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Understanding Material-handling System Needs for Selection (Conclusion)

Details of hospital/military/hotel linen service explored, plus final advice

CHICAGO — For Paul Jewison, vice president of engineering for Healthcare Linen Services Group, parent company of Textile Care Services in Rochester, Minnesota, the key to creating the optimal material-handling system in a laundry plant is to work closely with the vendors that supply carts, rail systems and conveyors to the laundry operation, he shares. 

And that means all parties need to understand, completely, the operation the system is being created for.

“It’s important understand your mix, whether you’re rental or COG (customer-owned goods) or a combination,” says Jewison. “If you’re not able to move the carts efficiently, you will need more space. 

“Sometimes COG plants require that certain carts be returned to one client, and those certain carts have to be placed in certain places until that product is through the system. In other words, you need some floor space during those times.” 

In Part 1, his healthcare/hospitality linen service transportation and a hotel laundry service were examined. In the conclusion, transportation in a hotel/hospital/military service are covered, along with some final advice.

HOSPITAL/MILITARY/HOTEL

Ofelia Almanza, associate plant manager for Puget Sound Laundry Services, based in Kent, Washington, which provides services for hospitals, the military and hotels, says the laundry solely uses carts for its material-handling needs.

“We use a combination of methods, taking advantage of the most lean and efficient way to move linen throughout the building, primarily utilizing carts,” she says. “We’re not fully automated at this time, so no sling system is being used.”

Almanza says Puget Sound’s current material-handling system was created on the basis of both functionality and plant layout.

“We inherited an existing building (non-build to suit),” she shares. “We have fined-tuned the system based on best practices, while understanding limitations due to facility.

“Some of our challenges with in-plant transportation is due to structure issues with building. We would prefer not to have certain bottleneck areas and/or other issues. We have done an extremely good job in working around. This has included some adjustment to equipment layout to ensure a better flow for linen transportation. In some cases, more automated equipment has been put in place to eliminate extra carts, tables and other.”

While Almanza says Puget Sound has moved away from an earlier version of rail system due to the layout of building and its increased volume, it will look into this area if a new design is put forth and/or a new facility is acquired.

“Several factors need to be considered, including durability, plant layout, customers servicing and of course cost,” Almanza points out. “For us, material composition, maintenance, size and shape for equipment, and ergo dynamics all are important.

“It’s important to know any choke points, facility issues, cost constraints and potential volume, just to name a few.”

FINAL ADVICE

Jewison’s key piece of advice to any laundry/linen service considering adding/updating material-handling systems is to ensure that any breakdown will not stop the plant, along with keeping things serviceable. 

“Remember, if it’s bolted in and running, at some point it will need to be repaired or have maintenance on it,” he points out. “If the installation prevents getting access to it, you will have problems in the future.  

Jones encourages any laundry looking to install a new system or to modify its existing system to attend any trade shows, especially the Clean Show, as multiple vendors are readily available in one spot. 

“Also, network with other laundry operators and partner with best practices and suggestions on equipment,” he says. “I have learned from over 25 years in the laundry business that most laundry operators have faced the same challenges or had the same questions you may have and will be willing provide some help if asked.”

Almanza’s key piece of advice when exploring material-handling systems: don’t rush. 

“Get a real understanding of what your current and future needs are,” she says. “Don’t change just to change. Make sure to spend countless hours on the floor understanding all the production needs. Be prepared to map out several potential versions of schematic. It will change. 

“Do your due diligence and don’t rely on just one vendor. The industry is going through rapid changes relating to technology and automation. Any system should be adaptable to change.”

In the final analysis, Jewison returns the maintenance and durability when selecting material-handling systems.

“The most important thing is how durable and how much work it will take to maintain the material handling system once it’s installed,” he shares. “Everything electrical and mechanical will require maintenance at some point, so don’t be surprised. Investigate and understand before you buy.”

Miss Part 1 with a look at transportation in a healthcare/hospitality linen service and a hotel laundry? Click HERE to read it.