Davidson, N.C.-based Janpak Inc.’s customer, Denton Regional Medical Center, is growing by leaps and bounds. The Denton, Texas-based facility has added a sixth floor with 29 new patient rooms as part of its expanded Progressive Care Unit. Third-floor renovations are also underway to add eight additional beds to the Intensive Care Unit. Even the hospital’s public restrooms are benefiting from upgrades.

Several months ago, the facility replaced four of its folded-towel cabinets with hands-free roll-towel dispensers on a trial basis. Rodney Dillon, director of facilities management, was so pleased with the upgrade that he decided to keep the hands-free units. In just two months, maintenance personnel have reduced their time spent filling the dispensers by 75 percent.

“We were filling the [folded-towel] dispensers once a day or once every other day,” says Dillon. “Now, we’re filling them about every three weeks. If it takes five to 10 minutes a day to fill up a dispenser, and that’s done over a week, I can take that hour’s worth of labor and instead put it where it’s needed.”

In addition to labor savings, the new dispensers have cut paper waste by 50 or 60 percent, reducing both supply costs and landfill costs. “If someone pulls out 15 paper towels [from a folded-towel dispenser] when they’re trying to pull out one, the rest goes into the trash,” says Dillon.

And, unlike the facility’s sixth- and third-floor renovations, the restrooms do not require significant construction to accommodate the new dispensers. A retrofit kit has made the change-out quick and easy.

Dillon expects to see a return on his investment in just a few months. “I’ve cut my waste costs, supply costs, labor costs and landfill costs,” he says. “In doing these four things, I can pay for the dispensers in no time.”

Hands Free, Hands Down
John Ferguson, Janpak’s vice president of sales for Texas, is seeing a lot of his customers upgrade to hands-free towel dispensers as an economical alternative to folded-towel dispensers. For many, controlling dispensing is becoming as important as controlling the spread of germs.

“Human beings, by nature, grab way too many paper towels,” says Ferguson. Hands-free dispensers allow facility managers to control the amount of towel being dispensed as well as the interval between towel releases. “There’s a five-second delay on purpose so you don’t use too many towels,” he says. “If you have to stand and wait for another towel, you’re likely to move on.”

Like Ferguson, many distributors have noticed a similar trend: “There’s been a strong push to go to hands-free roll-towel dispensers and away from folded-towel dispensers,” says Todd Murphy, president of United Paper Corp., Menasha, Wis.

Michael Conrad, Janpak’s executive vice president, sales and marketing, agrees: “Folded towels are old school,” he says. “They have smaller capacities, and crews are constantly changing or refilling dispensers.”

Sticking To The Status Quo
Despite the move away from folded-towel dispensers, some facilities cannot justify the switch. Often, the decision to continue using folded towels depends on the type of business and the amount of traffic frequenting the restrooms. Most of the school districts Murphy works with continue to use folded towels because of the potential for vandalism to expensive, battery-operated dispensers and the potential cost of replacing them.

Samaritan Village Senior Community, Hughson, Calif., uses biodegradable C-fold towels in the public restrooms. The village hasn’t made any changes to its dispensers and doesn’t plan to. “You have to look at how many people are using your facility,” says Stephanie Maxwell, facility coordinator. “We don’t have the flow of traffic of, say, a restaurant.” Air dryers could save the facility money, she says, but they could also create a safety hazard. “When you walk to the dryer, you’re getting water on the floor,” she says, “and we have seniors coming in with walkers and wheelchairs.”

While hands-free systems have taken off, folded towels are still the biggest seller for The Janton Co., Columbus, Ohio. To increase savings, David Logan, president, recommends mono-fold towels over C-fold towels. “Mono-fold towels are interfolded,” he explains, “so when you pull out a towel it is opened up. A C-fold towel isn’t interfolded, so when customers pull it out of the dispenser, they tend to grab a handful of them because they don’t have time to open them.”

Tissue Talk
Wasted paper is also a primary concern when it comes to toilet tissue dispensers. According to Ferguson, some companies are working on an automatic hands-free toilet tissue dispenser. But for now, coreless tissue is one of the more popular and economical choices on the market. “With coreless tissue, you’re eliminating the core and the costs associated with it,” says Logan, “You’re also getting more tissue.” As a result, janitors change rolls less frequently, resulting in labor savings.

Customers are also replacing standard rolls with jumbo rolls to reduce costs associated with labor and waste. “Providing space is available, the jumbo roll tissue volume has picked up,” notes Murphy. One of United Paper Corp.’s customers was throwing away the equivalent of 15 to 25 standard rolls of toilet tissue a week. “They couldn’t leave the rolls on the dispensers because they would run out the next day,” says Murphy. The company switched to a junior jumbo roll, thereby eliminating waste and time spent changing rolls.

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla., experienced a similar problem with its standard tissue rolls; however, the hotel found a solution that did not require equipment upgrades. “We have side-by-side dispensers in the rooms,” says Adam Zilber, executive housekeeper. “The housekeepers spend a lot of time trying to make both rolls match so they look even. There’s a lot of waste because they’ll pull a roll that’s still useable in order to match two full rolls.”

To reduce the amount of wasted product, housekeepers unwrap one roll instead of both. When the guests finish the roll, the housekeeper will fill in the empty dispenser with a new roll still wrapped and unwrap the old roll. “We’ve found it’s a good way of conserving toilet paper, otherwise the guests use both rolls,” says Zilber. “It also saves the housekeepers time because they’re working on one roll instead of two.”

Get With The Program
In addition to picking the right products, customers should also look into entering into contractual agreements for proprietary dispensers to save money, advises Tim Maddy, director of operations, Twin Ports Paper & Supply Co., Duluth, Minn. By signing a supply contract and installing proprietary dispensers, there is less upfront cost associated with the dispensers. “Also, the amount of a [paper] price increase is limited, so if you’re in a contract, more likely than not you’ll get a maximum increase of 8 percent in a given year.”

According to Conrad, too many customers still focus on the cost per case or per towel. “Real savings comes when you take the focus away from cost per case and break it into cost per use, as well as reduction of waste,” he explains.

Customers also need to look beyond product and labor expenses and take into account the potential savings of reducing cross-contamination. “As long as we convey the value of these dispensing systems to customers, they will want to upgrade them,” says Conrad. In schools, for example, where germs are easily passed from one student to another, a hands-free dispenser could help to reduce cross-contamination and raise the level of attendance. Schools are often funded based on their attendance rates, Conrad adds.

For Denton Regional Medical Center, infection control was an added bonus. The switch to hands-free dispensers has been so successful that the facility plans to replace its remaining folded-towel dispensers over time. “Everybody seems to like them,” says Dillon. “It’s been positive for us throughout the facility.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.

Contact Andrew Battista abattista@risiinfo.com for details

The Price of Paper
For the past five years, pulp and recovered paper prices have been on the rise, says Andrew Battista, director of consumer products at RISI, a firm that provides analysis of the pulp, paper and forest products markets to various industries. “Although the increase has been jagged, the upward trend has been strong,” he says.

As mills try to keep pace with rising pulp prices, tissue prices are inching upward, particularly on the consumer tissue side. “Fiber costs continue to threaten tissue industry profit margins; however, market pulp prices should recede during the second half of the year,” says Battista. This can be attributed to the easing of worldwide demand and a decline in oil prices during the second half of 2006. “U.S. demand for tissue is on track for incremental growth in 2006 so that operating rates only briefly rise above 92 percent.” — K.K.