2016 Panel of Experts Ready to Share and Learn (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

New panelists introduce themselves, share accomplishments, discuss industry challenges

Long-Term Care Laundry, Kathrine Flitsch, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Brookfield, Wis.

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Kathrine Flitsch

Kathrine Flitsch

It is an honor to have been selected to serve on this Panel for 2016. I am the manager of the environmental services department at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Franciscan Woods, a 120-bed transitional care facility. I began my career with the organization 17 years ago and became the department manager in 2009.

We launder the personal clothing of all of our patients and residents on-site, and the service is available eight hours a day, six days a week. We wash, dry and return all the clothing within 24 hours. Our operation also maintains inventories and provides labels on all clothing for our patients and residents.

In 2015, our goal was to make a better system for handling the labeling, and the changes we made have had positive outcomes. We have made the process easier for those who use it, and it helps us get the clothing back to the correct person.

It remains a challenge to keep the items in house that we launder, as they are sometimes mistakenly sent out to our system’s main laundry service, which handles bed linens and towels. Things that go out can be difficult to get back in a timely fashion.

In the following months, I look forward to being able to share with you my insights on our laundry process. I am always open for suggestions on how to make the process better for all those that we serve.

Equipment/Supply Distribution: Todd Santoro, Cleanwash Laundry Systems Inc., Omaha, Neb.

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Todd Santoro

Todd Santoro

I very much appreciate the opportunity to serve on the American Laundry News Panel of Experts. I hope to learn at least as much from the other experts and readers as I’m able to share from my own experience.

Our family has spent the last 40 years in the commercial laundry business, and I’ve taken a rather beneficial and circuitous route to arrive at my last 10 years in the business. 

Prior to coming back to commercial laundry, I spent 16 years in corporate America running call centers and working as a process improvement consultant/project manager with a focus on customer service and technology implementation. I’ve run teams and departments for GEICO (U.S. and overseas), AAA and First Data, among others. Prior to and during that time, I also served as a field artillery soldier and officer in the Army National Guard.

These experiences were instrumental in the development and growth of our company, CleanWash Laundry Systems, from several Laundromats into a regional commercial, industrial and drycleaning equipment distributor with multiple manufacturing brand lines covering the Midwest, and an e-commerce parts and supplies site, clslaundry.com, covering the world. 

We now carry, install and service top loaders to tunnels, and my experience in consulting and technology has helped us develop a lean corporate structure with experience and talent we can share with our customers.

My military experience has provided me with a “nothing is impossible” mentality. Using that mentality, our company routinely accomplishes what others have determined can’t be done. Having almost been killed a few times helps put getting a big piece of equipment through a little door in perspective. These attributes have resulted in our company installing and servicing everything from small Laundromats to large prison and hospitality installations.  

My specific laundry focus has been the implementation of technology in order to reduce operational expenses as well as improving labor processes. I have
a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Iowa, which, given the amount of time we revisit the past in our industry, seems apropos.

In 2015, CleanWash was all about growth. We doubled the number of our service techs, and tripled our installations, customer base and revenue. Growth brings excitement but also challenges.

As with other businesses, small and large, I find our greatest challenge to be the allocation of capital across multiple priorities and needs. Too often we focus on saving the most on the short-term issue while failing to recognize that the extra spent today can generate greater long-term savings and profit.  

For example, as we see utility costs decline today, it’s important to recognize this as an opportunity to use part of the savings to improve efficiency, because the one constant is that prices won’t stay low. 

I look forward to your questions on how we—the Panel and readers alike—can help our organizations be better.  

Textile/Uniform Rental: Craig Bower, FDR Services Corp., Hempstead, N.Y.

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Craig Bower

Craig Bower

I’m the assistant vice president of FDR Services Corp., a regional healthcare laundry and uniform rental company based out of New York and serving the acute and sub-acute healthcare market in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.  

I’ve been working in the industry for 19 years, starting out as inside customer service at FDR. From there I eventually grew into an account executive role, learning the sales and service side of the business. I was promoted to uniform manager, overseeing our Hempstead uniform operation. I was responsible for growing that part of our business into its own division.

Over the eight years as uniform manager, moving into division manager, I learned a great deal about operations and logistics, in addition to customer service excellence and emerging technologies in our industry.

When Angelica acquired the Hempstead operation, I was asked to lead a team that would implement many of the systems we developed in Hempstead. Over the next several years, I worked in more than 30 plants implementing new software and then layering in best practices to improve our service, efficiencies and bottom line. 

When we completed that project, I was asked to assume the role of regional director of linen management. I worked closely with the operations and services teams in the New York and New England markets to better manage our linen and resources.

Prior to rejoining FDR in 2013, I worked extensively on RFID and how to best leverage this technology in our industry. The past several years have been incredibly rewarding. I am working in virtually all facets of our business. Being part of the FDR team again has been a welcome change, and I am amazed at how much I am still learning from the team around me.

We all face similar challenges in the industry, but as daunting as some of these challenges may seem, our industry has to evolve, and I see opportunities everywhere I turn. I feel honored to be selected for this Panel, and hope to contribute in ways you find useful and insightful.  

Equipment Manufacturing: Mike Diedling, Pellerin Milnor Corp., Kenner, La.

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Mike Diedling

Mike Diedling

I’m the manager of the applications engineering group at Pellerin Milnor Corp. As of November, I celebrated 45 years in the laundry industry. I am an industrial engineer by education, and I’ve spent time on the laundry side of the industry as well as the equipment manufacturing side. As one of the original recyclers, the laundry industry has a great story to tell. I am fortunate to be a part of that industry, and I am honored to have been selected for the Panel of Experts.

My laundry experience was initially with Morgan Services Inc. (a Chicago-based linen supply company with nine plants from Los Angeles to Boston). Chronologically, I worked as a staff industrial engineer for plants in Cleveland, Dayton, Indianapolis and Toledo; as the operations manager for their Los Angeles plant; and as area manager in Chicago. I was also the director of operations for Tulsa Linen Service (based in Tulsa, with plants in Tulsa, Enid and Oklahoma City, Okla., and Fayetteville, Ark.).

The education I received in those various positions provide me with invaluable insight for what I do today at Pellerin Milnor. Founded in 1947, Milnor has evolved from a company making a single product (a 30-pound-capacity centrifugal extractor for shirt laundries) for local markets to a company that makes washer-extractors (25 to 700 pounds capacity), dryers (30 to 550 pounds capacity), and tunnel washers (1,500 to 10,000 pounds/hour capacity) and sells to a worldwide market. That growth came from innovation (43 patents issued since 1950) and staying attuned to customer needs.

My applications engineering group doesn’t design equipment; we design the laundries the equipment is installed in. We field questions ranging from the very simple (like the weight of a machine or how much water does it use) to the very complex where the customer wants to add a machine or replace an existing one, to expand an existing laundry or build a new one.

We use site visits, factory visits, GoToMeeting sessions, conference calls and internal design sessions, all as a means of developing the best possible solution for our customer. We take the task of developing a solution for our customer seriously and take great pains to get it right.

The world economy is finding its legs, and that is reflected in the activity of the laundry industry entering again into a strong growth phase. For 2015, we worked on almost 300 new projects, and a like number of projects carried over from the previous year. Preparation for Clean ’15 and the show itself were major events for us last year. Education for our group was an important part of our year. Two members attended PMI, and I was the instructor for a class. We also attended several seminars and webinars. 

Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Bradenton, Fla.

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Rick Rone

Rick Rone

I have been in the laundry industry since 1989. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new about this interesting business that we are in.

My company processes about 70,000 to 85,000 pounds a day of hospitality goods. Laundry Plus is operational seven days a week and 365 days a year. In the particular segment of the industry that I have chosen to specialize, quality and service are the two prime factors.

Laundry Plus has approximately 100 full-time associates who work four, 10-hour days a week.

I started in the Laundromat segment of the business, first opening one store and eventually adding many more. During my education in that business, I learned of the industrial side, and with my background in manufacturing, I found the industrial segment to be more in tune with my skill set, as well as my ideology of providing the ultimate in quality service.

Upon opening Laundry Plus, it became obvious that I had found a business that could provide a service to the hospitality industry that was severely needed. My formal education in this business is lacking, but the “school of hard knocks” has proven to be an exceptional venue for higher learning. I am honored once again to have been asked to participate on this Panel of Experts.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion.

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