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Q&A: Engineering Laundry Engineers (Conclusion)

Level of investment; pros, cons of training current employees

CHICAGO — For years, the laundry and linen services industry has struggled to locate and hire plant engineers.

Over the past few years, it’s become more of a challenge to find mechanics, technicians and full engineers to keep operations running smoothly.

One solution to this growing problem is for laundry operators to train up engineers from within their facilities.

American Laundry News communicated with four laundry professionals involved with the engineering side of the industry to find out how operators can train up their own engineers.

Jeffrey A. Carney is corporate maintenance director for United Hospital Services (UHS) based in Indianapolis.

Shane Ledbetter is senior vice president of operations for NOVO Health Services which makes its headquarters in Atlanta.

Jeremy Jabaay is corporate engineer for Wildman Business Group headquartered in Warsaw, Indiana.

David Griggs serves as general manager for Superior Linen Service’s healthcare division based in Oklahoma and is a columnist at large for American Laundry News.

What types of certifications/licenses would be needed, and how could the laundry help ensure these are achieved?

CARNEY: Community colleges such as Ivy Tech here in Indianapolis have certificate programs in industrial electrical, industrial mechanical and structural welding that are very useful for the industry. 

Laundry operators need to utilize these community colleges as part of their training programs for their engineers as they progress through their training.   

I do plan on purchasing and evaluating what TRSA and TPC Training have developed for an online maintenance tech certificate program. The following is from their website: 

“TRSA has partnered with TPC Training, a leader in industrial training and workforce management solutions, to offer a new online program for maintenance tech positions, offering plants a way to advance the experience and training of their plant maintenance crew without taking them out of the plant.

“The program offers three types of maintenance tech training: Maintenance Tech 1, Maintenance Tech 2 and Maintenance Manager. Each maintenance tech type is broken into two certification levels and can be completed in less than 1 year averaging 2-4 hours per week. With no experience or testing out the complete program from beginner mechanical tech to maintenance manager, could take up to six years to complete.”

LEDBETTER: Machine-specific training certification is probably most helpful. Also, boiler operator licenses make for better and safer boiler operators, and there are several sources that are publicly available. 

Additionally, technical schools can help improve general skills that a talented tech can apply to other aspects of their work.

JABAAY: Certification requirements would vary based on plant type and location. 

Some jurisdictions may require a licensed boiler engineer to oversee the boiler. Laundries with wastewater treatment may require a licensed operator.  

Equipment manufacturers often offer certifications for the maintenance of specific products. These certifications don’t necessarily require college degrees and can usually be achieved with some combination of work experience and classroom time.  

GRIGGS: Most plants have boilers, so most cities or states have a boiler’s license and that usually needs to be done off-site that is either a state or a city license. You could usually go through a vo-tech and get the training for that, or they will supply the reference books so they can learn and then go take the tests.

Boilers and steam are on virtually every machine other than folders. 

Once you get your certificate on that, you can train up quite a bit on every machine because every machine has a different type of steam valve. 

And then the vo-techs, they’ll have more of a lighter electrical side. But we try to farm out, have electricians come in to do any of our major electrical. 

We have people that can do it, but our goal is to have maintenance guys take care of the laundry machinery and then we do try to farm out things we can get hired in by somebody else. 

How much of an investment would this be for the laundry? Is it worth it?

CARNEY: The cost of sending someone to Ivy Tech Community College here in Indianapolis to receive one of these certificates is roughly $3,600 per certificate. I think it is worth sending an engineer if you look at the long term.  

The online maintenance certificate course from TRSA is relatively inexpensive at current pricing. 

If you look at it from the perspective that you have promoted an employee from the laundry ranks, the employee has then progressed through different maintenance classifications by learning on the job. 

The certificate will reinforce his or her knowledge base and show the employee that you are invested in their success. The employee will be loyal to the company because they see the investment that is being made in them. 

LEDBETTER: When organizations commit to a training budget of $5,000 to $10,000, they are committing to employee development. 

It boosts morale by showing technicians they can succeed and improve from a technical standpoint, and it reinforces a positive company culture.

JABAAY: The cost of training for the maintenance and engineering team is a small investment compared to the potential losses involved with having poorly maintained and incorrectly repaired equipment.

GRIGGS: We’ve found that you have to. They’re not trained laundry engineers. 

We’re in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and there’s only one other laundry in Tulsa, and then over here in Springdale, we don’t even try to look for trained laundry technicians. 

We train them in-house because there’s nothing, other than the steam ironer or gas-fired ironer, there’s nothing unique to the laundry business. PLC, pneumatics, hydraulics, those skills are out there. 

Now, them being out there finding them is a little tougher.

Share the pros and cons of training up an engineer.

CARNEY: The pros are that you have an employee who has risen through the ranks; they tend to be loyal to the company. I have employees here who have risen through the ranks and now have 20 to 30 years of experience.  

You will always have a pipeline of people ready to move up into positions without having to source from the outside not knowing what you will get. 

The cons—besides the time involved, I can think of no other con.

LEDBETTER: By far, investing in proper training programs helps the entire department improve and boosts overall productivity and efficiency. 

With the right structure and consistent support from management, allowing departments to train up engineers from within while offering solid training that techs can apply to various parts of their jobs is a win-win for the company and its employees. 

However, if candidates do not have the drive to learn or a solid technical knowledge base from the beginning, the learning curve can be tough. 

Additionally, their success depends greatly on how well-rounded their team is already and how effective the company’s training programs are.


  • You can teach them how you want things done without them bringing bad habits in from other industries.
  • They can be taught on your specific equipment and systems.  
  • When fully trained, they will have an intimate knowledge of your specific plant and systems. All the outside training in the world cannot provide them with that.  
  • They often come from an internal promotion.


  • You may invest a lot of time and money into their training only to have them leave.  
  • It requires an experienced engineer to teach them. Without that, it’s not really an option.
  • It costs time and money.

What else should be considered?

JABAAY: Filling an engineering and maintenance position may take a few tries to get the right one. 

Once the position is filled, expect it to take years of training for them to operate at the top level.

Click HERE to read Part 1 on the challenges of finding engineers today and the feasibility of training current employees. Read about the types of employees to train along with training options in Part 2 HERE.

Engineering Laundry Engineers

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

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