During our Laundry Talkathon, we had an interesting conversation with Tim Bacon, Director, Alliance Laundry Systems - MEA & India about a successful guide to plan the laundry in a much more efficient way. To an outside observer, running a laundry business might seem very simple - taking in the dirty laundry and turning out clean laundry. It’s a simple enough concept but the reality is that commercial laundries have to do a lot more in order to just churn out clean laundry. Mr. Tim Bacon gives us a little more insight into what goes into this efficient way of functioning a laundry.
Key components that go into planning a laundry
The first thing is to separate the different types of laundry. So we have very large scale commercials with continuous batch washers and the tunnel washers. Then we have small to medium sized commercials. Then OPL or on-premise laundry with a facility (hotel, hospital, etc). Finally we have laundromats. Each one has different requirements but I think the location of the laundry is the most important thing to start with. Either the location within a city, transport routes, ease of connectivity or location within the building. The pandemic has obviously brought more focus onto the fact that you ideally don’t want any cross flow of dirty and clean linen and you want to keep that linen flow away from public areas. So the location is a critical thing.
Then there is equipment sizing. We are always constrained with budgets but what we have really seen and is really important at the initial stage is rather be ambitious with the sizing than undersize because there is nothing worse than having to knock down a wall, add machines , add capacity or work on double/triple shifts to try and keep up. So equipment sizing is important.
And then what we find is that the environmental area - not just the outside environment but in terms of planning the laundry to make sure you have the sufficient power, sufficient water, drainage is often overlooked. A commercial laundry can put out a lot of water - where does it go?
And then airflow - airflow is often neglected but generally in a laundry, a tumble dryer consumes the most amount of energy. So whatever you can do to minimize the drying process makes you more efficient and cost effective. So having the right airflow is critical.
These factors, specifically for the MEA region are critical to look at when planning the laundry.
Choosing the machinery
Alliances is the world’s largest producer of machines and I think just in our reign, there are a thousand different types of laundry machines. So choosing the machinery is really a mind boggling choice. Then of course, you have other types of manufacturers. I think the first thing to do is to look at the capacity of the laundry and generally, in terms of per hour, we would say that anything up to 500 kg per hour should be single front loader washing machines. Anything over a ton per hour would be a tunnel washer or a continuous batch washer. Then there is a grey area between 500 and a ton. In this case, we see both sides. If you’ve put a tunnel washer in, it can sit empty and they really need to be fed to make the most. If you’ve got batch washing - single use or front load machines, you are going to end up with 10 of them. The machine choice would then depend on the types of textiles.
Once you’ve determined which machine you would like to opt for, you’ll need to look at the heating. Here some important questions have to be answered - are you going to give the machine hot water? Is the machine going to heat the water in itself?
After this, you decide the machinery based on the process of the linen. Are you going to opt for a lower cost machine (which would be a lower spin machine) or are you going to opt for a slightly higher purchase price but also a higher spin speed (which translates to less water and less tumble drying) at the end? The latter is the better choice. The initial cost may be slightly more but the lifetime cost would be less.
The next thing in choosing the type of machine is the technology available in the machine and that’s not just having a programmable machine. Most machines nowadays are programmable and customers often ask which one uses the lowest amount of water. I say that’s up to the operator. You could use 1 liter if you want. It won’t work very well but the machine can be programmed. But over and above that technology, things like track and trace where you can prove that a certain item was washed at a temperature for a certain time. There are feedback reports on water consumption, energy consumption, etc. That is an important decision for the machine purchases to realize. We often work with a number of hospital and hotel groups to compare properties. They have one property which is their star property and that may be using “x” number of kilos, “x” number of meters, “x” number of kilowatts, and use that figure to compare across other properties in a region. They can quickly identify which ones are working. So technology is important. I think the single biggest thing for us as a machine manufacturer is the total cost of ownership. We go back to that budget cost which is the initial price and as all our colleagues in the laundry business know that over a 10 year lifespan, that purchase price is not that significant when you consider the energy used, the water and labor that’s used. So we try to come up with a total cost of ownership throughout the lifespan. Those are the three things that really need to be considered about the choice of machine - the sizes of the machine, the technology available and the total cost of ownership.
This is an excerpt from an exclusive conversation with Mr. Tim Bacon. To access the full interview and learn more about machinery maintenance and other aspects of laundry planning, please scan the QR code: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zTKzBwVJww&list=PLA3l3yGXDjhSyaGncWPbbs_28s4OsNudp&index=6