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2014 Panel of Experts Ready to Tackle Key Industry Issues (Part 1)

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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

Equipment/Supply Distribution: Justin Oriel, Garment Machinery Corp., Needham, Mass.

justin orielI represent the third generation in my family’s laundry equipment business, and it will be my pleasure to join this esteemed panel and share my knowledge and experiences in the industry.

As a principal of Garment Machinery Co., I’ve done it all, selling and servicing on-premises laundries and Laundromats all over New England. Our business focuses on having the best customer service. We offer clients maintenance on all makes and models of machinery, and we continue to support dynamic, fast-paced organizations within the commercial laundry industry. Through my experiences in sales and marketing, I have learned at the end of the day we are all in the customer service and customer satisfaction business. As such, our common goal must be to ensure end-user satisfaction.

As a team builder and large-market distributor of high-end laundry equipment, my success is determined by my ability to create equipment sales and service opportunities via constant effort and a focused marketing plan. Turning in-depth consumer analysis into actionable marketing plans is critical to a company’s, or an individual’s, success in this industry. I look forward to sharing the highs and lows I have experienced in this business with the 2014 panel.

One major challenge facing those in the laundry industry is climbing utility costs. At Garment Machinery Co., we recognize we can’t change what utility companies charge for power. However, we can help to ensure that our clients operate at peak efficiency. This industry-wide issue led me to personally help develop America’s first aftermarket residual moisture control device for commercial dryers. This device works in both the coin and on-premise laundry markets, as it detects when clothes are completely dry and instantly shuts the machine down. Stores that have installed this affordable plug-and-play regulator on their machines capture an annual utility savings of $8,000 for a typical 50-pocket store.

There’s a great deal within our industry that remains consistent from one year to the next, but at my company I take my role as leader and innovator seriously, always encouraging my team to look beyond the safety of the status quo and anticipate the evolving needs of our customers. By identifying current business opportunities that will positively impact the bottom line for the organizations with which we work, we are able to make an impact that translates into positive changes for the end-user.

The daily challenges I encounter in my principal role at my firm were encountered by the two generations that preceded me, and will be encountered by the generation that succeeds me. As an industry leader of today, I embrace the responsibility of marrying the optimal customer service that helped to build the business with the technological innovations that have evolved over time, and which assist our company in being more efficient through customer-oriented adaptations, communications and analytics.

Equipment Manufacturing: Gary Ostrum, G.A. Braun, Syracuse, N.Y.

gary ostrum

I am honored to be part of the 2014 ALN Panel of Experts. With 33 years in our fine industry, the last 22 years with G.A. Braun, I have been fortunate to know and work with some of the best in our industry.

Starting out in the laundry industry around 1980, I took a position with Custom Management. This was a small management company out of my hometown area of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. I worked for Custom for two years, managing housekeeping and laundry departments in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Buffalo, N.Y., where I still reside today.

In Buffalo, I was fortunate to accept a position as director of laundry for what is now the Catholic Health System of Western New York. It is in this position my knowledge of plant operations had the most growth. We processed approximately 6 million pounds of linen per year for two of the system’s hospitals. Being in the director’s position for nine years, I was able to become involved with NAILM [now the Association for Linen Management, or ALM]. In addition to co-founding the Finger Lakes Association of Institutional Laundry Managers, and securing my CLM, the conferences and networking afforded to me through NAILM, both on the OPL and commercial side, gave me a communication base of friends and associates that has grown to this day.

For the last 22 years, I have had the great fortune to be part of the G.A. Braun team, I started my career with Braun as regional sales manager, covering the states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I also supported various other territories over the years. For the last five years, I have held the position of regional vice president sales, Eastern region. In this position I manage three of our regional territories in the United States, as well as an area in Canada from Manitoba east. Braun has enabled me to have countless opportunities in our industry, from gaining experience on full plant development and design to being involved on the Healthcare Committee of TRSA for about the last 10 years.

I have been privileged to be part of the G.A. Braun team for the last two decades, and am excited to be part of the ALN team in 2014. While I may author the various answers I submit over the next year, the information comes from those associates, co-workers and friends I have come to know and respect over the last 30 years.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: James Brewster, RLLD, The Resort at Glade Springs, Daniels, W.Va.

james brewsterI have been in the hospitality business for 13 years. During that time, I have worked in the operations, housekeeping and laundry divisions. For 10 years, I was at The Greenbrier Resort, a 4-star, 4-diamond resort in West Virginia. While there, I studied hotel and tourism management, with a management training program designed specifically for the hospitality industry. I spent seven years in operations, one year in housekeeping, and managed the laundry and valet drycleaning plant for two years. We processed anywhere from 5 to 6 million pounds annually.

I am now the executive housekeeper for The Resort at Glade Springs, in Daniels, W.Va., and have been at this property for more than three years, where I also manage the laundry department. We process approximately 600,000 to 750,000 pounds annually for a 200-room resort. 

I am a member of the Association for Linen Management (ALM), and have attended its American Linen and Laundry College at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Ky., and earned the Registered Laundry and Linen Director (RLLD) designation.

I love to be involved in the community and have built relationships with programs. In 2012, The Resort at Glade Springs was named Employer of the Year with the West Virginia Division of Health and Human Resources, Rehabilitation Division. We hired deaf associates and trained them to perform the essential job functions of housekeeping and laundry services. We also have a partnership with the local high school for its special education class; my colleagues and I come each week and perform laundry duties to help introduce these students to the workforce upon graduation.

The biggest challenge I face is linen utilization and distribution. Theft and abuse is a common factor at any resort. Trying to do constant inventories has helped, but it does not curb the problem 100%. I look forward to the following year, and wish all continued success for 2014.

Chemicals Supply: Carrie Armstrong, Ecolab, Eagan, Minn.

carrie armstrong

I have been in the laundry industry for almost 23 years. My current position, as principal technical support specialist for Ecolab’s Textile Care Division, offers me the opportunity to provide technical support to all the laundry market segments, including industrial, healthcare and textile rental. If I’m not on my computer providing help with chemical, quality, or regulation microbiological questions, I am in the field working with customers on projects, including new products. The laundry industry is changing in so many ways, from the way we wash with a goal of conserving water and energy; how production data is collected and managed; handling new textile fabric technologies; regulatory requirements and requirements for personnel safety. The list seems to goes on and on. I am excited to be a part of an evolving industry.

Prior to providing technical support to the large laundry market segments, my experiences in the industry include laboratory work and field evaluations on numerous industrial wash chemistry projects at the Ecolab Research, Development & Engineering Center. I also have nine years experience in sales, which included consultation, training and technical support for industrial and on-premises laundries, healthcare, hospitality, and commercial market segments, including laundry, housekeeping, floorcare, warewashing, pool and spa, and sanitizing products, programs and equipment.

It is an honor to be selected for this panel to represent the Chemicals Supply segment. I hope my experiences will provide a value and insight in the upcoming Panel of Expert discussions.

Long-Term Care Laundry: Brian Barfoot, Aberdeen Village/Aramark, Olathe, Kan.

brian barfoot

I have been working in the facility management industry in various positions for 30 years. I was an environmental services laundry manager for seven years, and for the last seven months I have served as a director.

The first six-plus years of laundry management consisted of overseeing a staff of eight employees in a clean linen distribution/soiled linen pickup operation in an acute care hospital. This facility had a licensed bed capacity of 727, and an average daily census of 600. I managed the clean linen distribution/soiled linen pickup in a university medical center with more than 40 distribution points. This included oversight of all linen operation reporting responsibilities to the hospital finance department, in addition to managing 42 hospital housekeeping associates and department supply management. The linen areas of responsibility had a total poundage laundered of 2.8 million in 2012. We partnered with a healthcare-specific local laundry, completing scheduled nursing department rounds, leadership meetings and periodic unannounced laundry plant site visits. In addition, we utilized the hospital’s infection-prevention inspection resources for these site visits.

As director of environmental services, I now oversee a full laundry operation, with 1 FTE, in a 60-bed skilled nursing neighborhood within a 200-bed senior living community. My responsibilities also include the management of housekeeping, plant operations and grounds maintenance, with an additional staff of 17, with two supervisors. Our laundry focus is the attention to detail in the daily laundering and delivery of our residents’ personal clothing. We ensure the correct identification and placement in the individual resident room closets, along with laundering and distribution of all bed linen and towels.

Check back Wednesday for the conclusion!

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