It Pays to Keep Clean

Alsco Uniforms is a fifth-generation family-owned and operated uniform and linen laundry service company founded in the USA in 1889 and is recognised for having invented the uniform and linen rental industry.
Alsco Uniforms' new Hino Hybrid Electric.

Alsco Uniforms provides laundry services and other products across a number of market segments, including healthcare, automotive, industrial, manufacturing and hospitality.

With more than 200 locations and 16,000 employees, Alsco Uniforms services over 350,000 customers in 12 countries, which makes Alsco Uniforms the largest uniform company in the world.

Alsco Uniforms has been operating in Australia for over 60 years, and today has 28 locations looking after 48,000 clients, and is a provider of hospitality and accommodation linen, workwear, floor mats, as well as first aid training and equipment services and washroom hygiene services.

The green liveried Alsco Uniforms vehicles handle uniform and textile deliveries, and the bright blue “Fresh & Clean” branded vehicles and their drivers, look after washroom, hand hygiene and first aid services.

The Alsco Uniforms vehicles follow regular routes and routines which not only contributes to fleet and fuel efficiency, but also allows the staff to build rapport with their customers.

“They are the face of our business, and they’re interacting with our clients every week,” says Daniel McEvedy, the Alsco Uniforms National Fleet and Logistics Manager.

“Our business model is such that we have a weekly delivery service to our clients.”

Daniel has been with the company for over a decade, commencing as an account manager before transitioning to a special project around seven years ago to examine opportunities to improve the efficiencies of fleet operations in areas such as routing.

Hino 300 Series Hybrid-Electric.

This project secondment led to Daniel’s appointment to his current role of National Fleet and Logistics Manager three years ago.

“Looking at the processes we realised there were a few areas of opportunity for us,” says Daniel.

“I like seeing things that are done particularly well and also seeing how we could do them even better, because at the end of the day, it’s better for the people and for the business.”

With the benefit of his experience in customer-facing service roles, Daniel was able to see situations from a fundamental perspective.

Daniel’s role covers everything service related involving the vehicles, as well as people resources such as training, and the attraction and retention of customers and other staff.

The core of the Alsco Fleet and Logistics department is the in-house fleet of more than 500 vehicles, including passenger cars, light and medium rigid trucks and vans, a couple of prime movers, plus another 100 or so contractor vehicles.

As well as delivering hygienically cleaned and laundered uniforms and textiles, the Alsco Uniforms vehicles also pick up the worn and used products, which means the trucks aren’t empty at the end of the day and are often fuller and heavier due to the wet or soiled items which have been collected, ready to go through the laundry process.

After the uniforms and textiles have been through the laundry, they are packed on to a truck to continue the delivery cycle. The larger trucks perform linehaul distribution between branches and depots.

For example, Canberra and Bathurst are serviced from Alsco Uniforms in Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest, and a truck is constantly travelling between the two locations.

In Cairns, in Far North Queensland, Alsco Uniforms are in the process of equipping their fleet with prime movers and trailers which will be used for transporting their serviced products, continuously moving up and down the Queensland coast between the Cairns branch and centres such as Townsville and Rockhampton, ensuring clients, even in these remote locations, will receive their deliveries on the weekly schedule.

Matt Flanagan-Swan.
Matt Flanagan-Swan, Alsco Uniforms Queensland.

When it comes to picking the right vehicle for the job, the truck brands of choice are quite evenly split between Hino and Isuzu.

“While I prefer having just one supplier for most things, with trucks it’s beneficial to have two,” says Daniel.

In this competitive market, Daniel says the price models for similar vehicles are essentially identical and supply and availability are the determining factors when ordering new trucks.

“The customer service from both companies is great, and they’re both good at building relationships,” he says. “The process has got to be easy and if it becomes a friction point you just don’t want to be dealing with that. I’m all for making any process easier, faster, better and having two suppliers who can provide you with vehicles does just that.”

A common challenge with many truck customers in the current market is the backlog of work being performed by body builders.

“We commission the build of 30 to 40 new trucks per year and you can only ask people to hurry up so many times, because they themselves will also have supply issues,” explains Daniel.

“We’ve tried to move away from special builds because they take longer and are not able to be utilised everywhere within our own network.”

An open approach to operational matters has also contributed to solving the vehicle situation, as has utilising more standard body designs.

“In the past we would have routes that were more geared towards certain products. The difficulty with this set up is when a linen truck wasn’t available you couldn’t put a mat truck there easily due to their different build and configuration or even the trolley system used,” Daniel says.

“Over the past three years I’ve been moving away from specific builds to a more generic style of body, which can be used for everything. They can be built faster, slightly cheaper, and are more configurable, plus can be better for resale. If a truck is out of action for any reason, the configuration of the replacement doesn’t matter.

“We’re utilising our entire fleet by being smarter, so instead of having ten trucks doing 1,000 kilometres each week and others only doing 70, reviewing that data over a three- or six-month period and being able to swap them over is beneficial for us. If you have unique builds, it’s not as easy.”

Alsco Uniforms has a reputation as an employer which provides good opportunities for personal and professional growth. Both the current and previous CEOs started as Service Delivery Personnel (SDP) in the business and most managers at regional level also started as SDPs.

“We’re always looking not just towards the future, but the feasibility of a change today,” says Daniel.

“There can be a lot of hype and marketing but what’s the genuine feasibility of having something in your fleet? The hype around EV is good in terms of lower carbon emissions but how feasible is it for the company and is it cost effective?”

Alsco Uniforms already has two EVs in its fleet, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, both from SEA Electric and equivalent to Hino 816 models. Alsco Uniforms is not simply a distribution business, it’s a production and process operation as well, and in identifying the biggest contributor to CO₂ emissions shows it’s not the vehicles.

Alsco Uniforms has moved to standard body builds for better fleet utilisation.

“We want to do the right thing in terms of moving towards zero emissions and we’ve got our internal goals towards sustainability, CO₂ emissions, and our carbon footprint. In our industry the big win for us is when we change our internal processes involving factors such as heat, steam, and gas. That’s not sidelining EVs but at present the most progress in this space is coming from internal processing,” says Daniel.

“We have a dedicated engineering team working on changing the way we recycle heat and looking at things like wastewater. For us that’s the cake, the EV is the cherry on top.”

Alsco Uniforms has solar projects in Perth, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and is looking at installing similar systems all over country to reduce its carbon footprint.

Two Hino Hybrid trucks operate from the Salisbury branch in Queensland and will be joined by two more at the Brisbane branch this year.

“Potentially, some will be going into Melbourne as well. For me, hybrid is a tried and tested method which works well and is cost effective,” says Daniel.

“Looking at the numbers, hybrids are much more manageable and the Total Cost of Ownership gap is almost nothing. It’s not as simple as saying we’ll take ten EVs because we must consider what’s required to support them, and their range capability.

“The hybrids are great — we get the kilometres we need out of them, they’re reducing emissions, they’re much more cost effective, more readily available and that’s one way on our vehicle side we are looking at reducing our carbon emissions.”

It’s through smarter routing as well.

“It’s not just one thing, its 10, 15 or 20 things all rolled into one that we’re doing to be the company pushing towards our sustainability goals,” says Daniel.

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