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On-Premises Laundry Cost Analysis

Exploring costs of setting up, running an OPL, from planning to flow, from labor to training

RIPON, Wis. — Anyone who has ever taken a child to an amusement park, planned their daughter’s wedding or attended a major sporting event knows there are multiple additional costs associated with those events.

You thought you knew what the costs were going to be, but suddenly, you find yourself way over budget—and with little you can do to stop it from happening.

But if you’re setting up a new or renovating an existing on-premises laundry (OPL) that doesn’t have to be the case.

Yes, there will be a cost. But there are several things you can do to keep a handle on those costs.

PLANNING YOUR OPERATION

One of the first things you need to do is find a location and determine how much space you’ll need for your on-premises laundry. In general, to determine how much laundry equipment you will need, you first need to determine how many rooms will be in your facility and what type of property you are building or operating.

Take hotels, for example. Economy, mid-market and luxury hotels will all have different sizing requirements for the laundry.

Since about 50,000 of the 59,000 total hotels in North America, or 85%, have 200 rooms or fewer, let’s assume you’re building a mid-market hotel with 100 rooms. With a 14-pound average per room for laundry, you would basically need 130 pounds of wash capacity, or two 65-pound washers.

You would then size your dryers off the washers.

A typical laundry space for that size hotel would be approximately 28 feet by 17 feet. But you need to work with people who layout laundries to confirm what size will work best for your facility.

All major hotel brands already have templates with preset room drawings for laundries; you will want to adapt that to your space.

SETTING UP THE FLOW

Your laundry room should be set up with a soiled side and a clean side, which should allow the laundry to flow efficiently from one step to the next.

You’ll also want to purchase enough folding tables and carts for each side so you’re not cross-contaminating.

Laundry should come in the soiled side, get sorted and treated for spots, and then be loaded into the washers. Once it is done washing, the laundry should be loaded into dryers and moved to the clean side of your facility as the wash is sorted, folded and stored.

As you set up your OPL, you’ll want to have work tables for sorting soiled laundry and other tables for sorting and folding the clean laundry. A linen sink, chemical wash and clean racking storage would also be common equipment.

Again, the quantity of that equipment will depend on the number of rooms.

The chemicals for your OPL will run 8 to 12% of the yearly operating cost of running your facility. In addition, all equipment, including carts and tables, will run another 8 to 12% of the cost of running your laundry.

Most facilities won’t need finishing equipment unless you are running a luxury hotel that finishes its linens. Only about 5% of hotels nationwide have finishing equipment since it takes a lot more time and cost to finish luxury linens, which are not common in the majority of hotels.

But folding machines are another matter, although it usually takes a very high property room count to invest in a towel folder. You would need to use high volumes of towels, such as in a waterpark, or have a high room count to make that investment pay off.

In general, about 12% of properties have a room count that makes the investment worth it in an OPL.

A LOOK AT LABOR

Labor is the highest cost of running an OPL, so you want to make sure you have just enough people to do the job. For laundries with 125 pounds of wash capacity or less, you’d need one full-time employee for every 65 pounds of wash capacity.

If you process 125 pounds or more per wash cycle, you’d want one full-time employee for every 75 pounds.

But part-time, flexible employees are going to be key in keeping your staffing costs in line. Maybe your room capacities are lower during the week so you don’t need as many laundry employees.

But if you cross-train those employees to also clean rooms, change bedding, work the front desk or whatever, you’ll have them available to work in the laundry after the weekends when your room capacity was high.

It’s very difficult to hire laundry attendants right now. Providing your employees with a good workspace, such as where the amount of bending is limited, and offering them flexibility will make for a good work environment and help you in hiring and retaining employees.

TRAINING MAKES THE DIFFERENCE

When you do hire laundry workers, you need to train them on things such as the proper loading of equipment. If someone is doing laundry and loads the washing machines at half or three-quarters capacity, you have to do a lot more loads, which takes more hours, to get the job done.

Proper loading of the washing machine is important. You really want to pack the washer, leaving about 6 inches of space at the top of the basket.

By properly loading the machine, you’ll get the proper mechanical cleaning action. Watch when a load is full and starts turning. You should see the load that is wet dropping from 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock when it is washing in the clockwise rotation.

If it’s not dropping, you’ve loaded it too full and it is just spinning it around. If your basket is not full, you’ll see a lot of space and you’ll see the laundry drop early. That proper drop is what gives you the washboard action that cleans the laundry.

For the hotel manager, the most important thing he or she should be looking at is the throughput that each laundry employee gives them. If you have a full-time person in the laundry for eight hours, you want to make sure that they are producing eight hours of work.

Thankfully, today’s machines allow you to easily measure that. In fact, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. You need to measure how many cycles they run or how many pounds of laundry they wash, etc., so you can decide how to maintain or improve your outputs.

The basic throughput of laundry is determined, in part, by the quality of the equipment. For instance, a high extraction rate in a washing machine will get more water out of towels. And the more you can extract in the washer, the shorter your dry times, and thus, the more cycles you can complete in a shift.

In dryers, moisture sensing will also shorten dry times, again saving you time and allowing you to do more cycles, but also decreasing your electricity and/or gas costs.

So measure your operations and make sure you are getting the most value out of the equipment you invested in since those hidden costs can really save you money by improving throughput. In short, simple things make a difference and add up to big savings.

On-Premises Laundry Cost Analysis

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

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