Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Bradenton, Fla.
I believe that this greatly depends on the size of laundry that you are running and the capacity that you need to achieve. The other area that must be considered is your engineering/maintenance department.
Automation of any type can be of tremendous benefit if utilized properly. If not, quality, as well as productivity, can suffer greatly. Remember, most often, the more automation is implemented, the fewer trained human eyes are scanning each and every piece for cleanliness and process quality.
Traditionally, other than soil sort, the first machines that would need to be loaded in a commercial laundry would be the washers. Depending on whether you utilize tunnel washing technology or standard washer-extractors, there are varied ways to automate the loading of these machines. If tunnels are utilized, your options are compartmentalized, inclined conveyors or sling loading. Both have their benefits and drawbacks.
Inclined conveyors are quite easy to maintain and do an exceptional job but take up a lot of valuable floor space. Sling or bag loading systems, on the other hand, can be maintenance-intensive for proper use but utilize otherwise unusable space off the floor. If your property is using conventional washer-extractors, the options are somewhat limited. These types of washers can be purchased with either one- or two-way tilt for ease of loading or unloading and therefore could utilize the same sling or bag system.
In general, the same can be said for all the remaining areas in your facility. When properly used, automation can save substantial resources and assist in gaining potentially needed productivity. If you are not properly set up for it, the effects can be devastating. Choose wisely!
Chemicals Supply: David Barbe, U.N.X. Inc., Greenville, N.C.
I was at a laundry once where a used, 600-pound, open-pocket washer was installed beyond the overhead rail system. The plan was to save time by using this big washer to launder a large volume of shop rags, instead of the smaller washers currently being used.
However, after hand-loading six large carts of shop rags, washing them and then unloading all those rags, they found the loading and unloading time exceeded the run time of the formula. It was horrible. The only solution was to extend the rail system to load faster.
With the constraints of the machines you already own, speeding up loading and unloading is sometimes very difficult. Obviously, overhead sling systems and machines that tilt to load and unload make this easy. But, if you are using washers and dryers without the ability to tilt, there are still things you can do.
Look closely at the procedures. Ensure that employees are responding quickly when washers or dryers are finished. If the machines sit for five to 10 minutes before someone starts unloading, that time is gone. Check the end signals to be sure they work, are loud and are programmed; see that employees don’t just silence the signal and leave. Teach them to respond as soon as possible and start unloading.
Make the process as streamlined as possible. Soiled goods should be queued up and ready to be loaded. I’ve seen laundries where the employees start getting the next cart of linen ready and close by whenever they hear a washer start extracting. One employee can move the unloaded goods away while another starts loading. Be sure your employees understand that the priority is to keep the washers and dryers producing goods.
Have enough carts to receive all unloaded goods without waiting. Use carts with spring platforms to minimize bending over to reach goods. Consider modifying your carts to fit as close as possible to the washer’s opening height, with the goods at an easy-to-reach level. Perhaps you can use a platform-type cart, which can enable someone to slide the goods into the washer. Be creative.
If you have small items that are repetitive to handle, consider net bags. Although it affects washing action some, and takes time to load, it sure makes it easier to put goods into and pull them out of the washer. Be sure your washer is programmed to tumble the goods after the extract so it isn’t necessary to peel them from the drum. If the goods are too hot to grab, change the programming.
There is no substitute for studying a difficult problem and trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion with input from textiles and equipment manufacturing representatives.