Laundry operators will tell you that you can outsource the responsibility and hassle, and washing machine manufacturers say theirs is the cost-conscious method where you take control. So what should you do with your dirty linen? Kathy Bowry asks laundry operators and suppliers for their opinions.
One major advantage of outsourcing is that the laundry will pick up dirty linen and return it, clean and professionally ironed. CSR laundry compliance is the laundry's concern, as are laundry running costs and directing the workforce. If you are with a textile rental laundry, there's even less worry as the specification, provision, collection, laundering and return of linens and uniforms is looked after for you; the delivery drivers will even sort those uniforms into individual staff lockers (thanks to the magic of RFID technology - see Fishers' story).
Some operators may decide to do both - have an OPL to deal with towels, for example, while sending bed and restaurant linen to a professional laundry that can cope with the high standard of ironing required by hotels. However, watch out with spa towels. According to expert Richard Neale of LTC Worldwide, which researches laundry and tests processes, traditional laundry emulsifiers do not work so well on a lot of spa oils. He recommends sniffing every load as it comes out of the dryer to see if the wash has worked and residual spa oil is not harbouring bacteria. "It is also the best way of controlling fires that can start by spontaneous combustion of any remaining spa oils on the towel," he warns.
Clean recently unveiled its £15m 'super-laundry', just west of London to service the capital's and South East's hotels. Steve Clarke, chief commercial officer, says: "There are numerous benefits to hotels choosing to rent their linen and outsource laundry management. Hotels don't have to invest in buying and maintaining a large stock of linen, as the entire process is managed by the supplier. With good internal husbandry and careful management of stock levels by the laundry, high-quality linen will always be available."
Clean linen experts work with housekeeping staff to provide training on new products and methods that can increase efficiency. "It's important that we work in partnership with our hotel customers to maintain a two-way dialogue between the operator and account management teams," says Clarke. "This approach ensures communication is fluid, any issues can be addressed promptly and the hotel is benefiting fully from the service provided."
While cost is an important consideration, it's important to realise that the cheapest price isn't necessarily the best deal, he says. "Each business has individual needs and we therefore take a tailored approach with our customers, so we deliver the products and services required to support their operation. Offering a range of thread counts, sizes, styles and weights across three core linen product ranges means that each customer can tailor their bed and bath linen to the needs of their guests."
Johnson Service Group recently acquired textile services companies Zip Textiles, Afonwen and Chester Textiles, significantly increasing its presence in the high-volume hotel linen rental market. The acquisitions have expanded the chain's geographic coverage and is further building its presence in high-volume linen. "We expect further benefits to come from our acquisitions as we complete the integration and investment programme," says JSG chief executive Chris Sander.
Berendsen, too, is expanding with acquisitions across the country. The Reading laundry, acquired from White Knight in 2015, has sophisticated batch processing systems and both Berendsen and JSG, with its Johnson Apparelmaster arm, are keen to stress the hygiene, time and cost benefits of outsourcing workwear management.
However, very much in favour of OPL operations is Electrolux Professional, whose Russell Mayes, segment manager for hotels and consultants, tells The Caterer that this choice will give full control to the operator, both in quality and cost. He argues: "There are serious financial savings to be had by investing in the right equipment, with the latest technology helping to reduce energy and water consumption in the long term.
"Electrolux Professional's Line 5000 washers and dryers contain a built-in Compass Pro interface, which allows operators to streamline their processes. We recognise that different demands are placed on a hotel's laundry at different times of the day, so we've also developed an efficient dosing system, which connects directly to a washing machine's detergent pump and regulates the amount needed to wash each load. In other words, if the machine is only half full, then half as much water and detergent will be used, offering further savings of up to 20% on detergent usage.
"However, not everyone needs a heavy duty solution and many smaller hotels and B&Bs have moved towards options that provide the high capacity needed without taking up too much valuable footprint. Electrolux Professional's myPRO washer and dryer range has been designed to bridge that gap, offering results in half the time of domestic equipment with a lifetime that is three times longer."
Miele Professional prides itself on being able to provide a flexible solution to businesses of all sizes and has recently launched the new "benchmark" range of washing machines. The range is split into two product lines: Performance and Performance Plus. The Performance machines span from 13kg to 18kg with cycle times from just 52 minutes, guaranteeing time savings for busy staff. The Performance range also includes an improved heating system and the ability to specify load sizes, which means less water, energy and detergent are used.
The Performance Plus machines have cycle times from just 45 minutes and a range of programmes. The machines (in the cottons 60Â°C programme) require up to 20% less water and 30% less energy than the previous generation, while also reducing residual moisture to 45% to enable further savings.
The 380-bedroom, 150-year-old Langham hotel in London, which is renowned for its legendary service, approached Miele in the run-up to a refurbishment of its on-premise laundry. "At the Langham we entertain a range of guests, from royalty and dignitaries to celebrities, so it is important that all of our equipment is the best quality to allow us to provide a first-class service," said Gary Oborn, chief engineer at the Langham.
"We chose to invest in Miele Professional as we wanted to guarantee reliable equipment that would last for years and produce exceptional results. They provided a fantastic service and the turnaround time for the installation was so quick. The machines are easy to use and we've already noticed a huge improvement in the end result of laundry processed."
Xeros is attempting, if not to get rid of chemicals altogether, at least to tone down use considerably. The Xeros 25kg washing machine is able to use less water and deliver a gentler wash thanks to polymer beads gently removing soil and stains from fabrics. This has helped hotels save on average more than two million litres of water each year, says the company. It also claims that linen loss is greatly reduced because the system uses less hot water and fewer chemicals, while the polymer technology delivers a gentler wash.
Girbau's new Smart Load technology on its HS Series washer-extractors launched last year offer savings in energy, water and detergent use. Smart Load automatically adjusts water consumption and chemical dosing in accordance with load weight, fabric and chosen wash program to save energy, water and detergent without users needing to do anything.
Along with other UK Hilton hotels, Hilton Cobham, Hilton St George's Park Lane and Hilton London Croydon have taken delivery of new Girbau PBP ironers. The ironer features a 3.2-metre wide cylinder and automatic folding facility and also has a drying function to increase the speed of flatwork processing, in some cases doing away with the need for a dryer.
So what's the verdict - in house or outsource? A spokesperson for Beacon, which works as a purchasing partner for a variety of hospitality businesses, offers this advice: "In terms of the financials, one of our leading linen suppliers, Mitre Linen, acknowledges how the initial setup costs for an in-house solution can be very substantial in certain circumstances, which can be particularly daunting for new builds in particular as this can increase start-up costs significantly [Beacon is also a supplier of Vision textiles owner of the Hilden, Liddell and Whitaker brands].
"On the other hand, outsourcing will spread this initial cost out over a longer period, making financial management easier in the short-term, but could prove to be a more expensive route over time, so it's important to look ahead and evaluate your process in line with your business plan for the year ahead and beyond."
Tagged and tracked
Fishers, the leading commercial laundry and textile rental business across Scotland and north east England, fits all of its top of the range ZHEN bed linen and towels with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. This enables Fishers and its customers to keep track of all textiles - helping hotels to know precisely how much stock they are holding and letting Fishers keep tabs on where all of its RFID tagged laundry is in the washing, delivery and collection cycle. Fishers washes, dries and irons two million pieces of linen every week. Fishers' ZHEN range of bed linen and towels is branded as 'luxury linen with intelligence'.
Rick Shonfeld, director of Tibard, is now providing cleaning services for its uniforms and workwear: "The remit for most front of house staff is that the employer supplies their apron and each staff member supplies his/her own trousers, shirts and shoes. However, as we know, appearance is crucial and many of our customers are now ensuring these items are professionally cleaned and pressed rather than being washed at home. To that end, we are now providing many of them with what is essentially a drycleaning service rather than a traditional rental contract.
"The introduction of new fabrics, such as moleskin and denim, is also a challenge as many of these products are not designed for commercial laundering. We recently introduced our own range of denim aprons and had to search far and wide before we found a product that was suitable. This highlights the fact that operators need to give a great deal of thought to the laundering process when selecting fabrics."
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