First Garment Rental, Johannesburg

The biggest laundry group in South Africa comprises 3 businesses—

  • FGR itself, which provides facilities management, including garments, dustmats and mops.
  • Boston Laundry – The leading supplier of hotel linen throughout the country
  • Montana – which owns and operates numerous on premise laundries serving nursing homes, smaller hospital and similar institutions.

Originally owned by the Fainman family, FGR recently became part of the successful Bidvest group and under the continued direction of Alan Fainman and a dedicated team of professional managers has continued to expand, despite the unique cocktail of economic pressures facing the South African economy.

When Alan and his team came to the Frankfurt Laundry show in June 2008 it was with a sense of urgency to find ways of reducing the impact of rapidly rising costs.

Giant sized statue of Nelson Mandela takes pride of place in Sandton Square, Johannesburg

By the standards of the West, labour and energy costs were very low; however, the prices that customers are prepared to pay were also a fraction of those prevalent in the Industrial nations.

Indigenous supplies of coal have provided the energy for power stations and steam boilers for years, but a crisis was looming; the growing demand for energy sources from India and China was driving the export price of coal to new heights, and within less than a year the price to the domestic market had doubled. Water prices increased by 50% in the same period, and electricity costs were heading in the same direction.

Even if customers were to accept steep increases in costs there would always be a period of months when costs would outgrow revenues, if nothing else changed...

A short period after the Frankfurt show, Aquatherm surveyed all but one of the FGR laundries and produced a list of recommendations that ranged from pipe insulation to installing waste water heat recovery throughout.

Agreement was reached to supply 9 Aquatherm systems, starting with the flagship Spartan plant outside of Johannesburg. The main washing equipment at Spartan consists of 4 Milnor 12 compartment 50 or 60kg continuous batch washers, arranged in pairs, divided between hotel linen and garments.

Technical Director Gavin Strydom and Montana Managing Director Brian Shirley made a short study tour to see Aquatherm installations in use in the UK, Germany and Norway, after which with minimal assistance organised the integration into the Spartan plant to an exceptionally high standard.

The results were immediate and impressive. One month after the installation, FGR reported that their total coal consumption for the plant was down by 20% and that all drying times had been substantially reduced.

Non contact flow meter in the fresh water supply line controls the rate of waste water flow to ensure maximum heat extraction at all times.