Established in 1901 Guarantee Laundries is an independently-owned company with bases in Dorset and Wiltshire at Stalbridge and Corsham respectively.

A few years ago, it was clear that Guarantee had outgrown its historic Sherborne site, its home for 100ß plus years, and has now moved into what managing director Faith Foote describes as “the perfect premises in Stalbridge, which will see us safely into the next 100 years”.

It is 18 years since Faith came to the company as customer service manager from a banking background: laundry turned out to be her true niche and she was offered a seat on the board in 2001, appointed managing director in 2013 and has just overseen the biggest change in the laundry’s history.

“Sherborne, unfortunately (originally set up to serve the laundry needs of Sherborne public school, and established like so many laundries over an existing bore hole), was just too old.  It was a lovely building but falling down and needed a lot of TLC.”

Faith explains that if Guarantee wanted to expand and increase productivity, which meant the installation of a batch washer, a move was inevitable. “However,” she adds, “if we couldn’t find suitable premises in a 10-mile radius of the old plant we wouldn’t have moved, simply because our staff are everything to us. Guarantee is a family business, albeit without a family in charge.”

The business employs 120 staff over both sites, with one individual having been in situ for more than 40 years. “Everybody mucked in for the move. Most people are team players even if they don’t realise it.”

The new Stalbridge plant increases workable space from 11,000 sq ft at Sherborne to a hefty 38,000 sq ft “thereby future-proofing our expansion”, says Faith. “For us, as a medium sized business, £2 million plus is a major investment.   As part of this investment the company was awarded a regional growth fund payment form Plymouth University: “a  £126,000 cash injection that was very welcome,” says Foote. “Cash safely in the bank, it was time to go shopping. First and foremost, we needed a batch washer and a new ironer line. We went for two Jensen 12 stage Senking batch washers giving us growth capacity and contingency planning.” With an eye to the budget, Dutch refurbishment expert Goudkuil was tasked to supply the batch washers that it had taken back to the metal and fully rebuilt “just like restoring a classic car”.

Biko, a Swiss manufacturer, supplied new feeders and folders to a new 4metre refurbished Jensen ironer line, with a Mobics camera.   Ideal provides the chemicals while a Senso bag system and computerised laundry management software make up the mix.

“We took the opportunity to improve our high care garment care with the introduction of three Milnor barrier washers feeding into a dedicated high care environment with a Jensen tunnel finisher and a Biko robot called Laura that presents the garments for folding.”

“There is no boiler. Instead we have three dual-fuelled Certuss steam generators.  There are sound reasons for this. If the boiler breaks down, it takes the whole production with it and the downtime would be horrendous.”   The other reason, Foote explains, is:“We have stayed with steam because we believe you get a better, softer quality finish.”

With wonderful high-quality hotels like Cliveden and Le Manoir aux quat’Saisons as clients, quality is really important as is service, says Faith. “The quality end of the hotel market is buoyant. We offer some fantastic venues quality and a fair price from a ‘family’ business. It is something the big boys struggle to do. For them it is all about volume and cheap working costs.

“Any business will try to reduce costs, but if that is all you do, you lose quality. We work hard on our forecasting to try and keep our pieces within the sweet spot giving us productivity, but not overloading the capacity,” she adds.

“Our expansion has resulted in the purchase of our first 12 ton lorry, considerably more expensive than our first vehicle, purchased in 1901, the trusty horse and cart costing 40 shillings.

“As we expand, we are looking to strengthen the management team. We now have a fully equipped new laundry with the latest technology, increasing capacity and improved efficiency and hence a lowered carbon footprint.”

Any advice for other laundries contemplating a refurbishment? “Never underestimate the time needed to pull it all together, as the best-made plans get thwarted as one pieces it all together,”  Foote concludes.