract? If your washer is programmed for more time than necessary, you are not being as frugal as you could be. If you see the water cease coming out of the drain in five minutes, there is no reason to continue the extract cycle.

One potentially huge savings may be derived from reducing sewage or water disposal fees that are usually at least three to four times the cost of water acquisition. When towels leave the washroom, they are customarily at about 40% or more in moisture content. Your utility company should not be charging disposal fees on that water because it will be evaporated in your dryer. There is precedent, and you should have no problem requiring your utility supplier to modify the sewage charges.

Labor is the largest line item on almost everyone’s budget, and we all deal with labor issues daily. Utility costs traditionally rank second. Take the time to review your plant’s operation. Apply common sense and you will find many additional cost-saving avenues that are available to you.

Equipment Manufacturing: Chuck Anderson, Ellis Corp. San Diego, Calif.

There are many areas in the laundering process that need to be monitored. Some common errors I see in processing that lead to higher-than-necessary energy, fuel and water costs are:

chuck anderson• Pre-sort — ­ I don’t think there is enough emphasis placed on the importance of a good pre-sort department. Stains, rips or tears can be identified in pre-sort before the article is processed, saving energy, water, chemicals and labor. We routinely see textiles make it all the way through the laundering process, and it is the room attendant who rejects the article.

• Washing — Make sure that your operators are utilizing the proper formula for each classification of textile being processed.

On many occasions I have seen textiles processed on the wrong formula, or different classifications of textiles sharing a formula because nobody took the time to build a classification-specific formula. Processing this way leads to longer-than-necessary formula times or shortened formulas that lead to rewash, both of which waste energy and reduce the linen’s useful life.

Check washers for door-seal leaks, steam leaks, leaking drains, etc. These all lead to increases in energy and water usage.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using a scale in your laundry. Many times, I see the scale has been removed from the laundry, or it is piled with other items from the laundry for use as a storage area. Also, I hear that the operator has been loading the machine for so many years that he/she knows exactly how much to load by look and feel—yeah, right. Under-loading and overloading washers lead to higher processing costs, machinery wear and tear, and increased rewash.

• Drying — Review your dryer times. Most linen is over-dried by several minutes, wasting valuable energy. I would choose a benchmark of, say, 25 minutes and test each classification and document your findings. You can also weigh the textiles before and after drying to get an idea of the pre-dry and post-dry moisture content. I have many customers who utilize summer and winter drying formulas to maximize efficiency.

Make sure that dryer lint collectors are being blown down and cleaned frequently, and that there is adequate make-up air to the dryer burner.

Flatwork — I routinely see operators pulling pieces off the folder due to wrinkles and mis-folds. Make sure your padding is in good order (note: old sheets do not replace padding) and the folder is properly tuned. Reprocessing items run through the flatwork system is one of the biggest wastes of energy and time that I see.

• Clean-Linen Storage — Once linen is processed, make certain that it is immediately wrapped, covered or stored in a contamination-free environment. Too many times, I have seen linen that had to be reprocessed because it was exposed to a nightly blow-down by engineering.

Click here for Part 1.Click here for Part 2.Click here for Part 3.

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