Experts in design and development of state-of-the-art commercial laundry facilities since 1974.

This is the first of several articles regarding the scheduling of hotel laundry service. This post will focus on small to medium-sized hotel properties (25-250 rooms) that are engaged in room and housekeeping laundry only. This information is relevant to the three-quarters of hospitality properties that fit within this category. It is specifically directed at management, including housekeeping managers, general managers and even principals of ownership and management companies.

In the hospitality world, focus is on the guest, with the goal of providing a superior experience in the hope that they return, as repeat business is what drives the property’s bottom line. One of the most important tasks is to make sure the guest’s room is ready when it’s supposed to be, which is the responsibility of the Housekeeping Department. Unfortunately, this is also one of most challenging aspects of hotel operations, particularly on high turnover days.

Housekeeping, including the hotel laundry department, accounts for the largest labor pool within the hotel and can range from 5 to 35 people. Within this department are supervisors, housekeepers, public area attendants, and laundry operators. To determine the optimum number and mix of employees, at any given time, it is necessary to monitor the fluctuating occupancy forecast and adjust the schedule accordingly. It is a daily challenge all housekeeping managers have to face: making sure there are enough employees working at any given time to clean the public areas and rooms, within highly constrained timeframes, in order to keep operations flowing smoothly.

Hotel management strives to schedule labor efficiently throughout the property but often overlooks hotel laundry, which can lead to real problems. During peak periods, housekeeping laundry often doesn’t get done in time which means the housekeepers struggle to finish the rooms. To compensate, housemen get called upon to bring towels up to the rooms, and the guests have to wait.

The result is management gets fed up: they decide housekeeping is too hard to closely manage so they put extra employees in hotel laundry services every day to ensure all laundry gets processed, no matter what. That is until a new GM shows up, looks at the high labor cost which represents 60-80% of total laundry costs, and cuts hotel laundry staffing. Then the cycle starts all over again. There is a better way to schedule laundry.

How Much Laundry Needs to be Washed?

First, you need to figure out how much laundry there is to wash. You would be surprised to learn that many properties don’t know the answer to this question. You can guess, based on the occupancy forecast, but that won’t tell you exactly how much laundry needs to be done. A useful metric for figuring this out is the Pounds Per Occupied Room (PPOR). To calculate PPOR, you start with the actual average weight of laundry that gets washed and dried and divide it by the actual number of occupied rooms (more on this in a future post).

To figure out, as closely as possible, what your total poundage of laundry is on any given day, you take the number of rooms, for example, 83, and multiply it by the estimated PPOR – in this case let’s say it’s 12.5 and the result is 1,037 pounds of laundry. That’s a lot of hotel laundry! Or, as another example, if your property has 51 rooms with a PPOR of 28, that’s 1,428 lbs. of laundry – even more laundry! This equation will vary from property to property as well as several other important factors we will discuss in another post.

How Much Laundry can your Property Handle?

This leaves many unanswered questions. For example, how much laundry can your hotel laundry service handle? How much laundry should you do? There are big debates within the industry about these issues, and there is no definitive answer. But the following formula will help.

First, figure out what your wash capacity is. One way is to take the total rated capacity – for example, if you have 3-60 lb. washers – that means you have 180 lbs. total wash capacity. Then, take your poundage, such as 1,037 (as in the example above), divide it by the wash capacity – 180 lbs. – and – boom – you know you can get it done in 5 hours and 35 minutes, assuming you have the capacity to dry and fold it. So starting with the calculation using your total capacity and poundage of laundry and applying an estimate of one load an hour (which can vary greatly and will be a subject of another post), you will have at least a starting point for scheduling.

Figuring out PPOH

The next step is to figure out your Pounds Per Operator Hour (PPOH). The industry standard ranges from 85-132 though you will hear numbers ranging between 45 and 250. Again, there are a lot of variables that factor into these benchmarks and they are the subject of much industry debate.

For purposes of explanation, start with 75 PPOH which is a good goal for a small hand folding laundry. Divide 1,037 lbs. of laundry by a PPOH of 75 which means you need 13.8 hours to process your hotel laundry. That means you need to schedule two people for the day to ensure the laundry is done properly. Note that if you only have two laundry machines and 120 lbs. of total capacity, you’re going to need 9 hours just to wash the laundry. You will have to stagger the shifts and make sure the housekeeping laundry is staffed for the entire 13.8 hours.

The bottom line is that you need to schedule your laundry in order to provide a successful hotel laundry service; don’t let your laundry schedule your team. First, you need to figure out what your goals are and then make a plan to achieve them. Give housekeeping, your largest labor pool, the tools to do their job, the top priority of which is ensuring rooms are ready when guests check in.

Western State Design has been helping clients in the hospitality industry, as well as other industries, address difficult scheduling and logistical issues since 1974. Our 43 years of experience related to commercial and industrial laundry operations, and on-premise hotel laundry equipment have allowed us to develop a level of expertise that is unmatched by others in the industry. Contact one of our Laundry Specialists to find out how we will help increase productivity, reduce manpower costs and improve your property’s bottom line.