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Medical laundry co-operative facility doubles size and doubles down

Last year, Metropolitan Detroit Area Hospital Services (MDAHS) completed construction of a gleaming new, state-of-the-art laundry facility. It’s another step in the progression of Michigan’s largest medical laundry facility. A co-operative joint venture among the Henry Ford Health System, Michigan Medicine, and St. Joseph Mercy Health System, MDAHS is the pride of the neighborhood. Their team of approximately 150 employees is responsible for shipping over 2.5 million pounds of linen each month to its members.

MDAHS has serviced its members since 1972. The initial building was expanded ten years ago to 47,000 square feet, but at the pace which MDAHS was growing, it became evident greater capacity would eventually be needed.

The new building is more than double the size at 115,000 square-feet. The sustainable design features a wastewater heat reclamation system that incorporates eco-friendly cleaning products and recycled materials.

David Haas

The drying portion of the business has its own dedicated room to make the two-shift, five-day-a-week operation more efficient. All areas can be expanded to accommodate future growth, says general manager Dave Haas, who helped guide the transformation.

Fourteen years ago, the facility added a Lavatec tunnel washing system. When it came time to expand, they again chose Lavatec to do the job.

“The past performance of the Lavatec equipment certainly played a role in our decision making to purchase their equipment for the new facility,” said Haas, a 17-year veteran at MDAHS who has served in the GM capacity for the past six years.

“During the vetting process for the new wash equipment, we wanted to remain open minded when accessing the equipment of each manufacturer. At the end of the day, it was the simplicity, longevity, and the short learning curve which drove our decision to purchase the new Lavatec equipment.”

New equipment achieves new productivity levels

The original pair of 14-compartment batch tunnel washers MDAHS installed in 2007 provided it with the opportunity to improve the overall wash quality. It also impacted the timeliness of processing and delivering linen, including surgical garments and mattress under-pads that contain water resistant micro denier fabric, to their customers.

New Lavatec tunnel washers.

Haas indicated the 110-pound tunnels raised productivity levels two ways. It gave them adequate rinses and the ability to run more pounds of wash per hour due to the single drum at the load and discharge ends, and a double drum in the middle.

Haas said their water usage decreased significantly during this time by about 25%. Less steam was required since MDAHS switched from steam to gas dryers, and combined with Lavatec extraction presses and a centrifuge, it helped reduce drying times and overall energy use. Those numbers served as a catalyst when it came time to determine which equipment needed to be purchased for the new facility.

A foundation built from astute planning

From his experience prior to and since joining MDAHS, Haas knew that even well-run laundry operations often experience problems with a lack of drying capacity. The sheer volume of towels, scrubs, blankets and other materials simply take longer to dry than to wash, and that can cause back-ups with the tunnel wash cycles. He moved to eliminate the potential problem by creating a separate room for the drying process.

“At the original building we had two shuttles and 12 dryers. Over the years of operating this system, we had determined the shuttles were the main source of many faults,” he recalled.

“Moving forward, we knew we had to have a better system. After a discussion with E-Tech, our rail vendor, it was determined the dryer pod system was the best solution for the current state. And it will also allow us to easily expand and accommodate future growth.”

With the plan set, MDAHS ordered from Lavatec two new and larger 12-compartment, 220-pound continuous tunnel washers, and paired them with new LP583 LavaSpeed presses to feed 16 TT745G natural gas dryers. All of the equipment is monitored by the intelligent Lavatec osLaundry data management information system.

16 new Lavatec gas dryers have brought a 27% decrease in natural gas consumption per 100 pounds of processed linens.

An overhead monorail system was built to move the wash via eight Lavatec intermediate transfer conveyors that direct it for loading to the next available dryer in the separate room. The final stage involves the dryers being unloaded onto a Lavatec dryer discharge conveyor system that transports the goods via the monorail to the finishing side of the plant.

The TT745G gas dryers are manufactured with a specially designed line burner, a full-width heat input duct and infrared technology to more efficiently determine when linen is dry. The end result is decreased drying times and reduced energy consumption, which directly impacts the bottom line.

“The new burners have contributed to a 27% decrease in natural gas consumption per 100 pounds of linen processed,” revealed Haas. “We ship over 2.5 million pounds per month to our members, and we anticipate ending our fiscal year at 32 million pounds.”

What’s next?

Plant Manager Nate Adams (foreground) and systems operator Peter Pizzo check osLaundry data management system for latest real-time information.

In terms of future development, Haas said the facility was designed with a peak capability to handle 78 million pounds of linen annually while operating six days a week. That, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic that arrived 18 months ago, made it all the more imperative to incorporate the osLaundry information system to manage the equipment. The scalable software package provides real time data that allows management to make critical decisions quicker, helping the workforce to make any necessary adjustments that will improve linen productivity.

“Our volume had significantly decreased during the height of the pandemic, but it has steadily increased and just about returned to normal. Our biggest challenge has been with finding qualified labor,” noted Haas. “As we continue to move forward towards a sense of normalcy, we anticipate the volume to increase. The osLaundry system is used primarily to help us monitor and manage our operation. Working with Lavatec has been and continues to be a great partnership.”

For more information about MDAHS, visit their website.

For more information about Lavatec Laundry Technology, visit their website.

This article is based on information supplied by Lavatec. If you have news about installations or other projects, contact Becca Anderson, Editor.