The opening of White Knight’s Reading laundry after it has been completely redesigned, marked the completion of the first phase of an investment in its B2B services, which include hotel, hospitality, and food and beverage (restaurant) markets. The whole project is expected to around £10million.

The Reading laundry, which specialises in work for large hotels (cage work), is designed as a fully automated, steam-free laundry to produce high quality work.
Finance director Julian Woolcock says that increasingly corporate businesses want to upgrade their Ïgreen credentialsÓ so this design would help to raise White Knight’s profile with customers and potential customers. A steam-free laundry also gives good payback on investment – although this is not a reason in itself for the decision.

This type of laundry has to be specially designed and it has involved not only a switch to gas-fired equipment but also the installation of heat-recovery systems and of solar panels. Creating this kind of laundry is not something that everyone can do, so as a result White Knight has a competitive edge.

Steam-free operation also means that the laundry’s costs are less energy price dependent and the business can absorb unexpected rises caused by fluctuations in charges.

Asked whether steam-free operation will be adopted in other plants, Woolcock says that as the company’s total investment plans progress, it will operate on a steam-free operation for B2B work where possible although this is not necessarily the best plan for its domestic laundry services.

Work on the Reading laundry started in 2013 and the first stage, the washroom, was completed by July that year, with the whole plant equipped and ready for business, according to schedule, by February 2014,
The company chose to work with four suppliers rather than opt for a turnkey installation from one large group as it felt that in this way it would have greater flexibility.

The framework and overall design of the project was given to the Netherlands-based logistics specialist WSP. Andy Marsh says that the company has the reputation of being best in class in designing an efficient, automated laundry, including transport and control elements. Its Winwash system measures and monitors all aspects of the process in real time and this information is displayed in the plant via its Laundry Dashboard.

White Knight chose Lavatec Laundry Technology to equip its washroom because it could supply the specific tunnel washer that the company wanted, a 60kg, 20-stage machine, which is claimed to be the largest steam-free tunnel washer on the market and the longest in the UK. This machine features a new style of operation, which can wash all classifications to maximum quality.
The company also supplied 7 x 75kg gas-fired tumble dryers, a 50bar press and a lint extraction system.

Lapauw gas ironers are believed to the best and UK distributor Armstrong Commercial Laundry systems supplied, installed and commissioned 2 x two-roll ironers with a 3,300mm working width plus, one 1,200mm two-roll width with a 4,000mm working width. All featured Lapauw’s TurboFan technology.

To complete its three ironer lines – two for large pieces and one for small flatwork – White Knight turned to H J Weir, which supplied three feeders and folders capable of folding all classifications and also two pickers to untangle the linen and drop it onto the ironer lines’ conveyors. The two companies had worked together before and Weir’s British manufacture also influenced the decision. As a bonus, Weir customised its equipment by using White Knight’s colours.

The plant is not only steam-free but fully automated to increase productivity. Walking round the plant, it is noticeable that all work is delivered directly to the relevant section. At no point do staff have to go and fetch work from another area. This is an important factor and Woolcock says it is important to look after the employees’ working environment, reducing the need for lifting and excessive or awkward movement.

"We also want staff to benefit from improved productivity and as the project settles, staff will have the opportunity to earn productivity awards."

Woolcock says: "We’re delighted with the support our suppliers have given."

He adds that now the installation is in place, White Knight is learning how to maximise the benefits. He adds that the laundry will be looking to increase production throughout 2014 and 2015 but it’s important to do this gradually to be sure of maintaining quality.
The project has significantly improved energy efficiency, water use, production, measuring and monitoring of the operation.

Gas consumption has reduced by 50%.
The zero steam system has lowered energy usage.
Infrared sensors in the tumble dryers have shortened drying times. Towels can now be dried in 15minutes.
Inverter-driven motors have reduced electricity use.
The company now leads the UK laundry industry in terms of water heating – which now takes just 10 minutes from cold. Previously it took up to one hour each day to fire up the gas boiler.

Water consumption has also reduced by 80% to 3litres/kg. Water is already sourced from White Knight’s borehole and is repeatedly recycled.

Precise measurement and monitoring is a particular benefit. The Winwash system provides real time information and Marsh point out that plant managers can request information remotely at any time and it will be displayed on the Laundry Dashboard. A whole host of alerts can be given on request.
This gives accurate costings and allows the engineers to spot anything that is not going to plan and make adjustments immediately.

Accurate sorting and segregation of work into correct load sizes ensures optimum processing and technically advanced computerised dosing ensures precise amounts of detergents and conditioners, minimizing the environmental impact of wastewater.

Woolcock says that automation has allowed the laundry to achieve productivity targets. The company can predict capacities and to be certain about its promises to the customer.

Feedback from customers has been good. The plant’s quality is very high and the company is determined to maintain its standards.

During 2014 the company plans to add further automation and invest in despatch and logistics to increase volumes.

In the longer term White Knight plans modernization at other plants and to extend steam-free operation for its B2B operations.

WASHROOM: The 60kg 20-stage tunnel washer supplied by Lavatec features a new type of operation that produces maximum results on all classifications. The rail storage system for soiled linen was designed and supplied by WSP