How to Save Money in Unexpected Places: The Laundry Room
By Steve Bowie General Manager On-Premises Laundry, Alliance Laundry Systems | May 10, 2020
As you're aware, overseeing and operating a hotel is a complex job with many responsibilities. One of your main goals for your business as a hotel executive is to generate revenue. Part of the equation to generate revenue, in the most general sense, includes the need to reduce costs and increase savings.
A good first step to take in order to reduce costs is to review what you're spending, where you're spending it and why. For example, are you using cost-saving machinery? LED lights? Reducing waste? Limiting new employee training time by lowering your staff turnover rates?
One place you may not think to look when trying to cut costs, though, is through your hotel's laundry systems. The types of machines now available are not only high-tech, but also more environmentally friendly than ever before.
In the past, laundry machines were typically thought of as back-of-house operations that mostly eat up expenses. But what happens when your guest turns down their sheets and they see soil spots? Or what if they use the shower and start to dry off, but are met with a coarse towel that irritates their skin?
They probably won't be staying with you again, and even worse, they might tell their friends about the unsavory experience and caution them from staying with you in the future. This can lead to a direct loss in revenue. Frequently replacing your hotel's linens because they're stained or thinning out due to your sub-par laundry machines can have an impact on revenue, too. Either way, you're losing money when you don't need to. This is where a high-tech, energy efficient laundry system can help reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction with exceptional quality linens.
Before embarking on a review of technologies available, it's important to understand the difference between price and cost. Price is what you pay for a machine. Cost is what you pay in operational dollars over the machine's lifetime. Often, the lowest price machine ends up costing your operation way more over its life than the seemingly more "expensive" machine. Cost-saving features and functionalities pay dividends well beyond their higher price tag
Making the Switch To High-Tech Machines
While just 8 to 12 percent of laundry operation costs come from the initial equipment purchase, a staggering 87 percent of the total laundry budget for a hotel consists of operating costs: water, chemical, electric, gas and labor.
Hotels embracing green technologies to reduce costs should look to their laundry operation first. A laundry system that includes technology to monitor how the equipment is functioning throughout the life of a wash and dry cycle can make a big difference when trying to cut costs around machine operation.
Since laundry is one of the areas of hotel operation that uses the most resources, saving water, electricity and gas can make a big difference. Getting a set of machines that include an oversight management system can help managers keep an eye on the use of utilities and operations, while still cutting the costs of resources and delivering exceptional results your guests will feel good about. In addition to a management system, upgrading your machines to use spray rinsing technology and optimal drying technology helps you save the planet and save your business money by reducing water use and electricity/gas use from over-drying.
How Does Spray Rinsing Work?
A traditional washing machine fills the unit with water to wash, then that water is simply drained and discarded. Look for machines that leverage spray rinsing systems. This type of system limits water use, and, by association, operating costs, similar to the difference between taking a shower vs. taking a bath.
Spray rinse technology helps your machines consume as much as 39 percent less water than a machine that uses a bath rinse technology system. It also reduces the time per cycle to increase throughput by up to 12 percent, which can lead to increased productivity. These factors help lead to a savings of up to $2,110 a year in utilities.
Having a machine that uses spray rinsing technology can save your hotel thousands per year in overall laundry operational costs. Of course, the major benefit is a better rinse, which leads to better quality finished look and feel, which means a better guest experience (and hopefully, guest reviews).
Another culprit of wasted time, money and labor is over-drying.
Over-drying protection technology prevents machine over-drying to keep linens at their optimal plushness and thread count. This type of technology can significantly extend the life of your hotel's linens, which will, over time, save you money. The over-dry protection technology also limits utilities costs, as the machine won't be running any longer than necessary. The secret behind this type of feature is moisture-sensing technology, which helps achieve optimal dryness without over-drying.
Another common component included in over-drying prevention technology is step drying, which enables the user to use high heat until the load is half dry, then lowers the temperature for the remainder of the cycle until it reaches the specified dryness level – a great way to reduce utility consumption.
By eliminating over-drying, your hotel will reduce utility costs, decrease labor expenses and reduce fiber loss in linens, which dramatically increases their useful life.
The Cost of Over-Drying: Utilities And Labor
- For a dryer with a capacity of 55 pounds: 6 minutes of over-drying costs, on average, $450 over the course of a year; 8 minutes of over-drying costs $600 over the course of a year; and 10 minutes of over-drying costs $749 over the course of a year.
- For a dryer with a capacity of 120 pounds: 6 minutes of over-drying could cost $1,205 over the course of a year; 8 minutes of over-drying costs $1,606 over the course of a year; and 10 minutes of over-drying upward of $2,008 over the course of a year.
Indirectly, there are hidden labor costs associated with over-drying. If staff members are idle while waiting for a load to fully dry, there are missed opportunities where they could be folding or storing laundry or completing other laundry-related tasks. Determining when a load is dry can become a guessing game, and often those in charge of doing the laundry will wait much longer than needed to begin the aftercare of laundering linens.
Annually, the approximate cost of labor associated with over-drying is as follows: 6 minutes of over-drying costs on average $3,650 annually; 8 minutes costs $4,866 annually; and 10 minutes costs $6,083 annually.
Cloud-Based Machine Management and Oversight
Just as you expect progress reports, data gathering and intelligent predictions from your staff regarding employee management, budgets and staff performance, there are systems today that can provide similar information about your laundry machines by networking your washers and dryers for complete cloud-based oversight. This technology can save hotel general managers money in a number of unexpected ways.
One popular component of a cloud-based management system is its data archiving tool that gives snapshots of data and ideas where you can improve efficiency and reduce overall operation costs. A cloud-based system can monitor one machine, all machines in the laundry room or even multiple machines in laundry rooms across a large organization, such as a hotel chain across North America.
It can also provide visibility to performance indicators that are key to determine overhead costs, including labor and utility costs. Because 87 percent of the laundry budget is operating costs, making even a small adjustment like moving to a cloud-based management system can result in noticeable savings.
In addition to being able to manage your entire laundry operation from any internet-connected device, service-related data can help manage equipment costs and ensure machine longevity because you'll receive alerts, diagnostics and troubleshooting ideas to help you quickly self-diagnose problems in real time to avoid maintenance costs.
You can have a system that provides all the data you could imagine, but it won't do you any good if you can't understand it. Hoteliers need a setup that is easy to use and gives quick access to easy-to-understand key data. They should look for systems that have a simple dashboard that offers at-a-glance views of things like labor and utility costs. Real-time views also help better equip managers to head off any small issues before they become more major problems – not the least of which is poor quality that impacts the guest experience. With cloud-based functionality, the information needed to determine efficiency and the cost-per-pound of laundry processed can be accessed anywhere.
Above all, data is one of the most valuable components of business because it can show areas of strength, weakness and opportunities for improvement. Just like any part of your business, your laundry operations should and can run smoothly, while still generating a profit without much oversight. When you give your employees the right tools to do their job, everyone succeeds.
Hotel executives should remember that by taking advantage of emerging technologies to streamline processes, enhance current customer offerings, increase efficiencies and improve communications, everyone from the front of house to the back – yes, even in the laundry room – wins. But most importantly, this focus on improved efficiency and commitment to technology helps ensure a great guest experience. Because at the end of the day, guest room linens are perhaps the most important part of their stay at your property.
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