How Do You Rate as a Manager?

Eric Frederick |

The auto industry just announced plant closings and layoffs. Textile mills in the South continue to close, and a number of large commercial laundries have closed during the past year. It’s easy to blame all these happenings on NAFTA, the Republicans, greedy unions, high gas prices or the war in Iraq because we have no control over these events. It makes us feel better to blame someone other than ourselves.
I’ve always believed that a manager, like the captain of a ship, needs to set the course for the department while keeping an eye on the horizon for changes in the weather.
We’re familiar with the cost pressures. We’ve been encouraged to improve productivity and lower supply costs. Healthcare laundry managers have had the opportunity to investigate improved machinery, learn about productivity management, embrace microfilament mops, replace disposable surgical linen with reusables and learn about antimicrobial textiles. All these items have been on the horizon and we can either steer the ship toward them or away from them. Our job is to determine which course we should be taking.
Managers who choose the easy course away from change or uncomfortable positions run the risk of discovering one day that their department is no longer needed. We like to believe our industry really doesn’t change very quickly or dramatically. But the truth is that the speed of change in our industry is increasing annually along with the challenges presented by those changes.
Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following:
1. I’ve started a productivity improvement program and have definite goals for improvement this year.
Yes ____ No ____
2. I’ve informed my boss of my plans to improve our laundry’s productivity.
Yes ____ No ____
3. I’ve met with the various companies selling microfilament mops, in conjunction with the environmental services department, and can discuss the advantages of using these mops.
Yes ____ No ____
4. I’m planning on attending the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA) surgical textiles conference April 26-27.
Yes ____ No ____
5. I’m planning to attend the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM) conference June 8-10.
Yes ____ No ____
6. I have plans to increase the use of reusable surgical linen in my facility.
Yes ____ No ____
7. I’ve worked at various jobs in my laundry during the last six months, looking for signs of production roadblocks.
Yes ____ No ____
8. I’ve reviewed the items in my circulating inventory to make sure they meet the needs of end users and are designed to improve productivity in the laundry.
Yes ____ No ____
9. I keep abreast of what’s happening in my industry by reading laundry-related trade publications.
Yes ____ No ____
10. I keep abreast of changes in the long-term-care or healthcare industry by reading publications for administrators.
Yes ____ No ____
If you can’t say that you’re doing eight out of these 10 items, then I’d say you’re not excelling in your job as a manager.
Two items came across my desk today that may well have an impact on our industry. The first is an article about a Pennsylvania hospital using mobile robots to run samples from the emergency room to the lab. The manufacturer claims the robots are designed to deliver lab specimens, medications, food and linens throughout the hospital.
The second is an article about the Illinois state government proposing a requirement for how much charity care a not-for-profit hospital must give and controls on how aggressively one can collect on debts.
These represent just a few storm clouds on the horizon. Managers in the auto and textile industries saw the storms as they developed but were unable to adapt their management ideas. They had a responsibility, just like you and me, to keep their workers informed of these changing events. They needed to work together to meet the challenges. Failure to correctly plan is planning to fail.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at


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