Arnob Gonchoudhury, Laundry Manager,Taj Lands End, Mumbai, speaks to Vanita Nair about the workings of laundry operations at the hotel and why saving energy is of vital importance in the present scenario.
Laundry in India has yet to come of age. Usage of technologyically advanced machines for operations is yet to be embraced. In India, no one is attempting to install tunnel laundry, even though it is beneficial and reduces the amount of energy and man power required. Very few technical people are in charge of laundry in the country.
At the Taj Lands End, five tonnes of laundry are processed per day with an average of 14,000 pieces. To provide efficient services to all our customers, the laundry operations are on 24/7. Out of the total, 16 hours are devoted to in-house linens from seven in the morning to eleven in the night with guest laundry taken in at any time. We use 80kl to 90kl of water everyday along with 800 units of electricity. Gas is consumed as fuel to power various equipment. Equipment like flat work ironer takes 250kg of steam per hour and that runs into 4000kg per day. One tenth of the total gas consumed is used to produce steam. So for 250kg of steam, 25 SCM of gas are required. The Dryer takes 125kg of steam per hour; we have four dryers so the gas consumption comes to around 200 SCM daily. The other machines use 500 to 600 units of gas, so the total comes around to 1600 to 1700 units daily.
Our laundry processes room linen, f&b linen, uniforms and guest laundry. The room linen comprises around 79% of the total, f&b and uniform constitute 18% and the rest three percent is guest laundry. Each and every laundry item has different processes. The processes change from room linen to towels and from white uniforms to coloured. They have to be sorted before they can be processed. Moreover the stains differ from article to article. A chute system is deployed for collecting room linens. The room linen is collected in the sorting room through the chutes that are placed at every floor. In the sorting room, the linens are sorted into room linens, bath linens, bed sheets, towels, bath robes, duvets, pillow slips etc.
Uniforms also have to be sorted into white and coloured. To efficiently sort the uniforms at the source, special marked baskets are placed where different kind of uniforms are to be deposited. Since different uniforms are made out of different materials, they have to be processed differently too. For e.g., chef coats and trousers are processed differently.
There is a micro process control machine that just requires us to enter the data for different linen; the rest of the process parameters are then handled by the machine. We also have an auto dousing machine from EcoLab; it takes care of the chemical aspect of the laundry process. Since accurate dispensing of chemicals is done through the machine, there is zero amount of wastage, thus adding to the savings. The machine was installed in December 2008 and has helped in dispensing consistent quality in the processed laundry. The auto dousing system allows in keeping track of the chemical usage without any wastage. In this system, only the details like the total load and the type of material has to be filled for appropriate amount of chemical to be dispensed.
The driers have humidity control build in them. This allows presetting the percentage of humidity the machine has to reach and then the machine automatically switches off, thus saving power and steam. In good quality equipment, minimum amount of time will be required to heat water. The rate at which the steam enters the equipment is also important. A seven bar of steam pressure should be available so that the duration required to heat the water is minimised. The more the steam pressure, the faster the water heats up; conserving energy and cost. While selecting a machine, it is necessary to look at all parameters including steam pressure.
Our endeavour to conserve energy and protect the environment has led to us receiving the Green Globe certification
An important factor in laundry operations is good quality water. If the water parameter i.e. the hardness is less than 50 BPM and TDS is below 70, then good quality results can be expected. If these parameters are under control, then the consumption of the chemicals is also lowered as less hard water allows the chemicals to work with ease. Laundry operations require the use of main detergent, builder, neutraliser, softener and bleach. At Taj, two types of bleach – hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach are used. Hydrogen peroxide is used in room and bathroom linen as they require more whiteness. Since the f&b linen have more stains, chlorine bleach is used to treat them. For using hydrogen peroxide high temperature is required but, the main advantage is that it can be used in the main wash without requiring additional wash cycle.
Since water supplied by the BMC is used, the water has 60 to 70 BPM on an average. There is a softening plant at the hotel; and water is measured at least three times a day to ensure consistent quality of the linens. Chemicals are added to reduce the hardness of water, if the hardness is checked regularly it allows to calculate the required quantity of chemicals. A sewage treatment plant is directly connected to the laundry, so that the wastewater flows directly to the plant. The ph levels of the last rinse are checked, as only neutral level water can be sent into the plant.
There is also a weighing scale to weigh the laundry load. A 160kg capacity machine has three pockets each having a capacity of around 53kg. If the load is not equally distributed then the machines will endure wear and tear. Moreover, proper load weight will also help in calculating the amount of chemicals required. There is a flat work ironer that irons and simultaneously folds the linen. There is a programme that allows to get the type of folds required, i.e. single, double or triple fold. Chemical called perchloroethylene is used in dry cleaners, for specific materials. There are even different steam presses that are used to hot press different materials, of uniforms.
Preventive maintenance is a necessity to ensure the longevity of the equipment. We have an AMC with the equipment companies, and they look after the maintenance. The maintenance cycles varies from daily, weekly, fortnightly to monthly and yearly. It is a necessity to ensure that the machines are always in proper working conditions. Using good quality, technologically advanced and well maintained equipment provides with better productivity and also enhances the quality of the linen.
Training also plays a vital part in efficient laundry operations. The employees are trained frequently. The training begins at the time of their induction in the company. It is followed by frequent refresher courses and briefings to keep the employees abreast with new developments. The employees operating the equipment are given special training in handling the machines. A departmental trainer trains the employees on every aspect of the laundry operations. The training is provided at every skill level, from level one to level five. There is also a person in charge of stain removal. Since not all kind of stains can be removed through washing, spot cleaning has to be done. This is a very highly skilled job, as there is a need to have vast knowledge on the different kinds of stains and its proper removal methods.
Laundry is a very important part in the hotel industry as it supplies linens to the guests and takes care of the internal customers through uniforms. If these services are outsourced, the cost of the operations will be more and the desired results will not be delivered. In-house laundry, in spite of being a cost centre, provides with the desired quality. It is an essential expense. It helps in enhancing the image of the hotel.
Energy saving initiatives…
To conserve energy consumption, there was a need to identify the core problems areas where energy was either used more than required or wasted. Previously, the restaurants did not follow schedules for uniform deposition. High pressure stream that used to run machines like dryers, was used for 16 hour operations. The flat work ironer chest had low temperature, taking it longer to heat. The washing cycles were also longer than required. These problems were identified and solutions were applied to eliminate them. The temperature of the flat work ironer was increased from 145ºC to 160ºC. The running time was reduced. The cost of steam was also reduced as a result of the running time going down to 12 hours from 16 hours. A schedule was applied for uniform collection to ensure that full load of uniforms were processed, lowering the energy wastage occurring in running half full machines. Now the uniforms are collected according to; morning, afternoon and nights shifts
A ratio is followed for linen washing; it is 20 litres for per kilogram of linen. Earlier 24 litres were used and now it is down to 19 litres; it is the lowest we can go without affecting the quality of the linen and the whiteness. The machines are operated on full loads with a five percent leeway. Optimum man power is utilised to make sure that the machines do not have to idle and the work is done in much faster and in efficient way. Small machines are used to process guest laundry, as the total amount of the load is less and the timings often erratic. Staffs are trained to conserve energy. If any leaky pipes or faulty valves are seen, then the concerned person has to be intimated with the maintenance being carried out on the spot. These small actions over time help in improving energy efficiency of laundry.
Employing these energy saving methods has yielded terrific results. We now save seven lakhs in water, 12 lakhs in steam and two lakhs in power per annum. This is a continuous process that has to be sustained. At Taj, a lot of emphasis is placed on energy conservation across all the hotels.
In service industry like Hotels, the first and foremost priority is quality. The quality of the service provided cannot be compromised under any situation. Cost control cannot be applied at the cost of quality. After the quality of the end product is ensured, cost savings can be considered.
Value additions to the operations…
The issue of safety is taken very seriously at Taj. Masks and gloves among other protective gears are provided to the staff in contact with soiled linens. While handling chemicals, safety parameters are focused on to avoid work place accidents. Safety data sheets are placed at easily accessible places. This allows the staffs to be well aware about the necessary precautions that have to be taken while performing a specific operation. There are also safety data sheets on different chemicals and the procedures that have to be followed in case of direct contact.
There is a chart that tracks almost every aspect of the operations. The rate of occupancy, the level of water hardness and the rate of departure are included in the chart. The rate of departure is important, as all the linen have to be changed from those rooms increasing the input of laundry. The chart also includes guest satisfaction levels. We aim for maximum percentage of excellent ratings from the guests. There are also ratings of laundry operations from other sister hotels of Taj, allowing for healthy competition in vying for maximum guest satisfaction level.