At Dorset based Barker, which claims to be the largest domestic laundry in the UK and a leading specialist drycleaner, there is optimism in the air, says the company. During the latter part of 2022 the business invested nearly £1 million in new plant and machinery, with works having recently reached completion.
The investment has led to significantly increased efficiencies and sustainability goals being achieved within the business, says Barker. The extensive refit commenced during the summer of 2022 and included the creation of a new plant room with a new boiler and water treatment plant and upgrades to other machinery.
The wash house was moved and extended, increasing wash capacity and new dryers were installed. A new ironer line completed the transformation of the Barker factory that now boasts 20% more working space, achieved through a clever redesign of the workflow and repositioning of the machinery, which has resulted in an increased capacity of some 50%. This in turn reduces handling time.
Managing director Matthew Barker said: “As we emerged from Covid, there was a natural wariness by businesses when it came to investment. An oncoming downturn towards recession was inevitable following the growth spurt of opening the country up, the fallout of high government spending leading to tax hikes was also expected.
“At Barker, a strong balance sheet meant an opportunity to get in shape ready for the future.”
Matthew Barker continued:, “No recession lasts forever and we needed to be ready for any growth opportunities that may arise. This is not so much an upgrade of aging plant as an investment in reducing our energy and employment costs: Labour costs accounted for nearly 50% of our total revenue. Energy costs are rising steeply, and we need to extract all the efficiencies we can, not just for the environment but for our survival also.
“Included in our upgraded machinery, we have an increased capacity boiler which is so much more efficient in its use of energy, providing better quality steam while using less fuel per kilo of laundry than the previous system.
“We have increased insulation of the pipework which has minimised heat loss. The summer months will also be improved as we’re generating less heat.
“We have also installed a new system to monitor our water which manages how it’s pumped around the building, directing it to exactly where it is needed – this pump efficiency has led to a reduction in electricity too.
“The events of the past three years caused turmoil within the commercial laundry industry and various closures and amalgamations of larger industrial laundries have left many of their clients in the hospitality sector desperate for good quality laundry services. Whilst Barker’s investment has reduced operating hours and energy use it has provided capacity for growth of a further 50% that Barker plans to fill over the next 24 months.
“The work was undertaken by R Brown Specialist Laundry Engineering, who were brilliant, from start to finish.”
Matthew Barker concluded, “We are looking forward to the months ahead, continuing to grow the business and looking to maximise on the increased efficiencies that we have achieved within the business, with a great team behind us.”