2017 Panel Excited to Share Knowledge (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

New panelists introduce themselves, share accomplishments, discuss industry challenges

Equipment/Supply Distribution: Chuck Rossmiller, Medline Industries, Mundelein, Ill.

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Chuck Rossmiller

Chuck Rossmiller

I am the director of laundry programs for Medline Industries, textile division, and am based in Sun Prairie, Wis. Medline Industries, based in Northfield, Ill., has been in operation since 1966 and is a global leader in medical supply manufacturing and distribution, including textiles.

In my 25 years of experience in healthcare laundry, I’ve had the opportunity and benefit of working with and getting to know laundries from every region, practically every state, and in sizes from 200,000 pounds per year to 82 million pounds per year.

In my current role, I provide consultative support to Medline customers on issues facing the industry today, including accreditation and certification, market changes related to the Affordable Care Act, operational throughput and efficiency, process troubleshooting, equipment choices, building design, and infection control and safety.

The most common issue discussed today is infection prevention as it relates to laundry. With the growing focus and uncertainty from healthcare about infection control practices in laundry, it is critically important that laundries seek information and education about these rapidly evolving expectations.

I started in the industry when I went to work for my father-in-law, Ray Gehrig, at Superior Health Linens in Wisconsin after graduating from college in 1991. I was a soil sorter in the morning, a washroom operator in the middle of the day, a finishing tech in the afternoon and a truck driver at 3 p.m. On Saturday mornings, I learned maintenance.

Our customer (not plural) was a 265-bed hospital that sold us their linen and equipment and gave us a fair contract to outsource their on-premises laundry (OPL). There were 13 employees, three Washex washers, one retired Ryder truck and 12,500 square feet of space. I was a fish out of water and learned some hard lessons in the early going.  

Fifteen years later, I was hired as the CEO of HLS in Chicago and ultimately served 60 hospitals and 450 clinics with 500 employees and three unions in a plant that was 20 times the size of the one I had started in. The early lessons learned on that wash floor, on the truck, in the shop and on the streets doing sales continue to pay dividends every day.

I’m still learning every day, too. One of the best things about this industry is the openness and willingness of people to share their knowledge, passion and experiences, to answer questions, and to mentor new people into the industry they love. I welcome this opportunity to share some of my experiences and knowledge accumulated by working with and for countless mentors in the industry.

I served on the board of directors and the advisory board of the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), and I’m an active member of the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA), TRSA’s Hygienically Clean Healthcare Advisory Group and the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA).

Consulting Services: Jon Witschy, Spindle, Woodridge, Ill.

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Jon Witschy

Jon Witschy

After receiving my degree in textile engineering technology from Southern Tech, I began my career in 1993 as a vendor of industrial automation systems to the textile rental and textile manufacturing industries. I joined Spindle as sales manager in 2012.

Spindle is focused on using the latest technology and development tools to provide real-time feedback and data access throughout a laundry, utilizing visual dashboards, real-time reporting and other productivity tools. Spindle is a division of Dober, whose other divisions supply innovative chemistries and technologies for a wide range of applications. This great, family-run business, founded in 1957, is committed to customer service, innovation, and providing exceptional resources for applied research and development.

Spindle’s original productivity monitoring software has delivered significant savings for our customers by helping to reduce labor costs. The evolution to our current, more robust platform was driven by the need to address additional major cost considerations within a laundry, maximizing overall equipment effectiveness and efficient utility consumption.

Spindle achieves these goals by providing the right information to the right people, at the right time—from the shop floor to the back office. In addition to engaging employees through the visual workplace to increase their performance, Spindle also features employee tracking, task tracking, analysis and a KPI Scorecard. Its real-time reporting helps laundry operations make better decisions, on their schedules.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with personnel from the production floor to the corporate office and learn about the challenges facing our businesses. My goal in partnering with customers has always been to improve efficiency, quality and safety. In each of my professional roles, I have supported process controllers, automation systems and operations management software through all stages of design, sale, installation and training.

It’s an honor to be selected to serve on American Laundry News’ Panel of Experts. There often seems to be an endless list of concerns for the laundry industry: operating costs, quality, customer service, and many others. This panel format provides an excellent opportunity to share ideas and experiences that can lead to breakthroughs. I look forward to providing information for the benefit and growth of our industry.

Chemicals Supply: David Barbe, U.N.X. Inc., Greenville, N.C.

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David Barbe

David Barbe

I work as the director of engineering for U.N.X Inc. I design chemical systems, working with our sales and marketing departments and many customers. I’ve been involved with new laundry chemical system designs, upgrading existing plant systems and wholesale replacement of the equipment in the entire facility, and have had the pleasure of working with some of the finest chemical representatives in the industry.

From small motels to plants with multiple tunnel washers, our focus is the same: To help our customers get the maximum usage out of the goods at a reasonable cost. To this end, we manufacture dispensing systems of all types.

When I started working for U.N.X. in 1978, most of our customers used powdered chemicals. Over the past 38 years, I’ve seen the industry transition to primarily liquid chemicals.

Just as washing machines have changed from paper chart controls with lots of relays and motors to programmable machines with variable-speed drives and/or hydraulic functions, the technology to add chemicals has changed from scoops and pails to highly automated microprocessor-controlled systems.

Formula counts, classes of chemicals and the number of chemicals per classification have increased. At the same time, electronics have become faster, better and less expensive. It’s probably the only thing anyone purchases that is less expensive.

I hold multiple patents for laundry chemical injection systems and am constantly designing more equipment to meet customer needs. Some of our equipment has been so well received that it has remained in production for decades.

I have been fortunate to attend every Clean Show since 1981, meeting customers and equipment manufacturers. I enjoy working with our laundry customers, learning what they want from their vendors and working to solve their problems.

I have participated in the Panel of Experts previously and am excited to be part of it again. I have met some of the past and present members and enjoy their insights and advice. I hope that I can contribute some ideas that will help our industry and perhaps spark some more changes in the future.

Long-Term Care Laundry: Kathrine Flitsch, Ascension 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 again for 2017. I am the manager of the environmental services department at Ascension Senior Living-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, seven 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. We also stock and maintain the linen closets within the facility.

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.

One of the biggest joys that comes with working in our laundry department is the look of happiness when residents get their clothing back clean and ready to wear.

In the coming 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.

Check back tomorrow to meet the rest of the 2017 Panel.

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