12903 13824 flexibility web

(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

You are here

It Pays to be ‘Semper Gumby’ (Always Flexible)

Laundry industry ‘must be ready and willing to meet change,’ says author

ROANOKE, Va. — The 2019 edition of the Clean Show is now in the books. Every time I have attended one of these shows I have come away amazed at the changes that were on display. New and better controls, improved database systems, improved chemicals, improved textile products. 

The one consistent theme of the Clean Show has been to highlight changes in our various laundry industries. 

When I was a young man back in the early ’60s studying chemistry in high school, I can remember going over the periodic table with my father, who was a research chemist. He said that when he took chemistry, the table was much smaller and the chemists of those days were sure they had every known element represented in the table. 

Then came many discoveries and the table expanded by over 20 elements. Man’s understanding of the universe and his ability to understand the world around him continues to expand. 

Back in 1972 when I first went to work in the laundry industry, my boss was an old-school laundry manager and still used tallow-based soap in this washroom. The fabrics in use in healthcare were just beginning to change from a 100% cotton to polyester/cotton blends. The tallow-based soaps did not work as well on these products as they had on 100% cotton.

The industry needed to adapt to the new fabric and it did. 

That laundry had a small-piece folder on an ironer that worked with a mechanical timer. When properly maintained, it worked very well, but not as good as the computer-enhanced controls of today. 

I can remember cutting charts to program my washer and being very limited in what items I could control during the wash cycle. Today’s modern controls allow us to do so much more and be so much more precise than we could back in 1972.

All areas of the laundry industry continue to advance, and it has become a constant challenge to stay up with the various changes. 

I recently went on a vacation to Thailand in January to spend time with my then fiancé (now wife) and spend time with her family. My oldest son and his wife joined me for part of the trip. I was worried because of my hectic schedule that I would not be able to spend as much time with them as I wanted. His answer to me was “Semper Gumby.” This caught me by surprise, and I asked what he meant by that. He simply said, “Always flexible.” 

I have reflected on his saying often since January and feel that would be a good motto for most laundry mangers. 

We need to be always flexible as we try to adapt new technologies and products into our existing laundry. Nothing stays the same; there is no perfect way of doing things. The best technology of today will be eclipsed tomorrow. We must be ready and willing to meet change. 

The Clean Show provides a large showcase for those changes every two years. It provides attendees the chance to catch up on the latest and the best and to discuss how these changes might be incorporated into their laundries. As managers we must make do with what we have while looking for ways to incorporate the new and better into our system.

To be successful we must be “Semper Gumby.”

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