Learning Process Management is Key to Better Performance

Eric Frederick |

For years, the laundry industry has been trying to upgrade its management practices by increasing the required educational levels of new management employees and by putting in computerized tracking and management systems.
The emphasis has been on doing a better job in the areas of managing personnel, finances, sales and environmental impact. But I submit to you that we, as an industry, have missed the mark.
We have spent so much time looking at several trees that we have lost sight of the forest. What we really need to concentrate on is learning process management.
Process management requires a manager to become an expert in all phases and processes in the laundry. Optimum performance levels can only be achieved with a manager who can effectively manage the entire laundry process.
In the good old days, the person charged with running the hospital laundry was usually the one who had been there the longest. This person may or may not have understood the entire laundry process. They were simply judged on whether there was enough clean linen to keep the nurses happy. Cost was not a major concern.
Back then, washroom chemistry and textiles were simpler. Everyone washed with tallow-based soap, and all textile products were made of 100% cotton. The majority of textiles were white. Effective management of washroom chemicals was based on providing the proper size scoop to use with each powdered laundry chemical.
The laundry process has become more complicated over the years with the use of liquid laundry chemicals including peroxide bleach, tunnel washers, colored linen, a large variety of blended sheets and higher thread counts. To effectively manage a laundry today requires a thorough understanding of the entire process.
A manager must understand how each process is related to the next and how changes in one area will affect others. The goal is to keep the laundry running effectively and efficiently. A manager must understand that the operation is affected by the addition of new textile products, changes in the water quality, new washroom chemicals, employee turnover, new customers and government regulations.
Laundry managers do not manage in a static environment.
NAILM [the National Association of Institutional Linen Management] developed its American Laundry and Linen College specifically to help managers improve their process-management skills. The courses deal with the information needed to understand and manage the process. The failure of National Linen, in my opinion, is mainly a failure due to poor process management.
I am not saying that we do not need to work on our skills in financial, personnel, sales and environmental management. I do, however, flatly reject the premise of the last 20 years that any competent manager from any industry could be effective in the laundry industry without receiving specific, extensive process-management training.
A manager must be willing to learn both in the classroom and from hands-on training. They must be willing to spend time doing each task until they fully understand it and can perform it competently. This is something many college-educated managers are simply unwilling to try. But it is by placing yourself in the same positions as your employees that you develop an understanding for the factors that affect their job performance.
When we embrace process management and come to understand its value and requirements, then we will be ready to achieve higher performance levels from our laundry.

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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