Spotlight on: new laundry technology

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Plug-and-play laundromats, antibacterial bedding agents and radio-frequency tagging are among the ways that laundry is getting smarter. Click. investigates

Though it stays firmly behind the scenes, laundry is one of the most vital elements of any hospitality operation. And it’s a sector in which technology is now creating a raft of high-tech solutions for hoteliers to ponder. Some of these suit small businesses who have washing facilities on-site, while others are more appropriate to larger companies who outsource their laundry.

One reason why laundry is worth getting right is because negative publicity can be so catastrophic in this age of social media and review sites. Take bed bugs, a common result of dirty sheets. In 2017, a report issued by pest-control specialists Orkin and market research firm The Bantam Group estimated the typical, total costs associated with a single bed-bug incident – covering loss of room revenue, disposal of soft goods, and treatment – to be US$6,383.

Tracking linen stock

Such statistics illustrate the challenge of laundry: while it needs to be quick and, ideally, inexpensive, it must also be thorough. That’s where one recent technological advance, radio-frequency identification (RFID), comes into its own. RFID tagging sees a discreet electromagnetic data chip sewn into each linen or towelling item making it trackable through the laundry process.

Ted Walker, Head of Group Marketing at laundry provider CLEAN, which has introduced RFID at its seven facilities across England and Wales, explains the benefits: “Keeping tabs [on linen] can present logistical challenges,” he says. “Tracking linen stock movements using RFID technology helps alleviate this pressure in an instant – and it allows staff more time to focus on value-adding activities.”

Laundry, photo: Rawpixel, Unsplash
Photo: credit to Rawpixel, Unsplash

Photo: Rawpixel, Unsplash 

“When hotel staff take delivery of clean linens, they can simply and swiftly check all items are there by using a hand-held scanner. They’ll be able to assess stock levels in five minutes or less, compared to the time it typically takes to count manually. All information is also held in a data cloud, enabling housekeepers to instantly know what stock is where, and to avoid the over and under-stocking of linen which can waste money.” The system is best suited to hotels with a high linen turnover. “Those with 50 rooms or more will see the most benefit,” says Walker. That benefit includes an economic uplift in the long-term: he cites an internal report which sees one client enjoying a 20% reduction in its annual linen spend.

Clever cameras

A different scanning system is in place at London’s five-star The Milestone Hotel & Residences, saving property staff time by reducing manual workload. “Technological advances are allowing us to deliver impeccable service,” admits Тzveta Ivanova, Executive Housekeeper. “For instance, we partner with a supplier who, as well as using barcode-tracking to manage inventories, operate camera-scanning systems on all ironing lines. Rather than my team manually checking each duvet and pillowcase, if these scanners detect the smallest problem – be it a minuscule stain or piece of hair – an item will be removed for further investigation. “Spotless linen goes hand-in-hand with a luxury hotel experience, so knowing items will be delivered in perfect condition saves us much time – up to an hour per day,” she estimates.

In-house laundry analysis

Equally smart is IntelliLinen, a new system from Diversey aimed at those hotels who fulfil their laundry in-house. IntelliLinen is all about information: its integrated wifi network, connected to smartphones and tablets, monitors laundry operations and establishes which machines are causing bottlenecks. Personal dashboards provide users with insights about water and energy consumption, plus day-to-day operational costs.

“We implemented IntelliLinen a year ago and so far we’ve seen very positive results,” summarises Christos Perakis, Laundry Manager at the 1,254-room Minoa Palace Resort & Spa in Greece, which processes around 1.5 tonnes of linen daily. “The main benefit is having all the information I need 24/7; this has helped increase both the quality management and sustainability of our laundry system.”

Mobile laundries and antibacterial bedding

For smaller hotels who must send dirty linen off-premise, mobile laundries can be a cost-effective alternative. Take Girbau's new Mobile Laundry range for example: effectively a series of different-sized plug-and-play laundromats, the Mobile Laundries are self-contained units which, upon delivery to a hotel, are connected to local utilities for a washing and drying time of 45 minutes per cycle using energy and water-efficient, high-spin machines. Another cutting-edge option to consider is MicroFresh, an antibacterial agent built into bedding during manufacture which causes it to stay fresher for much longer. This translates into laundry benefits for hoteliers because the technology also enables the linen to remain hygienic while being washed at a lower, cheaper temperature than the usual 90C – something closer to 30C is sufficient.

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Hero image: credit to Jeremy Sallee, Unsplash

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Suitable for outsourced laundry, built-in electromagnetic RFID data chips allows staff to track laundry items and efficiently manage stock
Camera-scanning of ironing lines allows luxury hotels to root out any blemishes, however minor, and save time
The IntelliLinen system monitors machine functionality, water and energy consumption, and day-to-day operational costs for on-premise laundry
Plug-and-play Mobile Laundries and antibacterial agents built into bedding to enable lower-temperature washing are alternative solutions