Panel of Experts

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2018 Panel Ready to Share Experience, Unique Perspectives (Part 1)

Meet this year’s experts in hospitality and commercial laundries, equipment manufacturing, consulting

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Vistana Signature Experiences, Orlando, Fla.

Hello, my name is Phil Jones, and I have been in the laundry industry for almost 25 years, starting with the Walt Disney World Textile Services Division. The textile services operation had three types of laundries, which were linen, food and beverage, and costuming, and I had the opportunity to manage in all three facilities.

Ten and a half years ago, I was hired as the director of laundry operations for the Sheraton Vistana Resort in Orlando, a large vacation ownership resort. The laundry at that time was processing around 5 million pounds in a 5,000-square-foot facility, and much of that was being outsourced. Through partnerships with various equipment companies, I took on the challenge of redoing the operation without adding any additional space, and currently the laundry is producing 9.5 million pounds per year with minimum outsourcing.

I also serve as a consultant as needed for other hotels and resorts within Starwood hotels and Vistana Signature Experiences.

One of the biggest challenges I am facing is the continuing change from the traditional week-long stays with a mid-week clean only to newer products that allow stays of one night or more that has daily service. The poundage processed has been steadily increasing year after year, even though the number of villas has not increased. We do not have any additional usable space to expand, yet we must continue to increase poundage every year.

It is my pleasure to serve on the Panel of Experts this year, and I look forward to providing any helpful insight I can to all of us in the laundry industry.

Commercial Laundry: Brian Polatsek, EcoBrite Linen, Skokie, Ill.

After a varied career, including MEP engineering and energy procurement consulting, I somehow found myself starting up a commercial healthcare laundry focused on servicing the post-acute/long-term care industry.  

One of the key attractions for me to enter this industry is the opportunity to achieve process improvement, automation and energy efficiency that has not yet been realized.

What I found out shortly after starting is that our industry has a camaraderie, cohesiveness and an openness to sharing of ideas that is really refreshing. There are some amazing people that I had the opportunity to get to know that are willing to spend time working together as a group for the greater good.

The laundry industry, along with the healthcare industry, faces new challenges across many fronts, both on the revenue and cost sides. Getting in front of them and bringing awareness to challenges, threats and opportunities is something American Laundry News does exceptionally well.

I feel that as a newcomer with my diverse background, I can provide a fresh and different perspective. I am humbled that I was asked to join this Panel and sit among the experts, and hope I can add some value and pay forward the advice, support and encouragement that I receive from this industry’s experts.

Equipment Manufacturing: Keith Ware, Lavatec Laundry Technology Inc., Beacon Falls, Conn.

I am the vice president of sales for Lavatec, and I am excited to share my experience and knowledge. I have been in the laundry industry for 30 years, managing both hospitality and healthcare plants.

My laundry career started in 1985 at Walt Disney World as operations manager for Disney’s Textile Services. We processed over 100 million pounds of guestroom and food and beverage linens, and 13 million uniforms for 28,000 hotel rooms and four theme parks, with 580 employees covering three separate facilities. Disney started with a single mixed plant but growth dictated that two more guestroom linen plants be added during my 10-year career.

After Disney, I joined National Linen Service in 1996 in Youngstown, Ohio, a mixed-use operation with a separate linen and uniform facility. I helped to turn around this unprofitable plant before the company sold it to G&K.

After the Youngstown sale, I transferred to Portsmouth, Va., as general manager, taking a highly seasonal plant from an annual loss to profit in 12 months. Volume swings from summer to winter were a 50% reduction in weekly sales. We sold off unprofitable routes, streamlined production and improved loss collection.

I joined Tartan Textile in 1999 as vice president of the Southeast division, overseeing five plants processing over 100 million pounds of healthcare linen. We processed work in Virginia, Georgia and Florida, while handling a significant portion of volume from HCA.

In 2001, I joined Crothall Laundry Services as regional manager, and the laundry division grew from five laundries to 43 in just over eight years. Operating and managing a mix of plants processing volumes of 1 million to over 65 million pounds was a challenge. It was a fast-paced eight years, as growth presented the challenge of maintaining core values and finding great leaders to operate the plants.

I then joined Crothall’s consulting side of the business with Victor Kramer Co. in 2007. As vice president of consulting, I was involved in many design and renovation projects, process improvements and plant audits for a multitude of customers in all aspects of the industry. I spent a large portion of time consulting with Ritz Carlton and Marriott properties on developing new laundries, management development and managing in-house laundries.

In 2009, I transitioned to the equipment side, working with AquaRecycle as vice president of sales. We introduced the industry to ThermalRecycle dryer heat recovery and supported customers with laundry operations on the water recycling side.

With Lavatec, I oversee sales throughout North America, South America and the Caribbean. In my role, we work with clients to develop laundry operations solutions and help them make the best equipment decisions for the long-term success of their organization. My sales and support team members all have laundry operations backgrounds, allowing years of experience to provide plant layouts and designs, equipment audits and innovative solutions for our customers.

This role provides the opportunity to stay involved with operations teams in a variety of industry sectors, learning as much as teaching.

In all my years, I have believed in a simple philosophy when attempting to solve a problem. Ask a single expert to solve a problem and you get one person’s opinion. Ask 10 people to solve a problem together and a miracle occurs. Hopefully together, we can answer your questions and find workable solutions for your operations. 

Consulting Services: Michael Dodge, Softrol, Minneapolis, Minn.

I have been a director of sales engineering at Softrol Systems since February 2017. I received my Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). I started in the textile cleaning industry in 1990 as an industrial engineer with E.K.M. Management Services, which is a consulting company to the textile rental industry.

I established work measurement programs utilizing labor standards and facilitating operations management to increase productivity and improve financial margins during my eight-year consultant phase with E.K.M. Management Services.

I then spent 18 years with AmeriPride Services, implementing productivity improvement systems and providing direction, training and support in improving our textile inventory controls. I have come full-circle in my career path by joining the Softrol team as we promote automated production data collection systems to improve the productivity of laundry operations.

I am very proud of our Softrol business partners who have worked with us this year using the automated production data collection processes to understand the scheduling of their production operations (soil, washroom, finishing and load building/pack out) to optimize their labor and equipment.

We have learned a lot about “balancing” the production outputs of our systems, machinery and operators within our laundries based on customer needs and using data to guide us.

We (Softrol, our business partners and our industry) are on the verge of understanding production optimization within our organizations. This understanding has been the biggest challenge of my career. Twenty years ago, the technology was deficient to our needs in understanding the balance of production flows within our laundries for this optimization dream. Now, it is within reach and I am excited to be a part of this experience!

Check back tomorrow to meet the experts in “other institution” and healthcare laundries, chemicals and textiles.

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