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Buy Best-Quality Textiles; Thwart Costly Abuse (Part 2 of 3)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“Cotton prices are incredibly high, and our textile suppliers are warning that they’ll continue to go up. Can you suggest some ways we can extend the life expectancy of the textiles that we process without completely sacrificing quality?”Uniforms: Barb Herman, SanMar Corp., Issaquah, Wash.
While there’s not much to do about the current market but wait and see, there are many measures to be taken to extend the life expectancy of the textiles that we process without completely sacrificing quality.

More Inventory Availability

A Catch-22 to ponder: Consider turning your product out of the plant just one day faster, thereby adding it to circulating inventory with less investment in new garments. You will get the same wear life but delay your purchase at top-of-market prices.
Naturally, adding inventory will extend the time period in which new purchases need to be made, but your costs will not be as high as buying at peak.
Pull more garments from used stock. Too often, it’s easier for the stockroom to order new. Likewise, ratcheting up the grades along with an audit of existing used stock may prove to bring more into circulating inventory.

Washroom Formulas

Check washroom formulas for excessive wash times, bleaching, extraction and drying time, and possible underloading. Excessive bleach can wear a garment or textile thin before its time, and excessive wash times can cause pilling. All attribute to customer dissatisfaction and early replacement.
Consider microfiber or spun-poly product, even though there is mounting evidence that the cost of polyester is on the rise as well. While they used to be more expensive, market dynamics have leveled the playing field.

Loss/Replacement Charges

Look at loss/replacement charges for customers notorious for causing textile abuse. I heard a route person ask his service manager to visit a customer with him. He was expecting a spirited conversation around loss charges, as it seems the customer was using his table linen as a walk-off mat during heavy rains.
Catching and stopping inventory excesses by attaching real costs for customers will mitigate replacement purchases during peak markets.

Route Sweeps for Overstocks

Consider assigning an employee as a route auditor to visit those high-volume customers daily to check for overstocks. The position could also be used to look at the placement of your textiles in the appropriate accounts. Are you using brand-new bar towels in the body shop of a car dealership? It happens!

To Count or Not to Count

There is much debate on which is most cost-effective, but counting could assist in capturing missing goods during times of high costs. Because many operators don’t count anymore, unknown losses are one of the biggest black holes in merchandise cost.

Procurement

Look at the true lifecycle costing in your textiles, and get the analysis down to a single serving unit. You might be surprised that paying a little more for a better textile is actually cheaper because of wear life.

Security

Consider putting inventory under lock and key. By taking security seriously and notifying your employees that it is not about trust but expense, you send the message that costs are rising and everyone must keep their eye on inventory and abuse.Long-Term-Care Laundry: Gary Clifford, Pines of Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla.
Start by tweaking the chemical mix going to your washers to be certain you are using the least amount of chemicals necessary to get your linen clean. Using excessive amounts of detergent and bleach can cause your linens to wear out more quickly.
Also, make sure to shorten your washer cycles as much as possible. Reducing the time spent in washers reduces friction and helps stretch linen life.
Separate your linen so that only the badly stained items go into your stain loads. Make sure the water you are introducing is not hotter than 160 F.
It is also important to load your washers to the proper limit. Too much linen doesn’t allow the water and chemicals to work properly, while too light a load causes cotton loss while washing and stresses the linen in the spin cycle.
Overloading dryers can cause the linen on the inside of a load to stay wet while the goods on the outside “burn.” Underloading can cause excessive wear and also scorch linen. Be sure to use the lowest temperature that will quickly dry the type of linen you are processing.
Lower the temperature and dry time when doing blends or synthetics. Keep a close eye on your dryers and remove the loads as soon as they are dry. If the linen is tumbling after dry, the unnecessary friction is causing wear.
If your linen inventory is large enough and you have adequate storage space, you can let processed linen “rest” after being folded. You can count your “resting” linen as your emergency supply.
Continue to purchase good-quality linen; fight the temptation to buy the cheapest linen available. If you start with good-quality textiles, they will last longer and wear better.
The tendency is to buy the cheapest textiles you can find as prices escalate, but you will find yourself replacing linen more often and spending even more on textiles. You still need to shop prices, but make sure to compare textiles of the same quality.Chemicals Supply: Carrie Armstrong, Ecolab, Eagan, Minn.
The flow cycle of a piece of linen involves many steps. A thorough review of the areas, processes and procedures throughout the cycle may result in actions, items to address, training and solutions.
Most soils are removed in the wash process, but linen-abuse soils are often permanent or tenacious, resulting in stain treatment. Working with and training the end-user or customers helps define and prevent linen abuse. For example, the customer may not realize that wet linen lying on the loading-dock floor is being permanently stained by cement.
Monitoring soil sorting and the wash process can result in positive effects on linen life. Proper soil sorting, load weights and formula selection provides for clean linen without excessive use of mechanical and chemical action. Proper procedures ensure the linen is not overwashed or underwashed. Underwashing can result in more rewash or stain procedures, while overwashing increases chemical and mechanical action.
Monitoring reject rates regularly can be a source of clues. Excessive rejects may indicate incorrect formula selection or poor sorting due to improper soil classification. Overloading can also lead to excessive rejects, resulting in unnecessary rewash or stain treatment.
Load-weight analysis and proper loading is key to reduction of excessive mechanical action and improper chemical concentrations. Underloading increases mechanical action, resulting in greater abrasion to linens. In addition, the wash chemistry is imbalanced due to an increase of water for the amount of linen and soil present. The goal is a well-balanced wash process involving all the basics: time, temperature, mechanical action, chemical action and procedures.
Preventive maintenance of processing equipment is important. Equipment malfunctions have effects on the processes and on the linen. Examples are:

  • Wash machine drain and/or seals leaking can result in higher water usage, diluting chemical concentration, leading to more rejects.

  • Too-high dryer temperatures can cause scorching.
  • Worn or dirty ironer pads can stain linens.
  • Water quality issues due to water softener malfunction can result in graying or decreased detergency and poor soil removal.

All of these examples result in additional rewash or stain processing that otherwise would have been unnecessary.
A piece of linen has numerous touch points as it moves through the laundering process, and each point can be a potential for increasing or decreasing the life expectancy. The aforementioned are only a few of many potential areas to assess.
Essential is continual process review and training with personnel, equipment and chemical consultants, as well as end-users and customers. All have roles in meeting the goal of increasing linen life expectancy.
 

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