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2014 Panel of Experts Ready to Tackle Key Industry Issues (Conclusion)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

Our new contributors introduce themselves, describe their operations, and summarize the challenges facing the segments they represent

Consulting Services: Sam Garofalo, Technical Consulting Associates, Charlotte, N.C.

sam garafaloMy career started in my father’s plant, on weekends, at the age of 8 years old. My older brother, Jimmy, and I were supposed to be pulling pockets to remove pens, etc., from ruining garments on the drycleaning side. We were less than enthusiastic, and fooled around with the water spray guns on the press machines. Dad got our attention and started pulling the pockets with us. After two or three minutes he palmed a $10 dollar bill, making us think that it was in the pocket that he pulled. The lesson was “stay focused” on the job you’re doing. Dad and Jimmy would teach me common sense, logic and analytics. Dad passed in 1966, leaving us his shares of the business. Jimmy and I continued to operate the family business until I left in 1980 to become a single dad and start Technical Consulting.

In the beginning, our primary focus was in the operations and production of commercial laundries. We quickly diversified into washroom chemistry, tunnel systems and product development. Technical Consulting Associates LLC is now the platform for two other companies. Test Master Test Swatch manufactures a one-time test piece that’s self-reading. The Fabric Testing Co. provides full laboratory services to test fabric life expectancy and analyze damage. We hold co-patents on the Milnor PulseFlow machine, and Gurtler’s MagiClens, and other present and past products under license agreements or sold outright. I have been qualified as an expert in the laundry industry in most courts of jurisdiction, including federal.

The most memorable accomplishment of 2013 is the introduction and marketing of MagiClens.

The most complex thing we face in the coming year is maintaining our independence! As our client base continues to grow, we find that it’s more difficult to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest. Clients like 3M, GE Capital, The Mayo Clinic, to name a few, require absolute credibility. If you represent a client correctly, you must bring forth facts and evidence that may require the placement of responsibility, which is always difficult, but necessary!

Textiles: Hal Herweck, Phoenix Textile Corp., O’Fallon, Mo.

hal herweckI am the director of government programs for Phoenix Textile Corp., located in O’Fallon, Mo. Prior to joining Phoenix, I managed a government sales team for a major computer company. I took early retirement from that position, and took my 17 years of knowledge in the government and joined Phoenix Textile, where I have been for the last 14 years.

Coming from 150,000 employees to 100 employees was a tremendous culture shock. But I was privileged to work and learn from the best, Pam Reynolds (founder and CEO of Phoenix) and Gene Rodgers, vice president of operations. I never had been in a laundry until coming to Phoenix. Early on, I spent time in a VA laundry learning about what they do and how they do it. Yes, I got my “bell rung” walking into an overhead moving laundry bag. I will not make that mistake again!

I represent Phoenix Textile’s Government Division to government agencies all over the globe. One of the best things about my position, and all the travel that goes with it, is getting to spend time in some of the VA laundries. I really have received an education from these folks, and they helped me make it through CLLM. So, a huge shout-out to those laundry people, from Los Angeles to West Palm Beach, and from Dallas to Albuquerque, with a quick stop over in Tuscaloosa.

I enjoy listening and asking lots of questions. I am extremely honored to be a part of this Panel of Experts, and I think I will bring a different and unique approach to my responses to the topics. I expect to come out of this experience having learned a lot, because I plan on listening to the best in the business. And, if you invite me, I can almost guarantee that I will get to your facility as soon as possible and learn from you and your team.

Healthcare Laundry: Michael Kirsch, CLLM, HCSC Laundry, Allentown, Pa.

michael kirschIt is a privilege to be part of the American Laundry News Panel of Experts. I often have marveled at the direction my career, and that of my colleagues, never imagining that we would be in the laundry business.

My career in management actually started when I was working on the college student program with UPS. Then, my service in the military allowed me to become a platoon and motor pool sergeant. My seven years of service in the military and 12 years of service in UPS management opened doors for me. One of those doors was HCSC Laundry in Allentown, Pa.

HCSC Laundry is a five-plant, healthcare-linen-only laundry operation. HCSC started with eight initial hospitals that decided to centralize their laundry functions and shut down their individual OPLs. Over these past 43 years, HCSC’s business continued to grow, and in 1993 we became a Subchapter T Cooperative. Today, we service 130 acute care hospitals, several larger and medium-size nursing homes, surgery centers and many hospital-affiliated ambulatory care centers. Our laundry operations process more than 115 million pounds of linen annually, and our service region encompasses five states in the Northeast.

My HCSC career started as a tractor-trailer delivery driver. I found the linen and laundry business fascinating. Until then, I never really thought about hospital linens and their importance regarding direct patient care. Being the low man in seniority, my run started at 1:30 a.m., and I was servicing a rather large hospital more than two hours away in north Jersey, near the George Washington Bridge. Back then, it seemed as if all the snowstorms started at midnight. It wasn’t long before I realized that my delivery of clean linen was not only important to my customer, it was important to the caregivers and their patients.

Within a year, my career at HCSC found me on the production management team. From there I ventured into customer service as an account representative. Eventually, I took over responsibility as the on-site linen manager at a two-hospital system, of which one was a 600-bed, Level 1 trauma center. Once I was working on-site, my enthusiasm for linen cost containment and loss prevention grew. I saw all the waste of linen in healthcare as opportunity. Using coupons clipped out of the Sunday paper as my comparison with bath towel or sheet pricing, I began chipping away at every savings opportunity. Within that year, we managed to cut the trauma center’s linen cost by $400,000. I thought, “This is really fun and totally gratifying at the same time.” Eventually, HCSC created a new title for me: “linen cost containment coordinator.”

I was eventually promoted to director of account relations at HCSC, managing 19 service representatives who are responsible for more than 450 healthcare billing accounts. A CLLM certification and Six Sigma degree have been extremely helpful in this laundry business world.

In a few words, “I love my job.” How many people in business can actually say that? Now, at 65, I know my career will end soon, but hopefully we who contribute to this publication’s Panel of Experts can somehow influence the up-and-coming younger generation of laundry men and women with the passion it takes to not only be successful in this business, but to embrace the challenges and enjoy the work. Over these past several years, I have had the unique opportunity to be a presenter at many national and international educational conferences. It’s a great business, with many great industry leaders. What a great job!

Thank you for this opportunity.

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