Apart from the chemicals, mechanical action cleans the linen. Shubhram uses both tunnel-washing and barrier-washing techniques. The duration of the washing cycle varies according to the type of linen. A client can monitor the cycle remotely, and change its course in real-time via an app.
Soiled linen is placed in the system through one door, and clean linen removed from another, because the first door will have been contaminated by infected material. The peak capacity of each laundry machine is two tonnes per hour – more than a hospital can manage on its own in an entire day!
Since Shubhram uses the right type and amount of chemical cleaners, less than 3% of all laundry needs rewashing. A camera system detects stains that may not even be visible to the naked eye, while trained experts classify the type of stain for further processing. Various chemical indicators are used to eliminate the stain; hypochlorite is used only as a last resort.
The biggest culprits of staining are the trolleys used to bring soiled laundry to the system. At Shubhram, the same ones collect clean laundry, but only after getting passed through an autoclave.
Drying and Folding
Each batch is dried at high temperatures of over 85 degrees, for up to 45 minutes. An ironing and folding machine at the plant can process 1,600 bedsheets per hour! Lint produced during ironing is collected by lint filters. A scanner detects and rejects pieces that are still stained, or torn.
Packaging and Return
Every item undergoes thermoseal packing in biodegradable plastic. Every pack is automatically labelled with the name of the client for whom it is intended. “Many hospitals undervalue packaging, but they never know when the linen will eventually be used, nor can they guarantee that the staff which handles linen will always have good hand hygiene. By packing linen well, it remains sterile until it reaches the patient.”
A software keeps track of each batch of laundry, how many batches have been delivered to a client and how many are pending. In case some items have been rejected by the system for stains or tears, there is an in-house backup supply to ensure that client never faces any shortfall.
The trucks which bring soiled laundry are disinfected before they receive clean laundry, and deliver it back to hospitals. The turnaround time for all laundry is 24 hours.
At the end of the final rinse cycle, the water is tested for its pH. If it is pH neutral, the linen has been successfully disinfected. Microbiological swab samples are taken to confirm 100% disinfection.
Only RO purified water used, even though it is more expensive. This extends the life of the fabric, as well as the laundry system. “If we cut corners anywhere, we will be the first to be harmed. Everyone at our plant knows this.”
For four hours every day, the whole plant is shut down for deep cleaning. After every use of the machine, fresh water, followed by clean air, is pumped through it. “We’re not just a laundry, we are an industry, a production house.”
The equipment and processes for both washing and drying use 35% less water than traditional washers and dryers. It also recycles at least 50% of the water used in the washing process, and all the water used to purify the air pumped into the plant. “Even if we don’t receive outside water for a month, we can continue operations. ”
The ash filtered out during air purification is used by brick manufacturers. The plant runs partly on environment-friendly solar power.
Rejected linen is donated to NGOs, or used to make pillow covers. All packaging material is bio-degradable; Shubhram only works with those vendors and clients who share the same green credentials.
In just three years of operations, the facility is processing linen from over 40 hospitals and is now entering into hotel linen too. Every process is documented and submitted to the client, who is free to visit the plant at any time. “We go to great lengths to accommodate a client’s specifications. One client insisted that we use double-layered chemical tanks, which are not manufactured in India. So, we cut up a 10,000-litre tank to place a 5,000-litre tank inside it. This protective layer costs more than the tank itself, but we made sure to follow our client’s instructions!”
It is this steadfast commitment to quality that places Shubhram head and shoulders above others in the linen management industry. As it continues to grow, the standards expected of the industry will grow with it, making hospitals clean, sterile and safe spaces they are meant to be.