ST. LOUIS — Companies face various challenges in a given year. But for Faultless Healthcare Linen, a Kansas City, Mo.-based healthcare textile laundry company, the challenge of taking on more business was considered a “good problem.”
So much so that the company’s “good problem” led to the opening of a new $12 million, 103,000-square-foot facility in St. Louis.
“We were awarded a significant amount of business from the Barnes-Jewish Christian (BJC) Healthcare System in St. Louis, and we needed to create more capacity to accommodate that business and to be able to continue to grow,” explains Faultless CEO Susan Witcher.
Located at 1615 N. 25th Street, Faultless Linen’s newest facility opened its doors last summer, and has enabled the company to process 17 million pounds of healthcare textiles annually to date, serving 470 customer accounts, the company says.
The company reached out to Gerard O’Neill of American Laundry Systems to design the plant, after having worked with O’Neill on a previous facility.
“Having worked with Gerard on our last plant in 2005, we found him to be an excellent resource,” says Witcher. “His involvement facilitates an efficient process through every phase of the project, from plant design, RFPs and vendor selection, infrastructure, installation, through start-up.”
“The two primary focal points in the design were energy efficiency and production efficiency,” she adds.
Though the new facility has boosted the company’s production capacity, the road getting there was not easily travel.
“When we got all of this new business from BJC, we actually had to take on that business before we got the new plant opened up,” Witcher says.
The company had to employ double shifts at its 45,000-square-foot facility in the Soulard area of St. Louis to accommodate the business acquired from BJC. Once Faultless opened its new facility roughly four miles to the north, it was able to shut down a separate 18,000-square-foot plant in Soulard, and split the BJC business 50-50 between the remaining Soulard plant and the new laundry.
The new plant employs the use of various industry-familiar systems, and bears the same layout of Faultless’ existing facilities, according to Witcher. “In terms of the general design of the workflow, it’s very similar to our other plants. A lot of the systems that we’ve used in our other big plants in St. Louis, we designed into this one.”
For example, the facility utilizes an E-Tech monorail system for sort soiling; Milnor PulseFlow® tunnel (eight 250-pound modules); Chicago Dryer Co. finishing system that includes ironers, feeders and folders; Softrol garment sorting system; and Kemco process water system.
Considering the new facility’s technology and capacity, it’s brought a sense of ease for the staff—there are 110 full-time employees—regarding the overall production, Witcher says.
“From a quality-of-life perspective, everybody’s in a much better place because we’re running both plants seven days a week (through) 10-hour days, so everybody’s back on a normal schedule and (has) more room to move.”
The larger facility has an annual capacity of 43 million pounds, but only 40% is currently being utilized.
To fill its unused capacity, the company’s sales force is continually scoping out prospective clients, Witcher says, and even hosted an open house in early November to ensure that the company acquires new business to be able to take full advantage of its facility.
In addition to energy and production efficiency, one other priority for the company was to ensure the new plant met standards established by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), which examined the facility in early January.
Because Faultless Linen’s other facilities are already HLAC-certified, the company has a “very clean understanding of the processes that are required, and the documentation that’s required,” Witcher says.
Much like the Soulard plant, a wall divides the new facility in two, where one side strictly processes soiled linen, while the other handles clean linen to be shipped out. Soiled linen is sorted into slings by type and washed hygienically with the proper pH. Once properly cleaned, linen is stacked onto clean delivery carts that have been sanitized through an automatic cart washer.
Meeting standards like these, in addition to training employees on proper procedures, are just some of the ways the company is ensuring it meets HLAC’s criteria, according to Witcher.
Achieving the HLAC accreditation is “entirely voluntary,” she notes, but represents an important “stamp of approval.”
“I think it speaks to our customers, and our potential customers, that we are committed to doing things the right way. … From an infection control standpoint, it is becoming increasingly important,” says Witcher, adding that the Association for periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) recommends the practice of laundering surgical attire in an accredited facility.
With the new facility up and running, the company still has many goals in mind, according to Witcher. In addition to awaiting HLAC certification, the company is also pursuing the Hygienically Clean certification from the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA).
With room for the business to grow, Witcher says she feels “excellent” about the facility going into the new year.
“While we’re not at peak productivity and energy efficiency at this point, over the next several months we would expect nothing but continued improvement in the performance of the operation,” she says.