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10 Things You Should Know and Understand about the Laundry Industry

Editor's Note: Ken Tyler is on break. is reposting a column that originally appeared on the site in July 2008.

CHICAGO — 1. No matter how much you would like to complicate the chemical process of laundering, water is the key element associated with it. Without water, you have nothing.

2. It has been proven that washing in low, controlled temperatures can produce textiles as hygienically clean as washing in high temperatures. Don’t forget that most laundered items reach high temperatures during drying, steam finishing or ironing.

3. The key to maintaining the quality of textile processing or cleaning is service. Don’t overcomplicate the laundry chemistry process — there is little difference between products that are available. Be careful about being oversold on products.

4. Really know your cost to operate. Purchasing/processing textiles through and out of a laundry are way past the 50 cents-per-pound scenario. Don’t forget about capital depreciation, fringe-benefit labor costs, and energy and transportation costs, along with the other costs that are part of the process.

5. Your operation can only be as good as the employees you hire, so treat them with respect and dignity. Walk the floor; know your people and the systems that make your operation run.

6. Don’t purchase any equipment without establishing a process to gauge production, potential cost savings, and ergonomic value — be able to ascertain the total cost, not just the net cost. In other words, determine the best value. Make sure that you purchase equipment from someone who can provide the service you need within a timely basis. Always specify the terms and conditions of the purchase — I recommend you pay 90% on delivery and 10% on acceptance. Always make sure you have a way to get new equipment in and out of your facility.

7. A sound maintenance program requires expertise, not just a handyman. Spend as much time training these folks as you do anyone else. Every manufacturer has a training program — make the investment. One of the most critical aspects of a successful laundry program is a sound routine and preventative maintenance program. Without such a program, you might as well shut your doors.

8. Never forget that you will learn something every day in this industry. Never think you know it all — no one does.

9. Never forget that the laundry is a production facility, not a warehouse. Get off the kick of quotas, give the customer whatever they want or even think they need, and don’t make our business more complicated than it is. Invest in a good textile management system, as well as a production management system that is not linked to in-house systems. Learn the importance or lack of importance of pounds per productive employee. Never forget that employees have little control over production, especially where machine design pretty much controls the process — you can’t get blood out of a turnip. Think incentives for production — those who have it out-produce those who don’t.

10. Become active in the industry, learn how to write performance specifications for equipment (I had to throw that in), and always invest in your future with the formal educational programs and seminars that are available.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].