Case Certification Meerzicht (NL): Clean, on time & tidy!

Industrial laundry Meerzicht started it’s operation over a hundred years ago. Nowadays the laundry processes 52 tons flat linen per week (4-5 production days) on average almost exclusively for hotel customers. A few years back (2011) the laundry was processing about 20-25 tons per week but in 2012 a new location was opened in Katwijk, The Netherlands which enabled the business to grow to a laundry of 40-60 tons per week. Together with a team of just 10 employees (half fixed, half flex-workers) Rem van Dommelen and Marcel Vis (directors of Laundry Meerzicht) work just on one goal in a workweek of maximum 36 hours: “Clean, on time & tidy flat linen for all hotel customers. And that’s not all, in its continuous efforts to professionalize the business the company recently also completed its certification according to ISO 9001:2015 standards.

Rem van Dommelen & Marcel Vis, directors of Laundry Meerzicht in Katwijk, The Netherlands

Specialization = profitable business  

The laundry has all the machinery to execute a completely automated process, which is specialized for the hotel customers. “You can’t combine this for instance with health care or even restaurant customers” says Rem van Dommelen, “I’d rather give those type of customers to a colleague”. At Meerzicht there is a very clear focus on specialization to set a standard quality level, after all a hotel requires a different quality standard than a hospital and table linen needs different care than bed sheets. But Meerzicht even goes further. Even though the current customer portfolio consists of hotels with 7-540 rooms this laundry increasingly focuses on hotels with 80-140 rooms with limited soil degree (bedsheets are changed on a daily basis). In the past a group of customers (mainly table linen) went to another laundry and it was noticed that the production efficiency improved all of the sudden from 75 kg per man-hour to 105 kg per man-hour. The result was less under-loading of batches so the process became much more efficient. This example also makes clear that smaller hotels should also pay a significantly higher price per kg than the larger hotels. At the same time the laundry focuses on hotels with maximum 140 rooms to minimize the risk. Should a hotel decide not to continue the collaboration with Meerzicht it will not impact the overall income and process too much.

Ideal (limited) product-market mix

Another aspect of specialization at Meerzicht industrial laundry is the limited product portfolio. The laundry offers bed sheets (1 & 2 persons), bed cover (1 & 2 persons), pillow covers and 4 types of terrycloth (hand towel, bath towel, shower sheet and bath mat). This ensures the textile can go through the process as fast as possible, resetup costs are lowered and the result is an average efficiency rate of 114 kg per man-hour production. This process shows that specialization on a specific customer group & product mix can greatly boost the efficiency of the laundry. Naturally each product-market-combination has its own standards in terms of efficiency KPI’s, a laundry of table linen (80-90 kg per man-hour) or personal garments (some 40 kg per man-hour) has completely different norm values (and so pricing per kg). The key message from this case is that specialization and so combining similar products that require the same quality standard results in more efficiency and so higher margins for each laundry player in the market.

Process integration: every second counts!

To increase the efficiency every step in the process has been analyzed and optimized in terms of speed as well as increasing the added value for the customer. This is a continuous process, every day Meerzicht is looking for opportunities to improve the process and optimize the process flow. Bedsheets & covers are of course separated from the terry cloth. Subsequently two golden rules follow:

  1. Ensure as little under-loading of batches as possible, maximize the max capacity of the laundry bags that feed the tunnel washer.
  2. Decrease the time needed to execute each process step.

For the second point it is ensured personnel takes as little steps & actions as possible (this is very much in line with the LEAN theory where ‘transport’ = ‘waste’). Every time the linen is touched it has to be A) absolutely necessary and B) as easy as possible for the staff. Another interesting example is the speed of the ironer for each customer. Older textiles can be processed faster in the ironer than new textile.

Sorting of the dirty laundry is made very easy by using the transport belt that continuesly feeds new linen and laundry bags that automatically feed the tunnel washer. Nowadays it’s increasingly possible for the staff at the hotel to separate the terry cloth from the bedding in the hotel so its easier to process the linen
Meerzicht applied an infrared sensor (instead of the two standard switches) to speed up the shuttle with several seconds which transports the laundry ‘cakes’ between the tunnel washer and the dryers. Together with supplier partners Vega Systems, Senso Technics, Goudkuil and Christeyns this laundry has investigated warehouse technology from e-commerce companies like Amazon and Alibaba to further optimize the process which will soon replace this shuttle installation as well.
With these sheet-picker every batch of bedding linen is separated one-by-one and fed to the operator at the ironer. This resulted in two less persons needed in the process (2 FTE=full time equivalent) and enables 1000 pieces per hour to be fed to the ironer. Besides the efficiency this machines prevents back problems of staff and an automated quality check is performed as textiles that do not tear are surely still of a sufficient quality level.
On every work station the correct information is displayed to the operator on these type of tablets. This can be customized for each customer, for instance this picture shows exactly how many pieces need to be put in the container and how they should be structured.


After each batch the count of the foldingmachine is directly put in the tablet so the central ERP system contains the exact correct information for dispatch and perhaps even more important: invoicing.


To save energy Meerzicht applied numerous measures; these plastic curtains have been installed to maintain the heath, the tunnel washer has soft starters, water usage is set on 2.1 liter per kilo on the tunnel (total plant has 3.2 liter incl. wash extractor, toilets, etc.), the steam generator is set on 9 bar and is turned off 15 minutes before the daily operation is finished and every morning a check will be done on air leakages by walking through the plant when the steam generator has just started.


Importance of monitoring

At Meerzicht monitoring has been a standard part of the operation for decades. “How would you otherwise know how your business is performing?” says Van Dommelen. Measuring the most important KPI’s should be part of every self-respecting laundry and it doesn’t even mean you need complex, expensive software. Naturally software can help analyze in more detail but just a simple excel with weakly measurement of the KG textile washed, number of hours of operators and the usage of gas/water/electricity is already sufficient to know if the laundry is operating accordingly and if there are abnormal peaks that need attention. At Meerzicht every production day starts with a finger scan of the operators to automatically and transparently register the working hours. Besides providing management information monitoring is key to identify ‘waste’ in the process and measure improvement. For instance, if a peak in water usages is recorded you know that something is wrong in the process (e.g. a slipped tight water tap because of erosion and water hardness) which firstly increases cost and secondly (potentially) impacts the quality of your laundry service. Another important KPI that Meerzicht monitors is the level of rewash, this should be max 2%. When changes are made into the standardized operating system there is always an interaction with the main suppliers Vega Systems, Senso Technics, Goudkuil en Christeyns.

Transport as profit booster

De first and last step in the process is transport. The drivers of Meerzicht are much more than just drivers, they have become service-employees that represent the company. In case of questions or comments these service-employees will directly act upon it by informing the laundry operational management which results in much less miss-communication and so a more professional service. The routes are fixed, one week the customer is visited Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the next week Tuesday and Thursday. With two city-trailers and a truck customers are serviced. These vehicles are a little smaller in size which makes them more efficient (less gas usage) and flexible in the urban areas. All hotels are within a radius of 30 km so in total Meerzicht doesn’t drive more than 2100 km per week. “Another interesting aspect to monitor is the time a service-employee takes to deliver and collect the roll containers.” The service-employees record how much time it takes them to do the delivery. Subsequently management analyzes the timing every week in about 30 minutes which leads to interesting benchmark information.


Just as most laundries, Meerzicht doesn’t know exactly how containers will be ready for pick-up at the customer. On site, the service-employee will check how much containers can be collected and in case of fluctuation it usually only takes time to balance the linen stock out. Especially for hotel laundries, it is known that seasonality can impact the demand for linen. In the winter the hotels at sea can be nearly empty with some 20 beds that require fresh linen whereas the same hotel can require 300 fresh beds in the summer. In the bigger cities this is usually not the case, occupancy rate is fairly steady at 100% all year long. In the cities the challenge is more focused on the delivery schedules, avoiding traffic jams. The trucks will be loaded at the end of the afternoon/beginning of the evening so the service-employees can depart directly at 4-5 am in the morning. With some hotels there is so much trust in the relationship that they’ve provided the service-employees with keys so they can enter the hotel themselves. This helps to avoid transport during traffic jams.

Textile rental & Blycolin partnership

Meerzicht as a laundry works for its own hotel customers (about 40% of total, the contract is between Meerzicht and the hotel) as well for hotels that are the customer of Blycolin, a textile rental company (60% of total, the contract is between Meerzicht and Blycolin). All textiles consist of 80% cotton and 20% polyester which is ideal for industrial processing while maintaining a long lifetime of the textile. Currently the laundry realizes an average bedlinen lifetime of 5 years which can go up to 7 years for hotels at sea. Terry cloth is replaced once every 3 years, at the same time the bedlinen is checked on quality level. For the rental service a standard rule of thumb is to supply 5 sets of linen for each room in the hotel plus 10% for calamities. Hotels with an occupancy of 70% or more are interesting customers in this case.
The partnership with Blycolin works particularly well for Meerzicht. The hotel customers of Blycolin don’t have to be visited and customer service goes via Blycolin. Furthermore invoicing, marketing, quality checks (at the hotel), customer relationship management and supply of new textiles is taken care of by Blycolin. Meerzicht is responsible for an efficient, high-quality laundry service as well as transport. With an efficient operation, such as with Meerzicht, this business model works particularly well. Both partners are specialized at their own set of tasks. Besides this Blycolin is good at educating the housekeepers at the hotel at separating the linen when the room is serviced. This results in more efficiency which can be used for better margins or more attracting pricing offers to customers. A last important point to make clear agreements about in this type of partnership is the level of linen reject by the hotel.


Certification = professionalism

The most important reason for Meerzicht to start certification was to inspire proud amongst its employees and to showcase professionalism of this company. Customers recognize the ISO 9001:2015 standard which helps to profile the laundry business. Furthermore certification supports the company to consistently work on (improving) quality management as well as operational efficiency and documenting these processes accordingly. Another important point which was implemented during the certification implementation is the increased transparency towards the customer. At Meerzicht a report about the operation (temperature, ph value, etc.) is automatically send to the customer on a periodical basis so process parameters can be checked. This input comes from Meerzicht but also Christeyns (detergent supplier) which automatically generates the data. Lastly the certificate and underlying quality management handbook helps to showcase a professional operation according to best practices towards various governmental bodies. To implement this program at Meerzicht a consultancy service is used. With so little overhead Meerzicht has a limited capacity for these tasks so consultancy is the perfect solution including a periodical returning service.