Chemicals & Linen Management
As per the railway guidelines, the contractor must ensure a minimum level of whiteness index at all times for all the constituents of the linen kit. The contractor must ensure that used linen as uploaded from the trains, must be washed and made available for train services within 48 hours. Railways too have to make proper assessment of daily requirements of washed linen kits.
The contractor must accordingly ensure enough buffer stock to cater to the requirements of at least two to three days so that the train services is not affected.
There are provisions for penalties, if the service is sub-standard. For example, if during the sampling checks, it is found that hygiene quality is not satisfactory, a penalty of `3 per article can be imposed on the contractor, apart from non-payment of washing charges. G.C. Agrawal, GM-Western Railway avers, “At WR, laundries are being operated by proficient agencies and the cleaning chemicals have been chosen after lab tests by RDSO in Lucknow, to ensure high levels of cleaning and hygiene. The laundries are sanitized daily and Railway inspection staff are deployed with instruments to measure the quality of each stage of
the cleaning and the packing processes.”
Speaking about chemicals and detergents being used, he says, “All cleaning chemicals have been chosen by RDSO after extensive laboratory testing. These include the Diversey and Ecolab brands of cleaning chemicals. Liquid detergents with optical brighter STD, chlorine bleach, liquid neutralizer and alkaline builder are used for bedsheet and pillow cover. Liquid detergents with optical brighter STD liquid emulsifier concentrate STD, chlorine bleach, liquid neutralizer fabric softener concentrate and alkaline builder are used for cleaning the face towels.”
At Indore, “chemicals that are used for linen cleaning are: Clax-2005 (Eco. Star D. Stainer), Clax Universal, Clax Hypo (Sodium hypochloride), Eco Star Oxibright, Clax-CID, Clax Soft and Clax Build (Eco Star Builder),” explains Ajay Thakur, CPIO-Ratlam Division.
Laundries under BOOT model are installed under a public-private partnership (PPP) project. According to IR circular, a minimum workload of 75% of the average daily requirement (calculated on a monthly basis) is the assured off take from the laundry and payments to the contractor for this volume is guaranteed (subject to penalties and other conditions for non-satisfactory performance). The infrastructure and facilities to be provided by the contractor for setting up of the mechanized laundry must have a cushion/ margin to cater to an increase of up to 25% of the estimated workload, during the contract without incurring any additional cost.
For smaller capacity laundries, washer cum extractor, tumbler drier and flatbed ironer/ calendaring machines are approved models and for large capacity, tunnel type washers have been approved.
Having witnessed the success of Chennai based laundry installed under BOOT model with better quality at lower prices, the SR are in the process of installing more laundries at Madurai, Coimbatore, Mangalore, Ernakulam and Thiruvananthapuram. Other zones too have come up with plans to install more laundries.
“Currently, four laundries are operating under BOOT; 15 installations are in process and would be operational by 2016,” says Anil Kumar Saxena, Additional Director General- PR, Indian Railways.
“Stains & dyes at times could create washing issues. However, the mechanized laundry is aptly handling these stains, as clothes are further segregated and sent to the detergent area of the tunnel washer again. Chemical provider Diversey too has made some new customised chemicals, especially for heavily stained clothes, only for Indian Railways,” says Sood.
As far as the technology is concerned, “I would not say that there is a big change awaiting, as the present technology seems sound to tackle all the issues. Having said that, over a period of time, washer extractors might shift to the tunnel technology owing to increasing water scarcity. This is indeed a big issue, as we have already stopped the washing of coaches and do wet mopping instead.”
Technology/chemicals’ formulation cannot alone flout the essentiality of water in various applications including linen cleaning at IR. “Struggling with water scarcity, we are not even able to clean all the trains as required. To deal with this issue, I have recently commissioned a plant which is generating about five lakh litres of water daily from the city drains and railway colony drains at Sholapur. The water is then recycled to use for cleaning purposes,” says Sood.*Data used in the article is based on RTIs filed and Indian Railways’ official statements.