No matter the manufacturer, the messages are the same. Today's washer extractors are more versatile, cost-efficient, easier to use, and safer. They better be, because everything's more expensive, particularly energy.
Whether it's the smaller, Energy Star-compliant Neptune washers from Maytag, the AutoBalance line from Continental Girbau, or IPSO USA's Smart Spin offering, the goal is to deliver clean linens efficiently, safely and inexpensively. New features like the annealed, stainless steel tumbler cylinder Speed Queen is unveiling enhance performance and reduce the likelihood of linen damage, too.
As for dryers, energy efficiency is the key. In fact, energy efficiency is critical to all facets of the on-premise laundry experience because saving energy means cutting water consumption and reducing labor costs and other expenses.
According to a recent study of a Sheraton hotel in Auckland, New Zealand, washing accounts for 35 percent of the total process energy consumed in a laundry; drying and finishing consume the remaining 65 percent.
Automation is key to increasing energy efficiency, say laundry spokesmen.
Energy costs have escalated dramatically in the past three years, particularly for natural gas. That's why emphasis has shifted to energy conservation and away from the speed of the process.
"In the past, the focus was on how many pounds per hour" could be processed through the laundries," says Jay McDonald, vice president of distributor sales for Speed Queen. "The property was paying for the labor, and the amount of energy that was used was secondary.
"Properties now demand not only very fast machines, but they also have their eye on how energy efficient the machines are."
Ease of use is another trend. "You want to have equipment that's very easy to use," says Leo Yokiel, Maytag's director of marketing. Hospitality laundry workers may not be the most sophisticated, or they may not be familiar with the machines, he suggests.
Equipping washer-extractors with controls that workers can handle without difficulty is essential. "All of our larger machines have microprocessor controls where pushing one button does everything for you," Yokiel says. "It picks the right water level and it will even signal a supply pump to pump in the right amount of detergent and all the additives that would have had to be put in manually."
Maytag manufactures on-premise washers that handle up to 120 pounds. "There are other people in the industry that go into tunnel washers, really big equipment," Yokiel says. "We have equipment that can handle about a 200-room hotel."
Resorts might need large machines that can handle up to 1,000 pounds of laundry per hour. That isn't Maytag's market. It targets its Energy Star-compliant Neptunes to properties that process about 125 pounds an hour.
Maytag also caters to lodging facilities where guests can launder their own clothes. Laundry self-service is a trend.
"We target the small and medium-size hotels and motels, both from the linen side and from the consumer side, where you actually pay to do your own clothes," says Randy Karn, Maytag's director of product management.
Another major concern: safety, the reason all American Dryer Corp. tumblers feature S.A.F.E., the Sensor Activated Fire Extinguishing system.
According to Tony Regan, vice president of sales and marketing for American Dryer, when the S.A.F.E. dryer sensor detects an abnormal rise in temperature, it activates a "water connection that dispenses three to rive gallons of water to extinguish any flames."
Not only does S.A.F.E. put out, the flames, it shuts itself off, which avoids flooding the laundry, Regan says.
Regan notes that ADC was the first company to put a microprocessor on this type of dryer, which also features a "patented autodry," or one-touch, system.
Like Maytag, Continental Girbau stresses soft-mount machines. Auto Balance, the suspension system it has developed, allows the machine to handle exceptional gravitational stress.
"We've bridged the gap between an industrial laundry and what has been identified as commercial laundry," says Joel Jorgensen, Continental Girbau's sales and market development manager. "For years, industrial laundries have looked at labor and operational savings devices that revolve around the performance of the equipment. We have taken what has for years been a hard-mount market and transformed that channel into a high-performance soft-mount market.
"Traditionally, hard-mount machines have been limited in G force because they're bolted to the ground," Jorgensen says, citing Continental Girbau's Pro-Series line of washer-extractors with 18-to 255-lb. dry weight capacity. (G force refers to the amount of energy applied to the load during extraction, or the spin cycle, when moisture is drawn from the linen.)
If the washer allows faster "through-put" and is sized properly, from wash load to tumbler, "you're keeping your labor busier with the task, which is processing soiled linen into finished and folded linen." Through-put-the process of that conversion-should be continuous and without bottlenecks, he says.
If you remove more moisture during extraction, the dryer, or tumbler, has to work less and, consequently, use less energy. "If you're drying a load in half the time," Jorgensen says, "the associated energy to run that dryer can also be cut in half."
BALANCE IS ALL
Like Continental Girbau, IPSO USA, the commercial laundry division of Belgian company LSG, stresses balance. Again, technology is key.
"We developed a technology that allows the computer to sense an out-of-balance load," says Scott Voldbaek, marketing coordinator for IPSO. "One of the biggest equipment killers in commercial washers is an unbalanced load, so when the machine revs up to 600 G force, it could literally throw itself apart." IPSO USA's patented technology is called Smart Spin.
IPSO USA's technology "allows the computer to sense when the machine is out of balance and allows it to adjust the extract speed accordingly," Voldbaek says. "With this technology, we're able to ensure a higher level of extraction, and since centrifugal extraction is the least expensive way to extract moisture from linen, it effectively lowers your utility consumption." Less dryer time means lower utility costs.
IPSO USA manufactures both soft- and hard-mount machines. "With a soft-mount machine, you can get a higher extraction speed," Voldbaek says, "but the washer tends to cost twice as much. Smart Spin technology applies to our hard-mount machine, which is manufactured here, in the United States. Basically, what we've done is bring high-extract speeds to a rigid mount without running the risk of damaging the machine or damaging the foundation."
Certain manufacturers favor soft-mount machines. Says Continental Girbau's Jorgensen: "When you're installing one of these, you move them into place, level them, make the necessary utility connections, and away you go.
"With rigid mounts, you're dependent on an adequate foundation, and you must level, both and grout." And you can't operate the machine until the grout is cured and dried.
ENHANCING CUSTOMER APPEAL
The MicroMaster is Speed Queen's high end washer-extractor. Its electronic controls accommodate up to 99 different programs, allowing laundry workers to select precisely the type of laundry to process.
"The nice thing is that you can modify the cycle so you can take the best care of a load that's all sheets and pillowcases, and you can have a different cycle designed for the best care of towels," says Speed Queen's Jay McDonald. "By being able to fine tune the cycle, you tan maximize the life of your linens without sacrificing quality. You can also, within that fine-tuning, adjust the time of the cycle."
Not only do such controls facilitate the laundry process and cut labor costs, they also enhance customer appeal. And at a lime when retaining your customers, let alone attracting new ones, is more challenging than ever, that counts. A great deal.
"Properties spend a lot of money on their linens and table cloths, and they want to get the longest life out of them," McDonald says, "but for presentation to guests, they want them to be very clean and crisp. I think that, as the hospitality industry has seen occupancies drop, there's even more lotus on taking very special care of guests. Part of that is in the presentation."
The key players in the laundry business include: Maytag Company, www.maytag.com; Continental Girbau, www.cont-girbau.com; American Dryer, www.amdry.com; IPSO USA, www.ipsousa.com; Speed Queen, www.alliancels.com
Wolff, Carlo. "Keeping things clean, safe and cost-effective: today's washer-extractors and dryers ease the laundry load." Lodging Hospitality 59.11 (2003): 50+. InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Web. 31 Oct. 2009.
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