The hotel group which means business in the laundry 27 Mar 2018


HOTEL LAUNDRY

A report by Irving Scott on his visit to the Apex hotels’ laundry facility in Scotland.

Apex hotels is a family-owned group of 10 hotels in London, Bath, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee; they are stylish in character, modern in their design and in most other things, contemporary in their presentation to guests. 

They are in a fast-growing sector of the UK hotel market and the Apex approach includes a strong desire to deliver guest quality in every way possible. They have therefore taken the bold step of building and operating their own laundry facility in Livingston, Central Scotland, which is a convenient location for their six Scottish hotels.

apex hotels laundry manager martin richards
Above: Martin Richards, general manager of Apex hotels laundry facilities management division at work managing production for all the APEX Scottish-based laundry plants from their central base in Livingston, Scotland

Martin Richards is laundry operations manager in the Apex facilities division and he was proud to show us every aspect of his workplace: “The directors took the decision to open a laundry because of the many difficulties which they had encountered over several years in achieving everyday service reliability and a high standard of laundered linen, from the Scottish commercial laundry fraternity,” was his succinct and cogent explanation to us on our visit to the Apex facilities division. 

The decision having been taken, the project team charged with delivering the task, had to define, source and select the required buildings, plant, machinery, textile products, laundry chemicals and the hundred and one other items which together constitute a working industrial laundry. And, of course, the staff had to be recruited which meant, in effect, starting with no one person in the initial laundry crew having any previous experience in the industrial laundry business. 

That was during 2013 and the opening staff numbered five on the first day of production, and which has now reached nine in total when added to the three transport delivery and collection drivers and one laundry operations manager. 

This team is currently producing 4.5 tonnes of finished work each day of the seven-day working week, and it is work of the highest quality, as we saw in the finished linens awaiting delivery to the appropriate Apex hotel location. 

The processing equipment installed in the Apex facilities division was largely new equipment when the laundry opened four years ago; the original equipment was further augmented by additional ironers and washers-extractors in early 2017.

“the modern hotel business in the western world is driven by the all-pervading influence of the comments broadcast by the social media channels”

Richards continues: “In our daily operating performance we constantly monitor our rewash rate and in particular the rewash and rejection rate of return from the individual hotels in the Apex Hotels group. The standard which we must achieve is less than two per cent rewash or rejection from the branches, a quality standard which is carefully adhered to, as the individual hotels tend to judge our performance with their own previous experience based on dealing with external commercial laundries.” 

High praise from Richards was given concerning his trials with assorted chemical suppliers to the laundry facility. He explains his experience in these words: “You need to remember that we started this division from scratch in a newly equipped double industrial unit and with a staff which had no previous knowledge of operating a modern commercial laundry. 

This applied especially to our knowledge of the most useful chemicals to use for the critical task of cleaning and refreshing the entire linen stock of the four hotels then operating in Scotland. “Our first challenging experience came through using what turned out to be inadequate washing powders, from a non-specialist distributor of general lines of products which, we were told, were in general use in small laundry installations such as ours. 

Our wash quality was not as we required for Apex Hotels and we investigated the alternatives available in several other laundries locally. Our choice had to be available for installation when the existing contract came to an end. Our final choice came to a selection between two contending suppliers and despite the very tight delivery requirement of less then 15 days to install the complete chemistry, the quality promised by Ecolab in the form of Oxyguard40® was delivered on time and the results were dramatic to see.” “Within days we saw a visible improvement in the handle and feel of the towels in particular, and a significant improvement in the visible whiteness of all the linens, as well as a much enhanced feel of the finish on the sheets and duvet covers. 

In fact, we have never been less than delighted with the comprehensive support which we get from everyone in the Ecolab field support staff, both in their regular service calls and initially during the training and support to all our staff when the new Oxyguard40® was delivered and the pumping system installed for all the individual washer-extractors as well as for the continuous tunnel system. “We are now at a stage in our experience where we can produce the laundered products for our hotels to the required quality standard in every product from bed linens and towels to kitchen cloths. 

Above all else, the Apex Hotels group sets great store by many visible quality standards and the linen product which we send out to our branches must always try to be the highest which our guests have experienced.” After discussing the laundry operation and development with Richards we took the opportunity of discussing the significance of the Apex Hotels decision to set up a group facilities division with Andrew Taylor, the project director, who oversaw the formation and development of the business from its inception. Taylor immediately impressed on us the immense strategic importance of how important the development of a specific laundry operation was to the basic philosophy of Apex Hotels. “The directors are always focused on their main points of difference as hotel operators.

hotel laundry linen cleaning bedsheets apex hotels

They were, are and will continue to be, driven by the pursuit of giving every guest, in every Apex hotel, a memorable experience from all aspects of their stay with them. “They are fully aware that the modern hotel business in the western world is driven by the all-pervading influence of the comments broadcast by the social media channels on every communications system available to any potential guest at any of our hotels. Hotel occupancy rates are driven by these opinions and any poor experience, even of only one post on Trip Advisor, receives very wide coverage. “This focus on quality as it is delivered in every department of our hotel group meant that from the beginning of the business comments and complaints about the quality of the bed linen, the kitchen linen or the restaurant napery, received serious attention from the owners. 

Apex Hotels rapidly became conscious that they were at risk of serious losses of repeat business from their guests because of the number of comments regarding the poor condition of the laundered linen. “The establishment of the laundry for primary use by Apex hotels has removed the previous problems associated with the laundry service and the quality of the output to the hotels is very readily monitored by each hotel, as they are critical of every individual item delivered to them with which the guests will come in contact.

The Apex attention to detail is all-consuming in its critical focus and this is the guiding ethos of the Apex business. “We are pleased with the way that the laundry has so quickly developed to its present levels of efficiency and the staff there have been very good at learning their new professional skills and have responded very well to the challenges they have faced.

Richards was selected to be the first laundry operations manager and he had previously been the engineering maintenance manager in our Apex hotel located in Haymarket, Edinburgh.” This was an instructive visit to a laundry created to deliver improved service quality to its users and to deliver very much improved quality of cleanliness, brightness and ‘handle’ in its laundered products. There is little doubt that the support and technical assistance brought to the service of the Apex Hotels group by the Ecolab support team in Scotland has played a very significant part in the success which this venture has achieved for Apex Scottish hotels and all their many guests.


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