CHICAGO — Danny Harris is director of linen services for Goodwill Laundry & Linen in Milwaukee, which processes more than 13 million pounds annually for healthcare, military and clinics throughout Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
The operation runs both rental and customer-owned goods (COG) in the healthcare market, from bedding to isolation gowns, from scrubs to surgical packs.
“When I arrived here, we were 100% COG, and I established a rental program because clearly there’s a lot of rental potential out there for new customers,” he says.
With the mix of rental and COG, and the different types and styles of linen the laundry processes, it’s important that Harris’s operation keeps track of all the goods that get processed so nothing gets lost along the way.
To accomplish this, the laundry has put a linen inventory program in place.
In Part 1, Harris shared about his operation’s program and the benefits of linen inventory. In this installment, he talks about implementation and putting the information into action.
STEPS TO IMPLEMENTATION
When it comes to a laundry operation looking at the first steps to implementing a linen inventory program, Harris goes back to the benefits of using RFID.
“RFID is the way to go,” he reiterates. “Now, that is a financial commitment that not every laundry wants to do.
“However, in the research I’ve done and the vendors that I have reached out to and discussed RFID programs with, it pays for itself, and then some, because you’re not only going to be able to track loss for your high-loss items like scrubs but you’ll know specifically what items are going to a customer and not returning.
“So you can, therefore, initiate some charges if they’re sitting on linen. We know it hasn’t come back to us, so either you lost it or you’re just sitting on it. I think RFID is just the way to go when it comes to that.”
Harris says that scheduling and conducting linen inventories need to be done properly to get the most accurate data possible.
“It’s time consuming because, first off, it has to be a snapshot, right? You don’t want to count the same item twice, and we process things on the same day,” he points out. “So, if I send it back today and they just happen to grab it and put it back in soil—within two days, you’re going to see the same linen go through your facility.
“You have to do a snapshot, and it has to be coordinated. So everyone in the hospital, you have to count every area in the hospital. You have to stop the soil pull or coordinate it around the soil pull from the many different locations within the facility so you can mark all of that soiled linen to be counted.”
At the laundry, Harris says the process is easier because with COG the operation is going to process it all and count only the soil that is marked.
“So the marked soiled comes in, and this is what I’m counting and nothing else,” he shares. “And that could come in with other soiled that come in later, depending on how efficient they were at the hospital to pull this. So, you’re relying on a lot of different moving entities and the coordination of it is challenging for them.”
Without RFID, linen inventory comes down to manual counting either on the soil side or the clean side.
“You can do it by pounds,” Harris points out. “You can separate it all out. We’re going to separate it when we wash it anyway, so I can give you a wash report and say, today I gave you, or I washed, 14 pockets of blankets at 100 pounds, or I can give you the exact pounds. It might be anywhere between 93 and 105 pounds.
“Based on the pounds per what each blanket weighs, we can give you how many blankets we put through during that inventory period, that snapshot.”
He says that most linen software today can provide this type of information. As long as it’s not a mixed cart of linen that goes across the scale, the software knows that if it’s a bath blanket that weighs 1.3 pounds and the tare weight is this, here’s how many blankets are there.
Laundry operators can accomplish this through the tunnel by wash weight, or they can do it by clean, dry weight at the scale, which typically the scale software will count.
“There are a lot of manual ways you can get through that, and the worst one, obviously, is physically counting every one of them,” laughs Harris.
INFORMATION IN ACTION
The big question, once a linen inventory program is put in place and information starts rolling in, is what to do with the data. What kind of action and follow-up needs to take place?
“That’s a good question, and some of my customers do an inventory because it needs to be done and they’re very flippant with it,” shares Harris. “It’s not important to them or their EVS, and this is just what they’re supposed to do because they’re supposed to do it twice a year.”
He shares that Goodwill has a customer service manager that is very involved with customers when linen inventory takes place to gauge the level of interest and to follow up after the information goes back to the customer.
Was the inventory what they thought it was going to be, whether good or bad? If it wasn’t what the customer thought it was going to be, how can Goodwill make it better next time? What can the laundry do to take the steps necessary to make the customer’s inventory what it is supposed to be?
“That’s kind of our partnership, and a lot of times I get involved with that beyond my customer service manager to make sure that we’re doing everything we can, and also so they see the support,” Harris says.
“I want a partnership, not just a customer relationship, for long-term. Most of our contracts are more than 20 years, so we want to make sure that they understand that we’re there for them to make any of their laundry or linen issues our issues. We tackle this together.
“So, we will typically go on-site and go over their results and go over ways and opportunities for us to improve, whether it be on our end or their end.”
Click here to read Part 1 and learn about the inventory program Goodwill Laundry & Linen in Milwaukee uses and the benefits of linen inventory.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].