PHS is one of the UK’s main mat rental operators. The workplace service company has been in business over 35 years ,expanding from its washroom service base with divisions including interior landscaping drinking water dispensers and plastic crate rental.

The mat specialist division, PHS Treadsmart, has been operating for around 12 years. It provides a “one-stop” service and does so nationwide but with regional centres to maintain a local base and respond to immediate needs.

The range, sourced from Milliken and WOM International is claimed to be the widest available in the UK, covering virtually every type of floor protection product – standard mats, logo mats and coloured mats plus specialist lines such as antistatic and anti-bacterial types. Fitted mats are hand-cut on site and can be laid in mat wells or matched into a carpet cut-out.

The majority of the business, says UK laundry manager Bryn Bourge, is rental, but the company would also offer a laundry service if requested.

Standard mats remain the volume area and along with logo mats account for a throughput of around 45,000 mats per week. Single shade, coloured mats though are a growing area, offering a more competitive alternative to logo mats and with a wide choice of colours.

Large and growing

The operation centres on the Brentford plant (the largest mat operation) and on Coventry although the business is also serviced from plants in Bolton, Blackridge in Scotland, and Cardiff, where PHS headquarters are based.

Mat rental is often talked of within textile rental circles as a growth area, but many laundries may still shy away, preferring to keep to the core areas of flatwork and garment rental/laundering.

Bryn Bourge believes this could be because mats may be more difficult to process – they’re certainly one of the dirtiest products. The market is relatively buoyant he says but businesses do need to go beyond a basic service.

PHS provides not only a range of mats but an option of fortnightly or weekly visits (26 or 52). Further, PHS drivers will both remove the old mats and fit the clean ones.

So for PHS, the mat business has worked well and also expanded substantiall. But then says Mr Bourge, the company has invested heavily in the operation.

The company probably has, he says, some of the most modern mat washing facilities available. With the exception of Scotland, all plants now have tunnel washers, a Passat Ultratandem at Coventry, and Milnor machines at Bolton and Cardiff. Last year the Brentford plant installed a Kannegiesser PowerTrans tunnel, the first installation of this machine in the UK. In Brentford’s case the machine is a bottom-transfer nine-stage model handling 75kg batches.

The attraction of the PowerTrans was the size of load and the increased productivity thus offered. It turns round approximately 21 or 22 loads (1,750kg per hour) and as a result of its installation, Brentford can now run at 90 mats per operator hour – a rate not matched by many.

As a comparison, Mr Bourge quotes his company’s Scottish operation which, using Spencer 750 washer-extractors runs at around 55 mats per operator hour The wash line is completed by a Passat EP975 press handling a 75kg batch with a minimum 90seconds cycle and pressure up to 35bar. The whole operation is as automated as possible. Before washing, mats are put through a beater for five minutes to remove dust and grime. They are then loaded into monorail bags and from this stage, the mats are not handled by operators until they come out from the dryers.

The monorail bags carry the mats to the PowerTrans where the total cycle time is 23minutes. After the press, mats pass on to the dryers, supplied by Kannegiesser-Passat. These are gas powered, and use direct water heating so no boiler is needed.

(Since the PHS installation Kannegiesser has introduced a further drying refinement called Auto infra-touch which allows permanent on-line infrared sensing of the permissible surface temperature to ensure the optimum drying temperature and to stop the drying cycle as soon as the batch is dry.)

Alongside the PowerTrans at Brentford, a Spencer washer-extractor handles specialised mats.

Investment in PHS Treadsmart continues. The Coventry plant will shortly move from its old premises to a purpose built plant. This will coincide with an upgrade in equipment and pleased with the first PowerTrans, Mr Bourge is considering one for Coventry.