panel of experts

You are here

Helping Pandemic/Recession-Proof Operations (Conclusion)

“After the past year, I want to do my part on the floor to help maintain business. What ideas and suggestions do you have to help pandemic/recession-proof my laundry?”

Healthcare Laundry: Tammy Barrett, HHS Environmental Services, Bonita Springs, Fla.

In my job role, I do this on a daily basis.

I round floors looking for excess clean linen being wasted in patient rooms. If I see a room with much excess, I locate the CNA assigned to that room and educate her/him on loss linen charges to the hospital as well as a waste of daily inventory.

I also keep staff aware of what this portrays to patient family members. This portrays clutter, lack of seating for family visits and could contribute to a negative survey by a patient’s family members.

That in turn negatively impacts the hospital’s HCAPHS scores, as well as the score for that floor.

I also educate them on rejecting out damaged, stained linen. I have reject bags in place for this purpose. We never put that linen on a patient’s bed.

We also never throw it in the trash, as this contributes to loss charges at most hospitals. We can together weed out this low-quality linen, saving costs as well as having a satisfied patient.

Equipment Manufacturing: Charles Spencer, G.A. Braun Inc., Syracuse, N.Y.

While we all learned a few new lessons from this pandemic, I think it’s a good time to reflect on old lessons that are sometimes forgotten. Remembering and reaffirming these lessons will help give your business the best opportunity to succeed against the next round of challenges.

This may also be the best time to remind many of us (especially those in the healthcare and hospitality markets) that we have an industry with built-in spring training or pre-season, so to speak.

It’s called the flu season, and it should be your annual reminder of how to deal with some of the challenges we faced during the pandemic. I’ll even go a step further to remind you that how you face those challenges will actually help you face a slow economy/recession.

Cleanliness: As you would guess, as a salesman in this industry, I’ve had the opportunity to visit over a hundred or so laundries in the past year.

In the soil rooms, most of these look much like they did pre-pandemic—employees practicing universal precautions, wearing isolation gowns, gloves, eye protection and/or facemasks. When they leave their job, they disrobe, leaving their personal protective equipment (PPE) in the soil side receptacles and walk across mats to disinfect their shoes on the way out.

The big change may be that much of this has now transferred to the clean side operation. In doing so, we protected our employees, their families, and the general public we encounter after work.

Healthy employees can show up for work—this helps your bottom line. Would it not make sense to practice this extra level of PPE during the flu season that impacts our healthcare and hospitality laundries every year?

Diversify: Maybe your strength and core is primarily as a mat or uniform processor. Did you get some opportunities this year to branch out into cleaning wipers and dust control? Microfiber mops? If you did and you seized those, they clearly helped you recover some of the volume lost due to some customers shuttering or closing altogether.

So, you’re a healthcare provider. Did you get in on some of that isolation gown boon that was like an oasis in the middle of a drought? So, walk-off mats are your core business? Did you offer sanitizing walk-off mats with shoe cleaning disinfectants?

These lessons should stay with you and remind you to always look for these opportunities. As the saying goes, never put all your eggs in one basket, and while you can probably thank your mom or dad for that lesson, COVID-19 may just have reinforced it. This helps keep your business strong to survive the most challenging years.

Staffing: I’ll bet you’ve had staffing challenges before COVID-19. You will have staffing challenges again at some point, and you will be better and stronger for the experience you’ve had getting past this year.

Keeping your employees happy and healthy, creating a sense of teamwork, and engaging them in the importance and value of what they do is the best way to avoid understaffing. Yes, wages matter to employees, but in a world where wages are equal, people always look for the best work environment.

Keeping and maintaining good equipment and providing a structured workplace helps, too. How’s that help you protect your bottom line? What’s a direct result of understaffing? Overtime costs, stress on existing employees, underproduction and shortages to customers with a loss of revenue!

I hope some of these suggestions give you some pause and reassurance that you can and will succeed the next time you’re challenged by a recession or a pandemic.

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

During my career in the commercial laundry business, I’ve listened to business mentors and keynote speakers state that this industry is one that can withstand trying times like recessions, crises, and, most recently, a pandemic.

This is due in part to the fact that people always need access to clean clothing and sanitary linens. However, I have often wondered what else companies could do to help sustain their businesses, besides the obvious.

Therefore, to help pandemic-proof or recession-proof your laundry operations, here are a few additional suggestions that could help.

Create an action plan that is simple and easy to follow. What do you do when business is slow? Did you sit back and wait for it to pick back up because you weren’t sure what else to do?

The problem is that many companies will wait until their business is suffering before they try to find ideas to help reduce the stress on the business. Instead, consider creating a plan in advance.

Make a list of simple, yet effective tasks you can do any time your business slows down. This could include investigating new services or product ideas, getting in touch with prospects more frequently, and regularly marketing to your most loyal customers, and so on.

With an action plan in place, you’ll have a clear to-do list so you can get moving right away when the need arises.

Keep a running list of business expansion ideas. Throughout COVID, our business had to pivot quickly, and we did so by offering products and services to fit the needs of our current crisis.

For example, we began to offer deep-cleaning services, fogging and spraying devices, and education services about proper cleaning. You can’t predict the future, but the more ideas you have ready, the better.

Start by keeping an ongoing list of ways your business could adapt to the needs your customers have during a pandemic or recession. If and when another crisis happens, you’ll already have a starting point.

Look at investing in adaptable technologies. One of the most critical steps my team took during the last year and a half was investing in innovative system technologies that help commercial laundries be more proactive and efficient. Despite the unexpected circumstances of the pandemic, this technology became something many commercial laundries found tremendous value in.

Before an actual need arises, think about ways you can use technology to streamline your business.

Maybe there is a software tool you could use to complete your projects with less labor and at lower costs. Maybe it is an innovative new piece of laundry equipment that will help increase productivity and throughput. It will certainly depend on your business and your service or product. Regardless, now is the time to consider investing in technology that makes your work easier.

Taking time with your team to create a plan and investing in useful technology ahead of unexpected crises can give your business a competitive advantage that will help you sustain just about any crisis you might encounter.

Miss Part 1 with insights from textiles, consulting services and commercial laundry experts? Click HERE now to read it.

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