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Mass Production for Local Service

More like manufacturing plants than drycleaners or coin-operated laundries, commercial textile services facilities impress with their economies of scale and material handling largesse

Laundry Plants and Service Centers

Most of our industry’s laundry plants are at least 30,000 square feet and contain separate large areas for receiving (goods returned from customers to be laundered), washing and drying, ironing and folding, shipping (clean goods to customers), storage, utilities and administration. Such a laundry usually does enough work to fill 10 to 30 trucks per day with clean goods and these vehicles are dispersed to serve customers within a 100-mile radius (sometimes more) of the plant. Many of these facilities are far larger and have enough production capacity to fill three times as many truck routes and serve areas beyond the initial radius. Thus they establish small service centers (also called depots or branches) beyond the fringes of the plant’s service area (perhaps 200 miles from the plant) that expand the business by serving as warehouses to accommodate customers within another 100 miles or so. Clean goods are shipped in tractor-trailers from the plant to the service center and stored for only a short time before delivery. Staff in these locations usually consists only of sales and service personnel as opposed to the full complement of these professionals plus administration and production associates at a plant.

Just How Much Work Is There?

To help you relate to the volume of laundry work undertaken by textile rental services plants, suppose you are part of a family of four, which typically generates about 40 pounds of laundry per week or 2,080 pounds per year. About half of this amount of work would fill three 400-pound-capacity high-speed washers and tandem dryers and would be washed and dried in 20 minutes. The other half would then be completed in the following 20 minutes. The equivalent of a full year of your home laundry takes less than an hour! Extrapolating from U.S. Census data and our own member research TRSA estimates that the commercial U.S. textile services industry processes around 15 billion pounds of laundry annually. Nearly half (about 7 billion) is work for hospitality businesses, primarily restaurants and hotels; another 5 billion covers industrial accounts such as manufacturers, auto-related businesses, retailers and wholesalers; the remaining 3 billion is for healthcare facilities. Most commercial textile services plants run five to six days a week, some seven, or on multiple shifts. On a daily basis per average-size TRSA laundry plant, a facility focused on healthcare business would process 40,000 pounds; hospitality, 64,000; industrial, 19,000.

Greater Efficiency, Better for the Planet

Speed and capacity translates to efficiencies in the use of utilities and chemistry. TRSA’s LaundryESP program captures members’ performance data in these respects and demonstrates their commitment to sustainable operations.  Having collected results from member plants since 1999, Laundry ESP has proven that commercial laundry work continues to become more efficient through the industry’s adoption of emerging technologies such as recycling of water, recapturing of heat and overall reductions in energy usage. This increased efficiency translates to a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions per pound of laundry, the equivalent of taking 300,000 cars off the road. Because of a similar 18% decrease in energy consumption, 6.2 trillion BTUs have not been needed, akin to powering 450,000 homes for a year.  And a 28% reduction in water translates to 26 million gallons, same as the domestic supply needed for 700,000 people a year.

Commitment to Workplace Excellence

A similar reporting program tracks the industry’s workplace safety enhancements. The annual SafeTRSA survey highlights areas of emphasis and has led to TRSA’s development of new resources for educating, training and protecting employees including publications, online resources, videos and more. Since its inception in 2005, the SafeTRSA program has directly led to the establishment of hundreds of safety initiatives that have resulted in a 40%+ reduction in reportable injuries, illnesses and fatalities. This is a prominent example of how TRSA offers resources to the industry to improve best management practices and enhance employee education and training. Such greater professionalism increases productivity in many staff positions in plants and service centers, particularly route salespeople, the drivers who pick up and deliver goods and serve as the primary contact with customers. They are responsible for recognizing emerging business needs in their accounts. Their observations of customers’ workplaces and the feedback they receive from workers there point the industry in new directions such as enhanced product and service offerings.