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Beyond Survival: Laundry Business Growth in 2022 (Part 1)

“The past two years have, basically, been about survival. What should my laundry focus on to move beyond survival and help achieve growth in 2022?”

Long-Term Care Laundry: Monique C. Walker, Vi at Grayhawk, Scottsdale, Ariz.

From 2019-2021, laundry services have experienced some challenges and obstacles, but during this time, we have become acutely aware of key issues that require attention. 

We have always been aware of potential risks in laundry because of so many pathogens that are infectious. The fact that the coronavirus made us look at risk a little bit more in-depth and through a different lens was frightening but provided some opportunity to look at safety practices. It helps us maintain safety and security amongst staff, patients, guests and residents, which is a priority and goal in hospitals, healthcare settings and hotels.   

Awareness will be a key area of focus for the laundry team in 2022 as well as re-establishing the operational aspect of service that is provided to our patients, guests and residents. 

Incorporating additional training that is focused on best practices in the industry is another area of focus and an opportunity to follow industry standards. Now that we know what new pathogens are present and the risk of other potential pathogens in the future, we are positioned to enhance our training efforts to address these risks.  

There are many programs that offer certifications in laundry to strengthen your team. The Association for Linen Management (ALM) has many great courses on linen management, infection prevention, and many webinars and e-Learning opportunities for continued education for all laundry staff. 

TRSA has a Hygienically Clean Healthcare certification. TRSA can help you in maintaining hygienically clean healthcare standards, accreditation and TRSA Hygienically Clean certification.

The certification is an affirmation that your organization is dedicated to infection prevention, compliant with industry standards and the processing of healthcare textiles with best management practices.

These courses and certifications will help the laundry staff to be prepared for current and future challenges in laundry and achieve growth in 2022.

Chemicals Supply: Campbell Dodson, Lavo Solutions LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio

The past two years have been very hard on businesses, employees, and owners.

If you are reading this article, I certainly don’t have to tell you that. Laundries in all segments from rental to OPL to healthcare were affected in some way.

But the good news is there is light at the end of the tunnel. The world is slowly “returning to normal” and during some recent trips, I had the chance to speak with several people within our industry and got a sense of excitement from them about what lies ahead.

As more establishments open, it creates more and more opportunities. In order to take advantage of the everchanging business environment, here are a few suggestions that might just help energize your business for growth. 

Consider completing a digital transformation strategy by removing old, antiquated processes, like paper invoicing, filing, etc., and help your employees do more, more efficiently.

Businesses of all types were transitioning to the cloud before 2020, but the pandemic seemed to have slowed that trend. For most of the past year, developments like the rise of working remotely and virtual communication have been at the center of most companies’ business strategies. The future is all but certain to be one that is online.

Examine your laundry systems, washers, dispensing equipment, and controls. A move to more automated systems can help your business become much more efficient and profitable by saving you on costly expenses in the long run.

Equipment manufacturers of all types are producing IoT (Internet of Things) connected and enabled devices that provide proactive alerts, reminders and updates. Many of these solutions also provide valuable data and analytics related to your operation and organization.

This information can help with items like employee performance, turn times, inventory control, and chemical spend, just to name a few. The information should be used to improve efficiencies; save on resources like water, gas and labor; and prevent wasteful spending.   

And finally, think about adding additional products and services to existing routes and making them available on your business website.

Often, daily route operators will service customers at businesses who need cleaning supplies and tools, bottles, buckets, chemicals, dispensers, etc. These businesses also use hand soaps, sanitizers, paper goods, carryout containers and utensils, rubber gloves, etc.

If you are already stopping there, consider offering some of these items to improve route profitability. Keep in mind that there could be some safety measures to consider when handling certain chemical products, but overall, getting creative about what you offer on routes can provide additional revenue sources and build customer loyalty.

Creating a business strategy around technology upgrades, cloud-based programs, automated tools and increased service offerings can improve the outlook of strong growth for companies competing in the commercial laundry industry in 2022. 

Good luck and I wish everyone a wonderful Holiday Season and a terrific start to the New Year!

Textiles: Cecil B. Lee, Standard Textile, Cincinnati, Ohio

I believe the focus should be on two things: retention of current employees and planning of product needs in your supply chain.

Turnover and loss of employees truly raised its ugly head during the COVID-19 pandemic. We as a world and industry went from laying employees off to begging them to come back. Nevertheless, many employers kept their employees at risk to their long-term existence.

In the end, it has come back to keeping employees. I recently attended the TRSA Annual Conference and I was hit by a presentation by Dick Finnegan talking about turnover and retention. 

My worst experience with turnover was when I did a startup of a healthcare laundry in 2006. At one point we had more than 165 employees only to settle in at 121 all-inclusive. We really didn’t need 165.

This is a demonstration of how knowledgeable employees can allow you to do more with less.

Additionally, fully trained and experienced employees train and influence new employees. Also during COVID it has been more important than ever to explain that the work employees are doing is saving lives. Their work is important to all the work that is going on in the healthcare systems they and their families use.

Regarding product needs, I am repeating myself from past articles when I say forecast, forecast, forecast. Working for Standard Textile, I can’t tell you enough how forecasting assists us in serving customers well regardless of the times.  

After 18 months of COVID, I believe all of us should be forecast proponents. And it is not just textile needs but parts for equipment. Lead times for all goods have increased.

You must be ready when the new business avails itself. If you are not taking care of the customer business you currently have, how will you be able to bring on more business properly and successfully? 

We are not a minimalist business; we are in the service industry. Thus, we are not just trying to get by, we are trying to excel! Thus, I believe it is about being ready and being ready means committing yourself to taking care of the employees you have and committing your efforts to increased planning for all your laundry needs. It is fundamental and necessary. Take care!

Equipment/Supply Distribution: Scott McClure, Pellerin Laundry Machinery, Kenner, La.

A key question in considering growth is, “How can I efficiently produce more linen in the same square footage of my laundry without sacrificing quality?”

Automating some of the production areas of your laundry may be the answer for growth by increasing the production capability of your facility and the efficiency of your operators. There are several areas in the laundry to consider automating: 

1. Washing and drying. If your laundry is needing to produce over 1,000 pounds per hour and uses conventional-style washers and dryers, it may be feasible to look at automating this process with a small CBW™ Tunnel System or Automated Washer/Dryer and Shuttle System. 

An automated tunnel system will streamline your plant’s production, reduce labor and utility costs, and allow your laundry to grow by increasing your production capacity. In many cases, an automated system uses less floor space than a conventional system.

2. Soil Linen Sorting and Rail System. These areas are often overlooked to reduce production costs and increase throughput. An automated sort on rail system can increase the production of your soil sorting operators by 30-50% and allow your laundry to sort more linen using fewer operators. 

Automatically loading washer-extractors or tunnel systems will increase your equipment’s production while reducing labor requirements. Overhead rail systems can also increase the capacity of your facility by utilizing the entire horizontal and vertical footprints of your laundry.

3.  Clean Linen Processing. There are several equipment solutions that can be used to enhance the production efficiencies of your clean linen processing. 

Automated/Sorting Small Piece Folders; Automated Sheet Separating Systems; Corner-less Automatic Spreader Feeders for processing sheets, table linen and blankets; clean sling rail delivery systems; clean accumulation conveyors; and Self-Contained Thermal Ironing Systems are a few solutions that may be right for your laundry. All these products can enhance your production capabilities allowing your laundry to produce more linen with fewer employees.

In addition to the use of automation for growth, you should also consider ways to reduce your operating cost to maintain your competitive edge.

The mechanical room presents great opportunities for capturing savings. Wastewater reuse and heat reclamation systems, boiler stack economizers, condensate return vent condensers are a few examples of ways to reuse your laundry’s energy to produce heated water for your facility.

One of my favorite quotes is, “The only way to grow is to accept change.” Exploring opportunities to efficiently increase production while reducing operating costs is a great way to achieve growth and increase profits.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion with expert advice from commercial laundry, consulting, healthcare laundry and equipment manufacturing representatives.

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