Linen operations at JW Marriott Macau

105-0520_IMGOperating the Linen Room for a 1015 room hotel with over 95% year round occupancy, busy outlets and a very hectic swimming pool area with up to 2000 visitors a day is no mean feat.

The processing of over 5000 sheets and duvet covers daily along with thousands of towels, all of which need to be sent out to an external laundry operation, requires meticulous organisation and well directed manpower.

The Process

Our daily 90+ contingent of Room Attendants place soiled linen from the guest rooms into canvas bags which are then collected by every floor Houseman. These bags are then put down the linen chute delivering them to a central collection point at the base of the chute.

Bags are moved from the linen chute room over 300 metres to the soiled linen area next to the Loading Dock where are they sorted and prepared, waiting for collection by the Outsourced Laundry. There are between 3 – 4 pickups and deliveries every day to ensure a constant flow of soiled and clean linen in and out of the Hotel.

Clean linen is returned back through the Linen Room for checking and counting before it is redirected onto trolleys and then back up onto the 18 guest floors.

Important control procedures which need to take place

We electronically count all items taken from the guest rooms; this is done by the Room Attendants as they make up the rooms using an eHousekeeping tool on their smart phone. This count gives us a daily report of what is going out to the laundry contractor. We compare the count out with the count in and query any shortfalls and discrepancies immediately.

It’s critical to identify any damaged linen, investigating where and why it is being damaged. If the damage is caused by the laundry, it’s usually visible in one part of the linen or follows a pattern; this would include damage such as grease lines from the flat work ironer or rips and tears in one particular part of the cloth. Linen damaged in the hotel is more likely to appear randomly and could include linen used for cleaning or linen marks from being stepped on a wet or dirty floor.

We conduct a stocktake every month and though it’s challenging and we have to count 18 floors with 3 pantries – that’s 54 pantries and over 1000 rooms, it is critical to keep a close eye on stocks and monitor the losses accurately. Our evening shift Housemen prepare by counting the pantries the night before and then one Room Attendant on every floor starts an hour earlier to do the count of the floor pantries. The Linen Room team count the linen chute, soiled linen and the setup in the Linen Room. The final count is done at the external laundry site and then a final tally can be made.

As our laundry process is outsourced, it is essential for us to conduct constant quality checks as the linen arrives. This is done by the Linen Room team. There is nothing more frustrating for the Room Attendants than to be making up rooms and finding damaged or stained linen just as they are about to make the bed.
There are daily constant communications with the outsourced laundry on what is needed most urgently to ensure we have enough stock to keep the busy operation ticking over.

We order replacement linen every month and make regular injections of linen into the operation to ensure we are getting even wear for all items at all times. We maintain a 5 par of linen at all times to cope with high demand, quick turnaround times and the fact we are dealing with an outsourced laundry.

Challenges we encounter

As with all new hotels there was no discard or condemned linen for cleaning in the initial stages. Ensuring there are plenty of rags and cleaning cloths is paramount. It is easy for staff to slip into bad habits of using pillow cases to clean windows and used towels to mop up bathroom floors.

We all know how much dirt there is to clean up in a new hotel – so that good linen used for cleaning will be destroyed and will usually end up in the rubbish bin. We have found that sometimes the team are shy and do not always communicate well with the Housekeeping Supervisors and Managers. They might not tell us when they have a shortage of cleaning rags/materials and there may the possibility of a language barrier.

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Condemned and discard linen verses linen losses

It’s critical to understand the important differences between “condemned/ discard linen” and “lost linen”. It is essential to analyse and interpret reasons for short falls of linen rather than just looking at the final number of required replacement linen.

All condemned linen must be kept and carefully checked so that the reasons can be investigated and analysed. Obviously no linen item should be at the end of its natural life cycle yet so it is interesting to put the number of condemned linen items in proportion to overall linen count and ask the following questions “why is it condemned?”. Some reasons include deep dirty stains possibly meaning it’s been used for cleaning. Does the chosen linen material and/or colour not allow a proper hot wash and pre-staining treatment by the laundry – this is generally an issue with the coloured linen as it cannot be bleached and washed as hot as normal white linen can be, so therefore stains remained in and the otherwise perfectly good linen item may need to be condemned.

Fraying edges or rips and tears in the fabric could indicate an unsuitable or substandard product. What is important to check is that the delivered linen is the exact same specification as the approved samples.

Close monitoring of the laundry washing process must also be done. How is the linen treated at the plant? Is it ever on the floor? What is the state of the trolleys? Are the chemicals used too harsh? What is the water hardness? What chemicals are being used? Is the washing equipment using heavy mechanical action and are the machines in a good state of repair? Are the washing and rinsing cycles correct? What is the drying and pressing process? Holes and tears can appear at any stage of this process as well as during the transportation process.

Unaccounted lost linen is linen which is truly missing and cannot be found over a series of stocktakes.

It is interesting to analyse whether it is mostly bed linen or terry linen which is missing, or is it both in equal measures?

When the high losses relate to towelling, most of the time it can be assumed it is taken by the guest. We can accurately measure this by ensuring the Room Attendants mark down any linen losses from the room as they clean. This information is passed on to Front Office who then decide whether the guest can be charged or not. Non logo or no brand towelling is usually less attractive to the guest.

Where losses are higher in bedding linen then there are more obviously issues with counting and control procedures. A thorough check of the whole process needs to take place.

So good management of linen is really about controlling processes and excellent communication channels all round.

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