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Building on Supplier Experience and Relationships

Rental Uniform Service, Greenville, NC

Longevity is an admired hallmark of a successful business. Now in its 74th year of operation, Rental Uniform Service has reached this point by making deft and correct decisions time after time. One recent move was selecting UNX-Christeyns to return as its washroom chemistry partner, a decision that is said to have produced significant benefits in a short window of time.

“We began a review of our wash chemistry situation in late 2021, did extensive research and narrowed it down to two companies that we met with personally,” recalled Danny Lawrence, the longtime CEO for Rental Uniform Service. “It was remarkable that cost-wise, there was not much difference between the two. But it was evident from the beginning the UNX-Christeyns folks genuinely wanted our business, and they had the technology and service we were looking for.”

Rental Uniform Service has an intriguing history. The North Carolina family-owned company began as a small operation in Bluefield, VA., with a 2,000 square-foot building and one truck in 1949. James E. Waggoner and his brothers sold many of their possessions to fund their start-up, and steadily grew their business with persistence and a sincere dedication to their customers.

Today, Mr. Waggoner’s legacy lives on with second, third and fourth generation family members in key roles. That is an impressive accomplishment few companies can claim. According to Harvard Business Review statistics, a staggering 70% of family-owned enterprises either fail or are sold before the second generation becomes involved.

“I’ve been in the linen and uniforms industry my entire life” said Waggoner’s grandson Danny Lawrence, who has guided the company as its CEO since 2000. “I became a full time employee here in 1978 after working in the plant for my apprenticeship. I was promoted to assistant plant manager in 1981 and promoted to general manager at our Sunshine Rental Uniform Service facility in Gastonia in 1988.”

About the time Lawrence was elevated to assistant plant manager in 1981 is when UNX-Christeyns first became a Rental Uniform Service supplier. Known then as UNX–which later merged with and became UNX-Christeyns in July 2022–they became involved during a growth spurt.

“I was heavily involved in the washing technology operations at that point,” acknowledged Lawrence. “It became apparent their service was always quality oriented and their pricing was fair. The relationships we had at that time were second to none.”

Those moments were remembered during the recent selection process. Rental Uniform Service is now a more diversified organization with 145 employees. They utilize 200,000 square feet of space between their headquarters in Statesville N.C., a processing facility in Gastonia, N.C., and distribution centers in Mills River, N.C. and Florence, S.C., putting them in favorable proximity to an expansive client base. Management also operates a employee-friendly schedule, running ten hour shifts four days a week.

Rental Uniform Service also understands that working with the food, healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing industries, as well as government, municipalities and others, requires different and specialized wash formulas for each.

“We provide the highest quality product for our customers. That involves utilizing good modern chemistry with natural soap,” explained Robert King, Director of Corporate Development. After working for General Electric he joined Rental Uniform Service in 1999, first in sales before switching to marketing and then as the GM in Gastonia. He’s been instrumental in growing the company’s sales and technology efforts in his current position.

“The goal was to create advanced wash formulas that were unique to each of our customer segments,” King said.

“For example, we partnered with UNX-Christeyns to develop a low pH dispensing formula. In simple terms, since the wash cycle environment is less harsh the goods are going to be brighter, they will last longer and they are going to wear better. We have always been known for the quality and comfort of our garments. Now, with skilled input from UNX-Christeyns, we have been able to achieve an even higher level of comfort and appearance for our customers. This innovative treatment environment makes it better and we didn’t have that process prior to working with them.”

King said that working with an experienced, technically proficient UNX-Christeyns staff generates better results.

“They have a smart group of laundry industry professionals. People like Graham Skinner (Vice President of Field Engineering) and others who have actually worked in our industry and know what they’re doing,” he commented. “Their Area Supervisor, Nicholas Vangelakos, visits our plants regularly and we consider him like family. He’s developed a trusted work relationship with our facility managers.

“UNX-Christeyns was able to provide significant efficiencies by reducing the number of steps in our wash formula processes from the beginning to the end. They’re making sure we are being trained properly on their equipment and making any necessary adjustments. They also just finished constructing a unique rack system for the chemical dispensers, which provides efficient product injection while reducing mechanical components. The end result is we have a better looking and cleaner product, in addition to the tangible benefits of using less energy, natural gas, electricity and water.”

Those benefits include improved effluent (wastewater), which is always an important goal for industrial laundries. They have real-time, in-house reporting capability that tracks pertinent management data, such as determing the cost-per-load and other vital daily production numbers. King says better chemistry ultimately benefits their customers.

“You can get a uniform from anybody, but what our customers get from us and our vendor partners is better service and quality that can’t be found elsewhere. Our customer’s expectation is they want a clean and comfortable product, not one that was run through a solvent process,” he noted.

“We invest more money than most of our competitors because we require our wash process to deliver the highest quality product for our customers. They know we have an experienced service team that is providing the best care in the industry. We treat our employees and partners like family and that’s why many of them have been with us for three decades. That is what truly impacts the relationship with our customers, not just numbers on a page.

“Some of our most loyal customers,” King concluded, “are those who have previously used our competition. Once they experience our superior quality level, the dramatic differences become apparent and we never lose them. Thus, we are pleased that we have found a solid partnership with UNX-Christeyns. They get it. They have the same goals and with their support, we make happier customers.”

Southern Oregon Linen Service does a complete Lavatec installation

Top management officials at Southern Oregon Linen Service (l-r) Todd Shields, board president; Cara Marsh-Rhodes, board treasurer; and general manager Antonio Casillas.

Marathon runners train their bodies relentlessly, running hundreds of miles to prepare themselves for a race. They do it to build endurance so they can overcome any conditions, stave off fatigue and finish with a strong sprint to the finish line.

That scenario is similar to the situation where Lavatec recently installed new equipment at Southern Oregon Linen Service (SOLS). Four years after beginning the process, Lavatec had only 10 days to remove the old machinery and install an entire new system that centered around a custom-built continuous tunnel washer. They completed it in eight, and SOLS is on the road to achieving their energy efficiency goals.

“For the capacity we handle daily, we’re now able to process everything in less than 10 hours a day compared to 14-18 hours previously,” explained Antonio Casillas, Southern Oregon Linen Service’s general manager. He’s been with SOLS for the last eight years.

“With this new equipment, we anticipate saving over seven million gallons of water annually. In the first month the new equipment was operating, we averaged a savings of 30,000 gallons of water a day.”

Meeting today’s changing demands

His statement is significant and relevant to the challenges SOLS has encountered. Four years is hardly normal for an installation process, but climate change has caused a shift away from what is considered normal in the western United States. The company took stock in the needs of their customers, where the industry is heading, and regional business and environmental conditions before making their decision.

SOLS is in White City, about 35 miles north of the California border and close to I-5, the major north-south interstate that runs through the states bordering the Pacific Ocean. A provider of cooperative laundry services for nine Oregon hospitals and one assisted living facility within a 300-mile radius, their 30,000 square-foot facility first opened for business in 1996. With 70 full-time employees, it makes them one of the largest local employers in the town of less than 10,000 people.

The shuttle system feeds the new Lavatec tunnel, which is helping SOLS reduce water usage by an average of 30,000 gallons a day.

A few weeks before the Lavatec equipment arrived at SOLS, the Governor of Oregon declared a drought emergency in several counties including Jackson, where White City is located. Over 70% of the county is experiencing extreme conditions, and forecasters are predicting the prolonged drought to be worse than the last two years. Local farmers delayed planting due to the water storage and lower snowpack levels, and there are concerns about the fire season, which officially arrived on June 1.

Jim Slatcher, Lavatec ’s western regional sales manager, began conversations and building a relationship with the Southern Oregon Linen Service management team in 2018. When it became apparent last year that it was time to replace their existing tunnel system, Lavatec was one of three vendors invited to submit proposals.

“We never had any Lavatec equipment, but after four years of working with them and understanding the benefits of their system, it was evident they were our choice,” said Casillas. “Lavatec is now part of the Southern Oregon Linen Services family, and we look forward to future projects with them.”

In addition to the new LT60 continuous tunnel washing system with 14 compartments, SOLS added an LP572 40-bar press, six TT-745 dryers with a capacity of 292 pounds each, and a Shuttle system. To keep up with the demands of a two-shift, five-days-a-week work schedule, Casillas outsourced work to several area laundries until the conversion was completed.

A laundry cake travels from the tunnel washer to its next destination, one of the six new TT-745 gas dryers.

“Lavatec did a phenomenal job completing the project in eight days. I would like to genuinely thank everyone involved with the installation team for all the support, especially Pacific Machinery Moving,” said Casillas, referring to the California company Slatcher brought in to handle the rigging for the project. “In my opinion, Hector Gutierrez has put together the best rigging company in the industry.”

Casillas and his staff feel they are working with the best energy efficient washing equipment in the industry.

The LT-60 tunnel washer is said to deliver superior performance with maximum throughput. With the capability of over 100 wash programs, it allows them to select, monitor and control all inputs and levels of energy, water and chemicals to do the work. Its power source is the tunnel rotation, which utilizes four motor-powered friction drives, said to be an advantage compared to a single-motor chain drive requiring constant lubrication.

Casillas is also impressed with the TT-745 dryers. Equipped with an in-line burner, these machines provide total basket coverage that evenly distributes heat throughout the drum. A more efficient fuel burn is achieved with the lower gas pressure and BTU consumption, generating additional time and cost savings.

“The equipment has definitely lived up to our expectations. After the installation we had a few minor issues as expected, and the Lavatec team promptly took care of it,” remarked Casillas.

“Having six dryers has kept our steam line flowing consistently. The infrared sensors work very efficiently and help keep the flow of work moving quickly. When you combine the extraction press and shuttle, the whole system has helped us to run more efficiently.”

Casillas anticipates the new equipment will take Southern Oregon Linen Service to the next level.

“We have been producing over 8 million pounds of linen consistently,” he said. “We expect to see growth in our business and process about 9 million pounds in 2023. As we continue to expand, we hope to add additional equipment.”

Girbau UK: Doing well by doing good

Installs laundry for Street Soccer charity in Scotland

Girbau’s Carole Wise (center, with glasses), and members of the charity’s new training center in Dundee, Scotland.

Girbau UK is supporting the work of Street Soccer Scotland by providing laundry equipment for the charity’s new training center in Dundee. Girbau has given the charity one of its heavy-duty HS-6008 commercial washing machines, an Econodry dryer and a commercial ironing board for the training center’s laundry room. The equipment is ideal for years of all-day, everyday use.

Street Soccer Scotland uses football inspired training and personal development as a medium to empower people who are affected by social exclusion. It works across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow using the power of football to inspire young people and adults to change their lives.

The charity runs drop-in soccer sessions and tournaments, a personal development program for prisons and a women’s program. It also selects, coaches and mentors the Men’s and Women’s Homeless World Cup teams who represent Scotland.

The new laundry will allow volunteers to wash and dry sports kit for all players and staff and also be available to Street Soccer participants who may need a place to wash and dry clothes of any kind. A welcome facility which most of us are lucky enough to be able to take for granted.

“I would like to thank Carole and the rest of the Girbau team for their very kind donation to Street Soccer Scotland to help facilitate a laundry space at the flagship Change Centre Dundee,” said Scott Hollinshead, business development manager at Change Centre Dundee for Street Soccer Scotland.

“The washing machine, tumble dryer and ironing board now take pride of place in the laundry room to help further our social mission within the city, by enhancing a safe and welcoming place for all our players. The equipment was in fantastic condition and will be used to wash and dry players kit, towels, and training bibs. Thank you for all your support and we look forward welcoming the Girbau family back at the Change Centre very soon”.

“Girbau UK is proud to be able to support the fantastic work of Street Soccer Scotland by equipping the laundry at its Dundee Training Centre,” says Peter Rankin, managing director of Girbau UK. “Their work is an outstanding example of how coaching and playing football can absolutely turn people’s lives around. I would also like to pay tribute to the hard work of Carole Wise our area sales manager in Scotland who has worked tirelessly to make this happen along with our partners Bill Mclachlan of Gailarde who supplied the towels, DLS (Drycleaning and Laundry Services) in Edinburgh who installed the equipment and Malcolm and Andy Drummond of Trichem Scotland who supplied detergents for the equipment.”

Emerald Textiles plans to double capacity in 2022

Emerald Textiles, recognized as the largest commercial healthcare laundry and linen service business in the western part of the U.S., with headquarters in San Diego, prides itself on being an environmentally responsible healthcare laundry provider. Therefore, each equipment purchase decision is based on the strict California regulations and what’s best for their customers.

The company purchased a new Lavatec continuous batch washer system (CBW) for its Commerce commercial linen and laundry facility in Los Angeles. The purchase is part of a multi-million dollar commitment to meet the growing demand and need for energy efficiency improvements at the location.

Emerald installed a Lavatec CBW system in 2019 that exceeded its expectations. A new rail and conveyor system that is scheduled for installation this summer. It will be the next phase to help the facility nearly double its volume in 2022.

Key management team members at the Emerald Textiles facility in Commerce include: (L-R) Jim Hernandez, Director of Engineering; General Manager Sean Mageean; Operations Manager Alicia Silva; and Chief Engineer Luis Lopez.

“These Lavatec CBW systems are right there with the most energy efficient tunnel systems on the market,” explained Sean Mageean, the Commerce facility’s general manager. “Energy savings is very important to us. We do our part to preserve natural resources by regularly investing in energy and water saving equipment so our healthcare customers can feel good about choosing Emerald Textiles.”

Major acquisition expected to propel growth

Timing of the new equipment and increased volume projections coincide with a December 4 announcement that Emerald Textiles had acquired the west coast assets of the Angelica Corporation, a national healthcare linen service provider. The acquisition included nine facilities, allowing Emerald to expand its western footprint into Phoenix and Las Vegas and strengthen its northern and southern California markets.

“We are focused on building out our strong network of customers and expanding our footprint of facilities, while investing $35 million in capital across our locations to create world-class linen and commercial laundry facilities in the west,” said Andy Kratky, Emerald Textile’s CEO. “At the Commerce facility, we have welcomed several newly won healthcare customers that is the primary growth for 2022, along with 100% renewals of linen services to all our acute hospitals and medical centers.”

The plant in Commerce is one of the oldest in Emerald’s portfolio. Located in a business park, the 70,000 square-foot building opened in 1950. But the energy crisis in the early 1970s would lead to new regulations for businesses in the state.

The California Energy Commission was created and in 1978, it adopted stringent energy efficiency standards requiring businesses to decrease the energy intensity and carbon emissions of their equipment and buildings. Emerald has championed those efforts and it led to their San Diego facility winning a Savings by Design Award in 2011, which is sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission and San Diego Gas & Electric. In 2020, the Commerce facility was recognized by the Los Angeles County Sanitation District for converting waste into resources by reducing the amount of wastewater.

New equipment to meet greater demands

Emerald’s new CBW system went online the first week of October 2021. It included a custom built, 12-compartment bottom transfer tunnel washer, a new 50-bar, LP583S washer extractor speed press, six pre-owned TT-745 gas dryers, a 4-pocket loading conveyor and shuttle conveyor, and a dryer shuttle control cabinet. It’s the second time in the last three years the company has chosen Lavatec.

A dryer operator removes linen from one of the 11 Lavatec gas dryers in operation at the Commerce plant.

“In 2019, we purchased a Lavatec CBW system to replace one from [another company] that had reached the end of its useful life,” said Mageean, who has worked in the linen and garment service industry for 26 years. He’s been with Emerald for the last three.

“The system installed then included a new loading conveyor, a 12 module, 200-pound pocket CBW, 50-bar press extractor, shuttle system and five dryers. This new system replaced another [older system] and compliments the other. Price, dependability and support were all factored into the decision to go with the Lavatec systems in our facility.”

Mageean indicated his facility is ready to take on a greater workload after the new acquisitions announcement was made in December 2021.

“The expectation is that, at a minimum, the new CBW system will handle approximately 50,000 pounds wash capacity per shift,” he said. “With the addition of 15 new client hospitals, our plant has transitioned to a two shift, seven days a week schedule.”

Jim Hernandez, Emerald’s director of engineering who oversees all major projects, handled this installation with Luis Lopez, the chief engineer in Commerce. Mageean said both men and Jim Slatcher, Lavatec’s western regional sales manager, were responsible for a seamless transition.

“The new CBW system has allowed us to increase our overall throughput so we are processing more poundage in a shorter amount of time,” he noted. “The used TT745 dryers run two shifts, seven days a week, along with five more Lavatec dryers we have and eight others. They were available to be shipped fast and are doing well for their age. Since replacing the older, inefficient systems, we are experiencing resource savings with water and steam. Running more poundage in a shorter amount of time is also good for our people and the environment, and great for our bottom line.”

The new Lavatec 12-compartment bottom transfer tunnel washer installed last December.

Still some challenges

Mageean said the controls upgrade and discharge conveyor system will help him manage operations at the facility.

“As with most businesses, we have experienced some trouble finding qualified workers. Washroom and dryer operator positions, which require some level of technical skill, have been particularly difficult to maintain,” acknowledged Mageean, who has 209 employees working at the Commerce plant. “The addition of discharge conveyors and their corresponding controllers will allow for the reduction of some of these workstations and increase the ease of work overall for our employees.”

Having Lavatec’s support available anytime to maximize production uptime now that operations have expanded to the two, eight-hour shifts everyday schedule is reassuring to Mageean.

“Our overall impression is the new CBW system is running great and exceeding our expectations. The Lavatec team was here onsite throughout the entire installation, and again during the training phase once the system was up and running. I know if any issues arise that require support beyond our local engineering team, Lavatec staff can connect to the system remotely and assist our engineers.”

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