MODRoto 102P Fits Four Across During Transport For More Efficient Use Of Space
Textile services companies striving to lower costs, improve service and support safety and environmental performance often invest millions in adding automated equipment, keeping their trucking fleets maintained, upgrading their route management software and launching a variety of green initiatives aimed at reducing energy, water, fuel and other costs. At Starr Textiles, Foley, Ala., Vice President Sales/Service Stephen Florence found a way to address all of these challenges with a single stroke that many overlook for its relatively low investment cost and seemingly low sizzle factor. “It was a no-brainer, really,” says Florence, a 39-year veteran of the laundry industry who launched Starr in 2008. “We found a new laundry cart that fits more linens per truck than traditional carts and it has had a direct impact on our operation and on our bottom line at Starr.”
Starr Textiles provides textile rental, commercial laundry and garment processing services focusing on the hospitality and healthcare markets in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Its customers range from the largest five-star hotels in the French Quarter to beach vacation rental properties on the Gulf of Mexico and a diverse group of mom and pop restaurants, bars and clubs. Florence oversees operations at the company’s two plants in Foley, Ala. and New Orleans, La., that, together, can process upwards of 10,000 pounds of laundry per hour working at its standard seven days per week schedule. Its equipment lineup includes eight- and six-module tunnel washers, washer-extractors and batch dryers from Pellerin/Milnor, an overhead rail system by E-Tech, and a variety of folders and flatwork ironers including several Talley Machinery-rebuilt American ironers. The company is in the midst of a growth spurt and plans to move its New Orleans operation across the city to a plant under construction that is to encompass 63,500 square feet when open for business during October, 2013. Part of that rapid growth may be credited to the company’s laundry carts, according to Florence.
“Your carts impact almost every part of your business and the right cart can add efficiency and cut a variety of costs throughout the entire system,” says Florence.
The right cart for Starr is the 102P from MODRoto. A member of the Tingue family of companies, MODRoto pioneered the use of rotationally molded plastic carts, trucks and baskets for the laundry industry. The 102P bulk linen “roundtripper” was developed with a slim profile to maximize the use of space on delivery trucks and trailers. Just 24 inches wide yet with a 38-bushel capacity, the 102P can fit four across on standard trucks and trailers, which typically span 102 inches wide. Most other types of linen carts can fit only three across and leave a substantial volume of empty space to be hauled. Florence fits fifty-two of these MODRoto 102P’s into his 53-foot trailers versus of 46 of the older carts and fits 26 102P’s on his 26-foot box trucks versus 20 of the older carts. For a typical cart loaded with hospitality linens, this translates to an increase of about 1,500 pounds per day. “We can fit more tonnage per truck with these carts, says Florence. “It’s a pretty simple concept.” In fact, Florence calculates the fuel cost alone to deliver using the MODRoto 102 to one hotel client is $.051 per pound compared to $.063 per pound using the older carts. “Every time a truck goes out, it’s like we’ve raised our margins without having to raise prices,” says Florence.
By fitting more on each truckload, Florence has been able to consolidate several delivery routes and cut the overall cost per mile. Deliveries to smaller accounts, for example, have been combined with deliveries to larger accounts using space that would otherwise have been left empty. With deliveries sometimes requiring drive times of six hours or more, this boost in efficiency has also made it easier to meet contractual delivery times. In addition, on days when hotel clients experience 100 percent occupancy, additional round trips to pick up soiled laundry are no longer needed since trucks have become more available on their new routes. Though quantifying the overall impact of improving route management efficiency is a challenge, quantifying the savings in fuel costs is more tangible and, according to Florence, significant. Removing a single route, for example, that covers 200 miles at 10 miles per gallon cuts 20 gallons per trip, which can add up to $40,000.00 or more in savings annually in fuel costs, without counting savings in wear and tear on the trucks and associated labor and maintenance costs. “A lot of energy is spent trying to make the trucks more fuel efficient, which I applaud, but just by using this linen cart, we’re able to save fuel and get our linens to the client faster and at a cheaper cost per pound,” says Florence. “It helps make it possible for us to be profitable providing the same high level of service to our smaller accounts that we’re known for providing to some of the biggest names in the area.”
At Starr, the 102P shelf truck functions as a bulk linen exchange cart. Starting in the finishing area, the carts are made up with clean linens fresh from the flatwork ironer, then weighed to document the pounds to be charged, and rolled to the dock for loading onto a truck for delivery. The daily delivery for a large hotel client, for example, includes nine carts loaded only with towels and nine others loaded with sheets and pillowcases. Upon arrival at the hotel, these carts are brought to the floor and typically stored in a linen room. Housekeepers pull from these carts as needed. When empty, the housekeeper slides the shelves into a vertical position. Now setup as a rolling bulk bin, housekeepers fill the cart with loose (or bagged), soiled laundry and return it to the loading dock for pickup. For a smaller motel, the delivery may include a single cart made up with sheets set on the top shelf, pillowcases on the middle shelf and towels on the bottom.
The key to the process is the cart’s permanent, non-removable shelf system, which enables one person to convert from clean to soiled and back in a matter of seconds without risk of misplacing or mismatching shelves of one cart with shelves that need to go with another cart. “Removable shelves can get leaned up against a wall or left in a storage room and don’t always come back with the rest of the cart,” says Florence. “With this non-removable system, we don’t have to buy extra shelves to keep on hand and we don’t have to go back to the client looking for our shelves, plus the housekeepers like it because it’s faster and easier to use.”
Staffers at Starr plants like the MODRoto laundry carts, too, for their comfortable ergonomics, according to Florence. When carts return to Starr loaded with soiled linen, staffers remove it from the carts and place it on a conveyor for sorting. With the clever design of the shelf system, staffers can access the laundry and remove it without bending or reaching over into the cart and without needing a stool to reach the top layer. Once emptied, the carts are rolled through a nearby cart washer for sanitizing using a high-pressure chemical and steam bath system. Built-in drain holes in the carts allow any excess water to escape, then the carts are staged near the finishing area to repeat the process.
To manage the fleet of more than 500 of these laundry carts, Florence instituted a color-coded system that assigns a single color cart to each client. Instead of relying on workers to verify the right linens are being delivered to the right clients, workers simply recognize the color of the cart to identify the proper linens and destinations. This system has virtually eliminated the potential for misshipments from the Foley, Ala. plant, according to Florence. “I’ve seen plants where a card holder is used to hold papers that show what’s in the cart and where it’s supposed to go, or papers are just taped to the sides of the carts,” says Florence, “but anyone can get the paperwork wrong or misread it and this takes away any guesswork. Every driver knows where to deliver by color without having to check each cart.” The carts are available in standard colors ranging from black, yellow, green and gray to ruby red, brilliant orange and four different types of blue, plus custom colors as an option. The color is not painted on the surface and cannot be scratched off or removed. Rather, the carts are molded from colored polyethylene and, therefore, the cart’s color is the same throughout the entire body of the cart, inside and out.
Each cart sports the Starr Textiles name, tare weight and a tracking number. After being loaded and weighed for delivery, the cart is entered into a database by color and number. Then it appears on the delivery manifest documenting the linens being shipped inside. “This whole system is a big help and there’s less concern over bilingual issues since it’s almost entirely visual by color,” says Florence.
The visual impact of the sleek 102P cart and its color-coded system also creates an impressive presentation upon delivery that directly affects client confidence in Starr, according to Florence. “If you think about why we use table linens, duvet covers and high thread count sheets then you know this is all about presentation,” says Florence. “An old, banged up linen cart can suggest the linens might be stained or old but our 102P’s make up very nice and neat and that conveys the linens inside are clean.”
The 102P exchange cart comprises a rotomolded body with two rotomolded, plastic shelves set in the non-removable shelf conversion system, all set atop a full perimeter, powder coated metal base on four premium, industrial-strength, non-marking casters. MODRoto also offers the non-removable shelf system on two other bulk laundry trucks, the 101P and 103P, to meet different requirements for dimensions and capacities. “Anyone who wants to put more linens on their trucks needs to look at the 102P,” says Florence. “I’ve always been a big fan of Tingue, Brown & Co. and now I’m happy to say I’m a fan of MODRoto. They respond quickly and their expertise is always on target.”
Stephen Florence is vice president and general manager of Starr Textile Services. Contact him at 877-934-6998 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Jack W. Smylie is national sales manager for MODRoto, MODLaundry.com. Contact him at 1-800-829-4535 or email@example.com.