Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Laundry facility takes off

Inside looks more like spaceship than wash complex

Express Staff Writer

    Sun Valley Co.’s new laundry facility looks more like the interior of a spaceship than the workplace of a housekeeping staff.
    People who are picky about pressed shirts and fresh socks would be amazed by the machinery the building holds. If they could see the equipment in action, they’d never want to fold another towel or press another pair of pants by hand again. Using the new gizmos in the facility, at the intersection of Trail Creek and Hospital roads in Sun Valley, even an untrained operator can press a shirt in under 90 seconds.
    “I went to Salt Lake City to check out some of the equipment,” said Executive Housekeeper Mike Crotty during a press tour of the facility on Friday. “I watched a woman press a shirt in a minute and 12 seconds. She said she was the new girl and that she was slow. The average is about 50 seconds.”
    Crotty said his staff used to call the equipment in the resort’s former facility “The Mangler.” He said the new equipment is much safer, as well as being more time-, energy- and water-efficient. The 21,500-square-foot facility replaces the old building, a 1940s-era structure that burned down in February 2012. The new facility costs about half as much to operate, according to Crotty.
    The new building serves as the base of operations for Crotty’s 160-person housekeeping staff. He said eight people work in the building doing the laundry and another three deliver the dirty items and pick up the clean ones. Those eight employees wash about 7,000 pounds of laundry a day, Crotty said.
    “The hands-on is minimal,” he said.
    A total of about 20 employees, including office staff, work in the building.
    Crotty said the employees are as happy with the new facility as he is.
    Resort housekeeper Anita Bedolla, who was busy feeding recently washed sheets into a folding machine during the tour, said she greatly prefers the new building to the old one.
    “It’s much easier working with the new machines,” she said in Spanish. “Faster, more relaxed, calm.”
    Bedolla said she barely has to do anything now except watch the machines do all the work. The facility features an entire machine (which looks like a storm trooper’s armor from Star Wars) just to press the cuffs of a shirt.
    Leonor Palencia, a housekeeper who’s been working for the resort for 10 years, said “all” the machines are her favorite.
    The beating heart of the facility is a large-capacity “tunnel washer” that recycles water five times through five cycles, saving about 75 percent of the water that a standard commercial laundry system would use, according to a recent news release from the resort.
    “A sophisticated twin 150-hp steam boiler system drives the laundry equipment along with two air compressors,” the news release states.
    The washer can crank out about 1,000 pounds of laundry per hour, cleaning them in 100-pound “cakes.”
    The facility also has a dry cleaner (the separate room that houses the dry cleaning equipment smells like a hot glue gun) and another room that houses many large vats of chemicals. Crotty said those rooms are separate from the rest of the facility for both the employees’ and the building’s safety. He also said the new equipment requires significantly fewer chemicals to operate.
    Other equipment, which Crotty said is “all programmable” includes Lint Scrubber 8000s, which keep the facility’s air lint-free, and several large Milnor dryers.
    “I love the building,” Crotty said. “We tried to think of everything we possibly could.”
    Laundry Manager Mike Knudson said his team had to wash all the resort’s laundry for about a year without a building and the new facility is his reward. He said that sometimes his team would use laundromats in Ketchum and the washers and dryers in the resort employee’s dormitories to get the job done.
    Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said the facility even includes “country club bathrooms” for the employees. The bathrooms are accented with marble and include a locker for each member of the staff.
    “It’s pretty amazing to get excited about a laundry facility,” he said. “But it’s pretty cool.”

Facility facts
• 21,500 square feet.
• Uses 75 percent less water.
• Requires fewer chemicals.
• Costs Sun Valley Co. half as much to operate.
• Twin 150-hp steam boiler.

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