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Evaluating Laundry Equipment Proposals

CHICAGO — I have warned that expertise in the textile care industry has been severely hampered by attrition and the inability of top managers to recognize and educate individual managers and programs for who they are responsible.

This void has been filled by consultants who often fail the customer by providing reviews and recommendations geared more to future opportunities than analyses based on supporting facts and data and not the opinion of one or more manufacturers.

Where is the consultant who can give a well-rounded opinion based on all the information that is available in our industry? The big picture must be presented, and the customer needs to be educated to know all systems and opportunities so they can separate fact from fiction.

Responsible organizations should carefully determine if they truly have the expertise to evaluate a proposal for either laundry equipment purchases or total system acquisitions (laundry equipment and the systems that support a complete operation).

For the novice who has never operated a laundry, never modernized a laundry, never been part of a process, I would suggest they not be part of the evaluation process unless they truly have some sort of expertise to offer. Onlythose trained professionals who have experience and education associated with the process should participate.

What happens if your organization fails to follow these simple rules and utilizes evaluations containing personal opinion instead of independent analysis? Most likely, you and your organization will end up in a court of law or, worse yet, a court of public opinion.

Can you imagine being on the witness stand, testifying as a reviewer of modernization proposals that you have no experience and no education associated with conducting a technical review? Worse yet, you relied on the opinion of an external party that was also was an equipment supplier.

I had the privilege of managing Department of Veteran Affairs programs on a national scale for more than 25 years. From my first day on the job, I was directed to visit a facility having modernization pains and was thrown into a den with more than 10 private contractors. It became obvious to me that field expertise was essential in conducting fair, comprehensive reviews of laundry modernization efforts ranging in value from $25,000 to $10 million.

We developed a team of experts who had proven laundry operations abilities. These experts represented engineering, plant operations, construction, plant management, facilities management, facility quality assurance, etc.

It is important to note that these experts also played a vital role in project development, preparation of specifications, etc. When proposal evaluations were being conducted, these experts made recommendations that were reviewed and passed on to procurement personnel who made the acquisition happen.

This systematic effort resulted in the modernization and construction of many facilities and, more importantly, gained the respect of the industry as a whole. While this process is government-related, any organization could utilize it. The key concept is involving the right folks whose work can withstand any external review.

The number of evaluators that a laundry project requires will vary depending on its scope. Nonetheless, experience, proven expertise, and the willingness to serve are essential. A minimum of three evaluators should be the rule, and the evaluation process—including those aspects about which an evaluator may disagree with the team—should be formalized and put in writing.

Each member should have proven expertise:

  • Been involved in previous laundry equipment and modernization processes.
  • Understand the specifics of the complete system approach, ranging from laundry sorting and processing to steam requirements and air compression pressures and processes.
  • Understand the principals and applicable codes of laundry plant safety, ergonomics, energy techniques, energy type comparisons, etc.
  • Have management experience with laundry plant operations.
  • Be certified and credentialed in your organization’s designated field.

Once an individual meets all these prerequisites, then and only then should they be considered as part of an evaluation team. If exceptions are made, the evaluation process will be circumvented and that could lead to project cancellation, loss of valuable funds and, most importantly, embarrassment.

Can the industry as a whole meet the challenge?

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