Hospitality and healthcare are governing growth in the Indian on premise laundry market.

The current state of the country’s laundry industry means that these laundries need to focus on following best practice and keeping to international standards and policies because these sectors need to provide a service that is above the average.

According to a study, India will more than double its current healthcare spend to US$47billion by 2012 and by this date the sector could generate more than 8million jobs and contribute 7-8%GDP.

Though providing clean and hygienic linen is not the core business of the healthcare industry, the laundry service has a direct influence on an institution’s image. There is a huge incentive to develop and promote better health and patient care and an OPL is an integral part of this.

To date, however, very few laundry systems are specifically designed for healthcare. When healthcare laundries are planned there are often many shortcomings and, pleading a lack of capital investment, the planners settle for compromises and low-end solutions.

But often the real reason for the shortcomings is lack of expertise. There are no local system designers who can gather together experts in specific areas to provide guidance and turnkey solutions involving crucial infection control . Additionally, the hospital administration may fail to include a full analysis of operational costs along with the capital cost of equipment or to take account of linen use and replacement costs.

In the healthcare sector the scope of laundry services has often been limited, mostly to washing items, drying them in the sun and then pressing some. Until recently it was mostly outsourced to local washer- men or a local laundry.

But the situation has changed dramatically in last few years as the government brought in new regulations, the corporate sector became involved in healthcare and the users of the service demanded higher standards.

Hospitals realised that to provide better services they must have their own laundries. Initially suppliers lacked the knowledge and information to provide turnkey solutions so most hospital laundries relied on a combination of separate washers and separate extractors. Pressing was mostly done with electric hand irons and rectangular flat-bed presses.

Though there are couple of more modern operations with washer-extractors and flatwork ironers, barrier technology is still missing.

Most hospitals have some sort of infection control policy, but there few specific policies for laundry services whether in-house or outsourced. Further, the laundries are designed on the basis of available funds with a limited pool of expertise, and even at best, done by the equipment providers.

India has yet to see a fully designed laundry based on barrier technology with stringent infection control practices comparable to those in the international market.

Though lack of funds is seen as major concern in laundry planning, India has a vibrant economy and the real need is for a long-term complete cost analysis of various technologies including a study of linen quality and replacement costs.

Most cheaper systems are expensive to run, but the institutions fail to realise this.

Hotel boom

India is a top tourist destination for both international and domestic travellers. The hotel industry is seeing a continuous growth in rooms, particularly in the middle and top classes. New Delhi has many hotel projects in preparation for the 2010 commonwealth games and there is a hotel boom in the south.

All the big hotel chains have their own laundries and these are the biggest buyers for imported laundry equipment. Those responsible for buying often have a good knowledge of modern requirements but are limited by the technology available.

They need to have technology which can which can help them to reduce operational costs, increase productivity and improve quality.

For example, the Taj hotels purchased dryers with hot air circulation . These can cut drying time by more than half, offering energy savings that recover the investment in a short time and offering crucial savings in the laundry’s bottom line thereafter.

The potential for commercial laundries is enormous but lacks support from the industry itself, often ending in a price war between a well- equipped laundry and an old-fashioned one.

The solution for India’s laundry future lies in adopting international standards in linen quality, linen life, wash results and for the hospital sector in creating specific infection control policies.

New commercial laundries should look to invest in modern technology. Establishments considering outsourcing should remember that to have the same quality as an OPL can provide will carry a cost.

The hotel sector needs a more analytical approach to its laundry requirements. Replacing equipment needs consideration. Like for like replacement can prove expensive in the long term as the original equipment may be 10-12 yeas old. Upgrading can be more cost effective

New hotel laundries have a host of options open to them both in terms of technology and budget.

Washing is the core of any laundry. The latest technology in this area will lead to improvement all round. Though a host of other Asian countries have adapted tunnel washer technology, it has yet to make a breakthrough in India, but it offers enormous advantages particularly for the luxury hotel sector as it brings down water consumption to as low as 4litres of fresh water per kg of processed linen.

The Kannegiesser Powertrans system is one example offering low water consumption along with reduction in chemical use, leading to cost and environmental benefits.

In one study based on the current input cost factors, the cost of processing 1kg of linen lies between INR15(U$0.32 to to INR25 (US$ 0.54) in luxury hotel in-house laundries. The degree of variation is due to the different equipment setups, control of cost factors and individual laundry processes.

These operating costs can be lowered up to 40% in some cases by adapting to more automated laundries using tunnel washers.

The savings this technology offers can easily offset the high investment. For laundries with washer-extractors, installing water recycling systems, and heat exchangers will reduce operating costs.

Considering the future for on premise laundries in general terms, these businesses should focus on the benefits that modern equipment can offer and on providing a service that takes complete control of the laundry process from washing to finishing.

Energy is the one of the biggest expense. Therefore serious consideration should be taken at the planning and design stage to ensure efficient use of this resource.

Water is one of the cheapest resources, but will there always be enough in the future?

Correct procedures and training are also high priority as the industry needs to be more forward looking.

As demand for more modern laundry services increases, so will the need for good laundry managers, good laundry supervisors and good laundry workers, but they are not easy to find. Often people leave for areas such as the middle east, partly because they offer better pay packages and partly for the chance to work with better technology.

The laundry market is growing at a good rate and more and more establishments in both commercial and institutional sectors are facing the challenge of choosing between an in-house laundry which will give more control over cost and quality or outsourcing which will allow them to focus on their core business. So suppliers to the market need to think in terms of solutions rather than individual pieces of equipment. Those with buying power at institutions or hotels are not laundry experts, so suppliers must offer advice, planning and training to build a successful OPL.

The hotel and healthcare industries for their part must look to encouraging laundry skills. Those offering management courses to the sector should look at training laundry managers too and trying to narrow the gap in the laundry management knowledge base.

Barrier washer
BARRIERS NEEDED: Healthcare laundries need to adopt better infection control policies and to adopt barrier techniques ( picture Danube)

MOVE TO TUNNELS: Laundries need to consider the benefits that tunnel washer s could offer ( picture Kannegiesser)