By embracing a stepped approach to laundry automation, Whistler Laundry Inc., in Whistler, BC, lofted production 90% in just under four years. Starting from scratch, this commercial laundry startup added equipment and automation as it grew—improving product quality, bolstering productivity, capturing new clients, and lowering labor costs.
“We have grown at over 30% Year Over Year (YOY), with the greatest single piece of machinery being the Girbau Industrial (GI) Compact 5-in-1,” said co-owner Chris Armstrong. An automatic feeder, ironer, folder, accumulator and stacker—the Compact single-handedly raised throughput 30% when added to the laundry’s equipment lineup in 2015.
Quality shot through the roof!
Serving property management companies and mid-sized hotels within a resort community, Whistler Laundry processes customer-owned sheets, towels, duvets, table covers and napkins, among other items. Owned by Armstrong and his wife, Justine, and co-owners Steve and Wendy Wheeler, the laundry was formed to complement a cleaning and rental services company operated by Wendy and Justine.
“They weren’t happy with other the laundry companies’ services and thought we could do a better job,” said Steve Wheeler.
From the get-go, the business relied on Haddon Equipment & Supplies (Haddon) for advice on how to equip the laundry and, as it has grown, how to keep pace. Haddon is a full-service laundry equipment distributor and chemical supplier
in Vancouver, B.C. “Haddon has been instrumental in providing excellent direc- tion for setting us up for success,” said Armstrong. “We feel like they treat us like family and honestly have best intentions in mind with all suggestions and directions.”
“We started small as we weren’t sure of how much business was out there,” added Wheeler. “We quickly evolved and got very busy with just three Continental washers and complementing dryers. Soon after, we added two more of each to the mix.”
In the beginning, the laundry didn’t iron. One person sorted laundry and two people lled machines and folded. As business soared, Whistler Laundry moved from run- ning one shift per day, to two.
At the laundry’s two-year mark – and a production threshold – Haddon’s Shane Bichin and Tom Phillips suggested elevat- ing productivity and quality by adding a 130-inch Continental Express Heated-Roll (X20) Ironer with integrated folder and two 75-pound capacity washers. The laundry took its rst automation step.
The 20-inch diameter Ironer’s wax-less design and ability to nish goods straight from the washer allowed Whistler Laundry to more quickly process atwork goods with three to four operators. It automati- cally nished and partially folded every- thing from napkins and sheets to duvets and table linens. Operators fed items
into the ironer and then performed the nal cross fold and stacking. “Our clients noticed the quality,” said Wheeler. “We picked up new and larger customers with several thousand pounds of linen per day.”
“The ironer processed 1-1.25 sheets- per-minute,” added Armstrong, “and in- creased overall production by 30 percent. It also gave us a better nished product.”
Business boomed once again, but in 2015, an unexpected re wreaked havoc. “We had a spontaneous combustion fire
from spa linens,” said Wheeler. “While we didn’t suffer damage to the building, the smoke and water damage from the sprinklers left us with no other option but to replace all of our machinery.” Leading up to the re, the business had once again hit a production ceiling.
“The re was unfortunate,” added Armstrong,” but it allowed us to invest more into the company and purchase new soft-mount washers and dryers and the Compact.” Now, the laundry’s equipment mix included ve soft-mount washers ranging from 70- to 40-pound capacities, four 75-pound capacity dryers, and a Compact 5-in-One Ironing System.
Featuring a compact design and exibility that allows Whistler Laundry to automati- cally feed, iron, fold and stack a variety of items using up to four lanes, the Compact ts perfectly into its designated spot at the laundry. Con gurable for one, two or four working lanes, with one lane for sheets, two for table linens and four for small items, including napkins and pillowcases, it executes up to three-lane primary folds and single- or two-lane cross folds. A bypass option allows goods to exit the front or rear of the machine, and the Compact offers left or right discharge
and front or rear stacker orientation to meet speci c needs. Finally, it automati- cally adjusts ironing speed and moisture removal – processing goods with no dryer preconditioning.
“Our rst ironer improved production and revenue 30 percent,” said Wheeler. “The new Compact elevated it another 30 percent.” The Compact has opened the floodgates to new business and bigger clients.
“We use different programs for differ- ent item types, including round, square or huge rectangle tablecloths,” added Wheeler. Set to run at speeds of 33 feet- per-minute no matter the item type, the Compact processes 150 sheets, 400 pillowcases and 400 napkins per hour for Whistler Laundry. “You can set up a pro- gram to stack a certain number of items,” added Wheeler. “I like that function.” Two to three operators feed items and then bag them in stacks of 10.
“Quality of the nished product with the Compact is very, very good,” maintains Armstrong. “Technically we run 24/7, so labor hours are relatively con- stant, but we’ve managed to slim down one position per shift – lowering labor costs by 25-30 percent.” The productivity difference between the laundry’s Express Ironer and the Compact is signi cant. “With the Express Ironer we were getting 1-1.25 sheets-per-minute and had to cross fold manually,” said Armstrong. “With the Compact we are three to four plus sheets-per-minute with no additional handling.” It used to take up to four hours to process 200 sheets, but with the new washers and the Compact, it takes just 1 hour.
Customer service and product quality has improved, as well. “The nish is really good and now we can get linen back to customers in 24 hours,” said Wheeler.
Through a stepped approach to laundry automation, Whistler Laundry has grown every aspect of its business without overspending. “They had a concept, bought small equipment to get themselves going, and then built more productivity into the laundry as they grew,” said Phillips.
We’ve grown way quicker than we expected,” admits Wheeler. “Not even four years into it, we employ more than 30 people and run three shifts. We’re getting close to a production threshold again as we are very, very busy. The next logical step in automation might be a tunnel system so we can serve even larger hotels.
Discover more about Whistler Laundry at www. whistlerlaundry.com or call 604-962-SUDS. To nd out more about Continental Girbau and Girbau Industrial laundry solutions, visit www. continentalgirbau.com and www.girbauindus- trial.com, or call 800-256-1073.
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