CHICAGO — Anyone who has ever been challenged to shoehorn a functional laundry into a tiny space knows that they can perform such a feat, but the sequel is making that laundry work properly.
There are many operational issues that should be considered and implemented during the planning and design process, not the least of which is matching the washing task with the drying task. If a compact laundry is using a 35-pound washer-extractor, the dryer should be 1.5 times the washer capacity, or +/- 50 pounds.
One of the most wasteful aspects of a compact, on-premise laundry is the mismatching of equipment. Smaller facilities always have smaller loads, therefore smaller machines should be included in the equipment mix.
All equipment choices should be coupled with a half-size machine. That is to say, if the primary production machine size is 50 pounds, then a 15- to 25-pound machine should be included as well. There is nothing more discouraging than to visit a facility and see a 50- or 100-pound washer (or dryer) being used to process no more than 5-10 pounds.
It costs the same to process a smaller load as it does to process a full-size load in any washer and/or dryer, so washing or drying full loads always makes more sense.
Compact laundries are difficult to staff, and the best way to staff such operations is to do some homework. You need to:
- Calculate the maximum daily volume (poundage) that must be processed.
- Determine the daily hours of operation the laundry is to operate.
- Divide the maximum daily production demands by the daily hours of operation.
- Once you determine the hourly production demand, all other decisions should be derived from this one number.
- Determine minimum space requirements by multiplying the hourly production demands by 5 square feet/hourly production demand, which equals the total production square footage needed. (This space is not all that is needed. Other ancillary areas must be added into the calculations. And the 5-square-feet figure doesn’t account for soiled- and clean-linen storage.)
- If the calculations show an hourly production output of 125 pounds per hour, divide that number by 50 pounds to obtain the number of FTEs (full-time equivalent) needed for each hour that the laundry must operate. In this case, the answer is 2.5 staff members.
Compact laundries can be a convenient way to meet the textile demands of a facility. Their economic viability can be debated since audits show them to be more costly due to the smaller volume.
Frequently, the reason for installing a compact laundry has more to do with location and convenience than the cost-savings potential. Where commercial laundry service is not viable, compact laundries can meet the textile needs of an institutional facility.
Some readers will ask where the break-even point is when considering the installation of a compact laundry. In 1990, that point was 750,000 pounds annually. Due to the rising cost of textiles, utilities, labor and employee benefits, the minimum annual volume for considering such an idea is now around 1.5 million pounds per year.
The decision to install and operate a compact laundry is driven by a number of extenuating factors, all of which must be weighed by the facility considering such a venture.