Double Load

When it comes to doing laundry, most people opt for efficiency. In our homes, we usually do laundry while multitasking around the house. And, many of us opt for efficiency equipment, which can cut down on water and energy usage. Hotels are no different, except that they must deal with much more laundry on a daily basis.

While efficiency in hotel laundry operations is often found in new equipment designed to cut energy costs and make the process of washing and drying bed sheets, towels, and other linens more productive, efficiency is also found in the staffing it takes to do the laundry and the setup of the hotel’s laundry operations. This is especially true for small hotels with limited resources.

One such property is the Motel 6 Northlake-Speedway in Dallas, Texas. The 2-year-old, three-floor, 120-room hotel is the first economy hotel in the nation to attain LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It is also a model for Accor North America’s efforts to create an efficient chain of hotels.

Opened in October 2009, the hotel adheres to Accor North America’s ongoing sustainable initiatives like the use of technologically advanced heating and cooling systems, fluorescent light bulb and battery recycling program, and water conservation measures, and also includes advanced energy efficiency features that further reduce its energy consumption compared to existing Motel 6 properties. And, laundry service is certainly one of its main efficiency programs.

The hotel has a unique setup for its laundry. While it maintains energy-efficient equipment for laundry, it also positioned the laundry facilities near its front desk so that employees may multitask.

“It’s very efficient and very cost-effective,” says Jean Burt, general manager of the Motel 6 Northlake-Speedway.

The laundry facility is a separate room that is located approximately 8 feet behind the front desk. “We have a laundry chute that comes down to the room and everybody on the front desk is a laundry person as well,” Burt explains. “Usually the auditor does the biggest portion because that’s the least busy time. She has time to go back and sort the laundry and wash and dry. The big thing during the day that the front desk does is to fold the towels.”

Burt says that the front desk has enough room for the associates to take the towels to the front desk to fold without causing a disturbance.

“It all works really well because if we’re not busy there is always something to do back there,” Burt says.

Cost efficiency mostly comes from staffing costs savings. Since associates have “double-duty” there are fewer positions that need to be filled. It also maximizes the time that associates are on duty.

Mark Heymann, chairman and CEO of industry operations consulting firm UniFocus, says that multitasking employees make up a method growing in prevalence in the industry. “Most of the time you’ll find that cross-utilization of staff generally involves housekeeping,” he says. “The key to it is to first identify what your requirements are for workloads. That’s the real fundamental approach.”

Front desk associates are able to multitask due to the position of the laundry room, as well as a camera installed to watch the desk. “The camera watches the front doors,” Burt says. “We also lock our doors at night so guests ring a bell if they need service.”

To accomplish the multi-tasking process, the hotel must train its front desk associates on how to handle the laundry. “The way housekeepers fold and the way we—as people—fold is way different,” Burt says. “The housekeeping staff needs to train us. It’s definitely an art.”

That’s because the volume of sheets and towels requires compact folding to accommodate them all on the storage shelves.

Burt says the setup was planned as part of the prototype Motel 6 developed for its conservation program.

Since her hotel is small, Burt says that the concept is vital to efficient operations. “I’ve also been to some other brands and when they have a small staff they do the same thing. It’s a great setup,” she says.

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