Rashmi Karanjekar speaks to Denzil D’Souza, the Laundry Manager at Armani Hotel Dubai about his experience of managing an On Premises Laundry (OPL) for the luxury 160 rooms & 144 residence key hotel, the sustainable initiatives and the challenges he has come across during his 22 years of work experience in the department across various countries in the Middle East and beyond. Excerpts from the interview…
Tell us about your work experience in the laundry department. How has the journey been so far?
In the 22 years of my career, I have worked in the laundry department of many renowned hotel groups across various regions. I started my career as a laundry valet and rose through the ranks to my current role, as the Laundry Manager at Armani Hotel, now completing a decade. I did my diploma course in textile engineering and worked in a garment company for a few months and then immediately decided to change my career path. When a relative spoke about the scope and opportunities the laundry market had to offer, I made up my mind to pursue it as my next career move. He then referred me for a job in the laundry department of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai, as a trainee, and the rest, they say, is history.
My diploma in textile engineering gave me an upper hand when it came to an understanding of linen. Though I started as a ground level staff soon I was promoted as a supervisor in a year and later to assistant manager. After a few years of undergoing persistent training and enhancing my skills in the industry I ended up becoming the laundry manager. In the Middle East I first moved to Kuwait for a year and then later to Bahrain before joining the Jumeirah Group Dubai. Nine years later I got an opportunity to join the Ritz Carlton Doha where I worked for three years before moving back to Dubai to join the pre-opening of Address Downtown hotel. Within the next two years I joined the Armani Hotel as a Laundry Manager and recently celebrated the 10th year of my service.
In my department we are a staff of 21 members including myself and we also outsource additional staff from the manpower supply companies. This is because we are also serving our sister properties including Address Skyview, Vida Downtown and Vida Creek Harbour to make sure we utilise the facility well.
What are the technologies that have revolutionised the laundry services in hotels?
In the past the laundry department was running manually and required a large amount of manpower to wash, fold and iron. Currently, technology is playing an important role to enhance the laundry process thus making the job easier along with reducing the labour cost. For instance, earlier we were manually adding chemicals to the washer but now we have an auto-dosing system which also helps in reducing any wastage.
We have started using the low temperature chemicals which enables us to treat the laundry with just 45 degree temperature and even provides better results. This treatment in turn increases the shelf life of the linen as washing linen with low temp solutions also help avoid the usage of bleach or any brightening agent which is not considered safe for the environment. Also, the introduction of tunnel washer in the Address Fountain View (sister property) will make the job easier in terms of time and utility usage. With regard to dry-cleaning, we now have hydrogen carbon solvent which is eco-friendly and does not affect garments. Also, the powdered chemicals are replaced with liquid eco-friendly options.
Is your department in line with IoT?
We have a system called ‘Sacane’ which is an app to track our laundry queries. This app enables us to go paperless. It sends me a notification (with details like room number) the moment the guests make any laundry request from the hotel rooms or the tenant staying at Burj Khalifa. We then manually fill the information about the item details and forward it as an email to the guest for verifying before we proceed. In case there is any defect we also have an option to click a picture and upload to show the guest the defect on the system. Besides, by next year we are also considering to implant microchips into the linen that will reveal the wash history of the linen at our property. Each chip contains a QR code that can be scanned by a cell phone or a device.
With many hotels outsourcing their laundry (linen & furnishing) what are the factors that have led the hospitality industry to outsource the laundry services? Can you explain?
With the market volatility most hotels are going for outsourced linens and furniture to reduce expenses and avoid the long process of procurement of fixed assets. On the other hand the benefit to have an OPL is reducing the turnaround time. Usually any external/commercial laundry takes 24 hours to turnaround the linen and if you have any urgent requirement to get the laundry within the next 12 hours then they charge extra. Plus there are chances of the linen getting misplaced or damaged in this process. When you do the laundry in-house you can keep a check on the stains etc.
What are the sustainable initiatives taken by your laundry department?
We always recycle our hangers, and try and maximise the laundry operation during the day with the closing time at 12 midnight to reduce utility cost expenses. Also, the chemicals (which use low temperature) have reduced the washing cycle from 1 hour to 40 minutes which in turn helps to save water and steam.
Are there any training programmes for laundry staff working in the hospitality segment? If yes, can you brief us?
We have a supervisor who is appointed as trainer and his duty is to execute monthly training to all the staff. We keep attending workshops and training courses organised by our suppliers. In fact, I came across the low temp chemicals during my visit to an exhibition in Germany five years back where I had gone to study about the latest equipment available and the chemical solutions.
What are the challenges faced by the laundry managers in a hotel?
We use types of fabric, which as per the care label instructions, require specific processes (i.e. no washing, no dry-cleaning) making it hard to provide optimal service and avoid damaging the garment. Another challenge is the turnaround of linen within a short period of time.