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Strategies for Incorporating Tech Improvements, Training (Part 1)

“Incorporating new technology into an industrial laundry, like automated sorters or folders, can be a challenge. What strategies can I use to successfully invest in training and tech improvement?”

Equipment Manufacturing: Tom Vanden Heuvel, Kemco Systems, Clearwater, Fla.

Tom Vanden Heuvel
Tom Vanden Heuvel

In the fast-paced world of industrial laundry, incorporating new technologies is crucial to staying competitive. Among the numerous advancements, water recycling equipment stands out as a game-changer, offering significant operating savings and environmental benefits. 

Water recycling has revolutionized the sector by minimizing water consumption and maximizing efficiency. 

Traditional laundry processes involve extensive water usage, leading to exorbitant costs and environmental concerns. By embracing water recycling technology, laundries are significantly reducing their dependence on freshwater resources and reaping substantial financial benefits.

Operators are drastically reducing freshwater intake, leading to lower utility bills, reduced wastewater disposal costs and utility surcharges. The financial impact is especially significant in regions where water scarcity or high water costs prevail. 

Furthermore, water recycling equipment often employs advanced filtration and purification technologies, resulting in better cleaning outcomes and reducing the need for excessive chemical usage. 

This, in turn, minimizes chemical expenses and enhances the lifespan of textile products, reducing replacement costs.

The environmental benefits of water recycling technology cannot be overstated. By reusing and treating water, industrial laundries can significantly reduce their ecological footprint. 

Conserving resources helps alleviate pressure on local water supplies and protects the environment from excessive extraction. Embracing sustainable practices not only benefits the laundry business but also aligns with the growing focus of customers on environmental stewardship at a local level.

Mustering the courage to invest in these types of systems can be difficult because the price tags often scare owners away; however, the returns are similarly substantial and last well beyond simple payback periods.  

Additionally, when compared to recycling equipment deployed 15-20 years ago, the technology is much more intuitive to operate and maintain and the health of the equipment can easily be monitored by the manufacturer. 

While integrating new technology is a critical step toward plant efficiency and competitive advantage, it is equally important to establish regular service and training intervals. These agreements ensure the smooth operation of the equipment over time and provide ongoing support and training for staff, even in the face of operator turnover.

Regular service enables laundries to schedule routine maintenance visits, ensuring the optimal performance of their equipment. Trained technicians can conduct inspections, diagnose potential issues and carry out necessary repairs promptly.

By adhering to scheduled maintenance, plants can prevent unexpected breakdowns, avoid costly downtime and extend the lifespan of their equipment. Additionally, service plans often provide access to a dedicated customer support line, ensuring prompt assistance in case of emergencies or technical queries.

Operator turnover is a common challenge faced by industrial laundries. To maintain operational efficiency, it is crucial to partner with the manufacturer in delivering comprehensive training programs for both existing and new staff members. 

Training plans facilitate knowledge transfer and equip employees with the necessary skills to operate and maintain new equipment effectively. By proactively empowering the workforce, plants can mitigate the risks associated with turnover, ensure consistent operations and maximize their return on investment.

The incorporation of new technologies in laundry presents a remarkable opportunity for cost savings and environmental sustainability. By minimizing water consumption, reducing chemical usage and maximizing operational efficiency, laundries can thrive in a competitive industry while contributing to a greener future. 

However, to unlock the full potential of these technologies, establishing regular service and training agreements is essential. By prioritizing continuity and investing in the expertise of their workforce, laundries can maintain seamless operations, even amidst operator turnover, and fully capitalize on the benefits of water recycling equipment. 

Textile/Uniform Rental: W. Kirby Wagg, Performance Matters, Sarasota, Fla.

W. Kirby Wagg
W. Kirby Wagg

As noted in my prior articles, your employees (team members) are the most important in any decisions that you make each day in your business. 

You must make them feel part of the process if you want to retain them, especially the top performers. Everything you do in your workday is geared toward engaging them and making their day very fulfilling. 

If you do not let them participate in decisions that impact them each day, you will lose them.

As part of your due diligence when investing in training and technology, check out all the relevant suppliers in the industry to make sure that the equipment and/or methods will blend in with your company culture. 

Do not discount a supplier simply because you have not dealt with them in the past; you may be pleasantly surprised at what is available in the market currently. 

Training and tech improvements can be negotiated in the purchase price and keep you up to speed for many years after you have installed the equipment in your plant. Whenever there is a significant improvement in the software, you will benefit from the upgrade if you have discussed this with the supplier in writing.

Reach out to your colleagues in the industry as well as ask the supplier to furnish you with at least three contacts that are currently using the equipment or the process. It will be enlightening to discuss “laundry” with your fellow industry people, and you will get honest answers to your questions. 

I always found that an e-mail with a follow-up phone call works best when discussing any equipment, training and supplier questions. You will be able to “hear” the answers whereas a text or e-mail sometimes does not give you the necessary feedback. 

In my career at Wagg’s Linen & Uniform, I reached out to an industry veteran that was using a new spreader-feeder, and he mentioned that a 4-foot pit in front of the equipment allowed longer sheets (queen and king-size) to shake out as it was taken away by the spreader to be fed into the Ironer. 

This improved efficiency by 20%, which in turn helped us achieve a much better pounds per operator hour (PPOH).

Your safety coordinator (in-house or an outside contractor) is an excellent resource. They will guide you in your decisions to establish a safe working environment for your employees. 

Even if it is not a grave issue, it will show that you are taking the employees’ health and welfare seriously.

Remember, if your employees trust you, they will look after your customers. To me, this is the best strategy.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion with ideas from equipment/supply distribution, hotel/motel resort laundry and consulting services experts.

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