Faversham Linen Services. From disaster to increased volume and increased quality. Irving Scott reports on Faversham Linen Services four years on from a devastating fire.

Faversham Linen Services (FLS) has a long history. Established in 1898, Faversham first expanded into several towns in Kent, including Dover and Whitstable, processing laundry for individual consumers and small hotels, until the present managing director, Richard Cope, joined the family firm upon his father’s retirement in 1994. Cope is the fourth generation of his family to manage the business, and his ideas completely changed the business model of the company. Outlying plants were closed, and the processing was concentrated on the FLS site.

All domestic laundry services were terminated, and in 1995, the company switched to rental textiles, concentrating on flatwork for 95 per cent of its processing. The remaining linen processing activity included chef’s wear, mats and continuous roller towels. From 12,000 pieces per week in 1997, the business was processing, at its summer peak, close to 300,000 pieces each week.

In 2013 budgets were in place and machinery commissioned to increase the processing volume by 15 per cent, thus raising the volumes each week to a targeted 350,000 pieces per week. However, disaster struck on 12 June 2013 when fire destroyed the entire laundry plant and all its onsite linen and ancillary miscellaneous stock. With hundreds of customers expecting 300,000 pieces of linen to be delivered to them from a plant where all stock and production machinery were destroyed, Cope had multiple supply problems to address.

Fortunately, FLS was at that time, part of the Brilliant Laundry Group, which between them at that time, operated more than 30 processing plants. Within hours, several of the Brilliant members plus other laundries had agreed to process whatever was required and the linen supplier to the Brilliant Group had arranged to ship a complete stock of linen from warehouses in Europe. These moves enabled the company to get back on its feet quickly. Every customer who was contracted was given service apart from the initial short delay while all alternative stock and processing requirements were delivered. That remarkably quick response contributed to the fact that Faversham Linen retained more than 97 per cent of its customers.

The directors of FLS prior to the fire had negotiated a comprehensive insurance cover which included very strong clauses under which the services of a professionally qualified loss adjuster, working directly on behalf of FLS, was covered for all costs under the policy. In another significant clause the business interruption cover was increased to two whole years in the event of a major business disaster. These inclusions meant that it was now, very definitely, in the interests of the insurance company to move the claim along as quickly as possible to mitigate their own escalating costs. Within days of the fire, preparations for the construction of a completely new laundry plant were in hand and, despite delays resulting from numerous interventions by the planning department of the local authority, a new plant occupying 25,000 square feet on two production floors was built and commissioned and in full production almost exactly 52 weeks after the fire. The new FLS plant included the installation of a completely new chemistry and detergent dispensing operations room from where all chemicals are measured and pumped to the dosing stations adjacent to every injection location within the plant. Two continuous tunnel washers were installed to cater for the anticipated growth in washing demand and these are utilised separately: One principally for flatwork and the other used mainly for workwear. Both units can however be used for the other’s work should volumes increase or mishap occur with the other unit.

In an inspired decision the FLS directors made the far-reaching decision, after the main plant was built and functioning, to install a completely new cleanroom facility on the second floor of the plant. This involved the selection and installation of one Lapauw state-of-the-art, high performance tunnel dryer to complement the existing Jensen tunnel dryer and two new garment folders from Biko. These machines have allowed FLS to enter the high performance food industry garment processing business – with considerable success in terms of an increasing flow of new customers and very pleasing revenue performance figures. The flatwork chemistry at FLS had been supplied for over 10 years by Ecolab Textile Care Division and, as is very well known throughout the UK laundry industry, this Ecolab product continues to deliver consistently high degrees of whiteness coupled with remarkably long textile life, while at the same time meeting the highest sustainability standards while having the lowest operational costs, with regularly achieved savings at FLS of 20 per cent on anticipated processing costs. In 2017, some two years after the new plant was commissioned and with the support of Richard Cope, the Ecolab support team led by senior territory manager, Martin Wharmby, carried out a trial of the new low temperature Oxyguard 40™ range of products on tunnel washer two. With these products they were able to reduce the washing temperatures in the machine from 70°C down to 45°C which the trials showed a maintained and improved wash quality and at the same time saving 20 per cent energy usage in the laundry.

Following this successful trial the FLS directors agreed a five year supply contract in 2018, for Ecolab’s continued supply of the Oxyguard 40™ range. With the introduction of a new detergent dosing and laundry management information system and the implementation of Performance Industrial™ range of products, Ecolab has committed itself to provide a high quality washing performance with the added benefit of energy and water savings. Ecolab Performance Industrial™ is designed to operate in the 50°C – 65°C range and is particularly well suited to those laundries which are offering specialised workwear performance in their laundry services to customers, by combining the best available processing quality at the lowest operating costs, whilst having minimum environmental impact. The Ecolab Performance Industrial™ laundry product is an innovation made possible by the research strength of the Ecolab development laboratories and it is – according to an Ecolab spokesperson – “the first dedicated industrial laundry programme to match the complexity and diversity of the demands for cleaning and hygiene industrial workwear and uniforms.” Performance Industrial™ was introduced at FLS to support their positive growth in the high quality industrial workwear sector. This flexible programme gives excellent results across the varied garment specifications of their customer base. The close collaboration on site with the Ecolab team allowed Ecolab to tailor the approach to achieving efficient processing whilst improving the quality of the customers wash results.

It seems very evident to us on visiting the FLS plant that this is a direct result of the extremely fine relationship development between the onsite Ecolab support staff and the FLS directors. This relationship is a result of a genuine business partnership at the plant for a long time, building high levels of collaboration and trust which made the introduction of new programmes most effective. In this connection we talked at length with Richard Cope about his business and his hopes for the future as well as his recent experiences with new chemistry and building a new laundry plant. About the FLS relationship with Ecolab, Cope’s comments were emphatic: “We have been dealing with Ecolab for over 10 years and our relationship is far more interconnected than may be expected from the usual supplier-customer relationship. In effect we see our relationship as a partnership whereby their skills and market leading products are essential to the success of our own business skills here in the laundry.

“We have a five-year contract with Ecolab for the supply of their products and services, as well as for their constant attention to our quality performance in ensuring that our processed output to our customers is as close to laundered perfection as it can be. We have followed their recommendations and installed low temperature processing throughout the plant and we have seen that their suggestions for improvements to our output of processed textiles have always been true when they have been implemented.

“For example, our very pleasing growth in processing food industry garments has been considerably enhanced by the introduction of Ecolab Performance Industrial™ line of chemical products which are very flexible in ensuring that almost any dirt or incidence of exceptional staining can be handled without recourse to time-consuming ‘special’ processing as an exceptional off-line routine.

“We see our growth in workwear as being a solid area of development and this policy is given confidence by the high level of customer visitor interest in our new laundry plant, coupled with our dedicated cleanroom facility and the overall high quality of the laundered product from our impressive investment; which these FLS assets and benefits demonstrate to our visiting prospective customers.”

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