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You are here: Home  July 2012  How's Business Atlific’s profitable central laundries

Atlific’s profitable central laundries

Laundry plant manager Gerry McMaster

By Gerry McMaster, Plant Manager,
Atwell Airport Laundry

TORONTO—Atwell Airport laundry was opened May 2006. It was originally designed to service three hotels that Atlific Hotels owns and operates in Toronto area. The perceived capacity was just less than one million pounds of linen per year to process.

With our background in the market, we have been able to attract outside volume from area hotels. For the past three-plus years, we have exceeded capacity by adding one managed hotel and six other hotels. We are currently servicing over 800 rooms in the Greater Toronto Area from 5-star properties, to boutique style to a motel and one table line account for a hotel restaurant. In total Atwell processes almost two million pounds per year.

Atwell operates 363 days a year with staff working approximately 12 hours a day.

Atwell is a 2,000 sq. ft. facility that has been automated as much as possible and maintains a very high rate of productivity.

The facility has built a very good reputation within the area. To date we have had to turn away almost 18 million pounds of linen from all over the GTA, because we can’t handle the volume.

I manage Atwell, along with Danny Conforti, my production manager. Our combined laundry experience exceeds 55 years. I liaise with all Atlific owned and managed hotels regarding laundry or linen issues, including production assessment, processes, linen purchasing, best practices and laundry chemical issues. I also select and work with third party linen services that have been contracted by individual or groups of Atlific Hotels to ensure quality and service meets the needs of the hotel and company.

I also consult with other hotels if they are experiencing issues regarding production, workflow, processes, equipment selection and assessment, overall management and health and safety.

Production, quality and labour control are key elements within all our hotels. The proper processes will ensure production is maximized; quality will be affected by these processes as laundry services are generally a labour-intense function. With good process planning, labour costs can be minimized by doing it right the first time.

Advanced laundry equipment helps reduce labour costs while maintaining a quality finished product. Knowing the volume required to service your hotel and meet guest needs is key to an efficient operation. Selecting the right equipment to meet the daily demands and having the funds to purchase the right equipment is also important. Physical space and staff training are crucial.

Other Atlific sites

Atlific has 17 onsite laundry services throughout Canada. Atwell and Vancouver are central services processing linens for multiple Atlific Hotels, while the remaining hotels service their own properties. Sizes are dependent on the number of rooms each have and the space they have to house equipment. Most are without ironers and folding must be done by hand, making the operation very labour intensive. Services may be limited in their areas and therefore they must do laundry onsite.

Onsite, offsite or central?

We manage laundry performance through production and costing. A pound per operator per hour is the most important measurement tool we use to monitor our efficiency and cost. Knowing what a piece of equipment can produce and how staffing is used correctly to maximize the efficiency is key. Monitoring key costs like utilities, chemicals, maintenance and labour will determine a cost per pound can help you make an informed decision on whether or not to outsource this service, stay onsite or use a central facility like ours.

Head office has been very supportive of our operation; they did not possess the expertise or laundry knowledge prior to Conforti and I joining the company. We have taken the responsibility of managing and overseeing the laundry operations with the assistance and guidance from senior managers throughout the company. They have relied heavily on us ensure each hotel is running their services to the maximum potential. This allows senior managers to manage the hotels and not worry about laundry a service, which is our job.

Staff training vital

With the sheer size and advancements in laundry equipment, staff training is vital. Not only does this maximize production, maintaining quality and provide a superior finished product, but it also ensures staff safety.

Regular maintenance and safety checks for all equipment and ancillary equipment are something that can and will not be minimized. Staff are thoroughly trained on all equipment and required to adhere to all health and safety regulations, yearly staff performance is monitored, and yearly WHMIS training is provided. Daily managing and coaching is ongoing.

Dedicated laundry manager

Atlific Hotels, together with its parent company, Ocean Properties, owns and operates more than 100 North American hotels. They have chosen to have a dedicated laundry manager to oversee these operations. Usually a single hotel or small group of hotels would not employ such a staff member.

Normally housekeeping managers or room division managers are given the task of managing the laundries. Laundry services are specialized and do require expertise.

I was hired to oversee our 40 Canadian hotels six years ago. Atwell was built to service our three area hotels, but with outside volume, it has become a service that generates revenue and reduces cost to our owners.

Successful formula copied

I will be joining Ocean Properties’ U.S. operation as director of laundry operation, North America. Conforti will be assuming the role as plant manager for Atwell.

Ocean is also looking at building a central laundry in the Boston area to enhance current U.S. operations. Atlific is also considering a central laundry for a group of hotels they manage in Fort McMurray, AB. I will oversee this as well.

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