When Susan Samuels reflects on her early days with Brightwater, she can hardly believe how much has changed.
Susan was a young mother of one when she began working at the Homes of Peace Subiaco in May 1986.
She started in the kitchen and then moved into laundry service, washing, folding and returning clothes to the residents’ rooms.
“I loved talking with the residents as they were sitting in their rooms watching daytime TV programs. While I'm tidying their wardrobe, I'm watching with them and having a chat,” she said.
Susan’s family and her job have grown significantly in the past 36 years. Today, she has five grown-up children and seven grandchildren, and she is now team leader of linen services at Brightwater’s commercial laundry in Malaga.
It is a big step up from the days when the laundry service was primarily focused on meeting internal needs. Brightwater Linen Service is now one of WA’s leading commercial laundries providing clients with freshly laundered bed sheets, table linen and plush towels.
Chris Morgan, Business Manager Brightwater Linen and Catering explains:
“We now service over 150 clients across the Perth metropolitan district and regional WA. Ninety per cent of the business is now geared to service clients external to the Brightwater network, and around ten per cent of the volume produced remains for internal clients. We service more than 120 hotels, 35 or so aged care sites and several major mining companies.”
The first change came in 1999 when Brightwater moved its catering and laundry services to a central site in Malaga. It was a very different way of working for the laundry workers who had been using domestic washing machines and dryers within the aged care homes.
“We had to do training. They had a TAFE lady come in to show us all how to work on the machines and how to do the sorting,” Susan said.
Soon the business was thriving and in 2003 Brightwater opened the state-of-the-art commercial laundry in Malaga that is in operation today. The 3500sqm facility is designed for efficiency, with tunnel washers, dryers, sheet ironers and towel folders processing thousands of items a day.
Tunnel washers are one example of how technology is harnessed to keep operations running smoothly.
In a tunnel washer, soiled linen is continuously being loaded into one end of the tunnel. It is washed as it moves through the tunnel and emerges clean at the other end. There is no need to wait for a load to finish before starting another.
The efficiency of the machines means the 110 strong Brightwater team is capable of processing around 180 tonnes of laundry a week and keeping customers happy.
“We are reliable. The customers know that they're going to get a quality product. They know that when they put the sheet on the bed or whatever it might be, it's going to be at a standard that is acceptable not only to them but also to their clients, the end user,” Chris said.
Brightwater Linen is a successful commercial operation with all profits going to support Brightwater clients through investment in infrastructure, programs and research.
Not only that but it’s got a reputation as a good place to work. Now in her 37th year, Susan Samuels is the longest serving Brightwater Linen employee and there are many others who have been there for ten years or more.
“I love working there. You know, we're all like a family. I'll be there 'till retirement I think, unless they kick me out,” Susan said.