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Current State of Textile Supply Challenges (Conclusion)

Effects of textile supply chain issues on laundry operations

CHICAGO — Without the proper supply of textiles, laundry and linen services—and their customers—can’t function as well as they should.

And effects related to the pandemic have caused severe challenges when it comes to textile supply.

“The textile supply chain has never been so disrupted in recent memory,” says Alex Heiman, healthcare business unit leader of Standard Textile in Cincinnati.

“Even in the cotton crisis a decade ago, only one factor in the supply chain (raw materials) presented challenges. Now, every aspect, from raw material to manufacturing labor to freight to tariffs to distribution labor, are presenting novel challenges.”

LAUNDRY INDUSTRY EFFECT

While textile suppliers are struggling with these challenges, Heiman knows that laundries are dealing with many of their own challenges, including supply shortages, product substitutions, increased prices and more.

“This is in an environment where they’re also dealing with labor shortages, overtime costs, and inelastic pricing forces with many of their healthcare customers,” he says.

Chuck Loitz, senior vice president of the institution division for Venus Group in Foothill Ranch, California, points out that due to the supply challenges, laundries are having to use textiles longer than they would like.

“In many cases, they are forced to substitute products for the regular products that they used to order,” he says. “This can include different pocket configurations on aprons to different color choices on table linen.”

“Finding materials, period, is difficult, and it is apparent that the three-decade-long trend of textile price deflation is over, even when Asia returns to normal, whenever that will be,” points out Timothy Voit, chief marketing officer for Thomaston Mills in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.

Bob Pestrak, director of linen rental for 1Concier headquartered in Miami, says that laundries would usually have preferred vendors they would buy exclusively from, if they were in stock, and some secondary vendors. They could get same-day and next-day delivery.

“Today, all manufacturers/distributors have holes in their inventories on big-volume core items, so laundries are having to expand their sourcing model and buy from a variety of suppliers to get what they need,” he says.

“Laundries are placing orders in advance (longer-term contract orders) based on future delivery dates. This is especially true on some of the more unique textiles that might only be available from a specific vendor.”

Pestrak says this is affecting laundries in a variety of ways. Consistent quality and color matching are a challenge, plus increased supplier auditing and making decisions on how fast they can grow their business due to labor and textile shortages.

He continues, “Installations with their customers are delayed, overordering to increase inventory levels because of supply uncertainty, and having to figure out how to optimize linen usage are just some of the ways laundries have been affected.

“This is making laundries reassess the business relationships they have with suppliers.”   

Steve Gasner, vice president of commercial laundry sales for A1 American based in Pacoima, California, says that the effect of textile supply challenges requires laundries to have strong communication with suppliers. 

“Product delivery that was taking one to three days is now two to five days with some items pushed back into back order situations,” he points out. “It really requires a planned approach, forecasting and a diversified supplier approach. 

“The hospitality side is really upside down and by the time operators realize a size or item, say T-180 king sheets, are not available, the item is out in the market overall. Some allocations are evident.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

Despite the textile supply challenges, Lenore Law, owner of California Textiles in Corona, California, says the future for the textile rental industry looks bright.

“Many hospitals are now looking for qualified partners to co-op with for hospital laundries,” she says. “While the restaurant business is a bit stifled lately, it will bounce back once all the COVID panic dies down. Salons have already bounced back.”

Law goes on to say that many companies are doing more manufacturing in the United States, so the industrial side of the textile rental business will slowly get busier as well, especially dealerships and after-market car maintenance places, as that was put off during the pandemic as people were not driving as much.

“If we keep our eyes focused on business as usual and better cleaning practices as the economy continues to grow, one day we will look back and say we beat COVID, we got this, with a smile,” she says. “Learning from every experience and going forward is best, and as my daughter would say, ‘Prepare for the worst and the rest is easy.

“Our industry has been through many, many disasters over the years and has only grown and gotten stronger through the years. We will get through this, too.”

Miss Part 1 with an update on textile supply status, what’s causing challenges? Click HERE to read it now!