RIPON, Wis. — No business stays the same forever. Progress is not just inevitable, it’s required.

This includes our industry. 

While it might be easy to lean on the old phrase, “Don’t mess with success,” the truth is that just because an operation has processed loads one way for years, maybe decades, it doesn’t mean there can’t be improvement. 

Staying up to date and educated on new advancements in equipment and processes helps ensure the laundry is measuring up in terms of both quality and efficiency.

JOIN AN ASSOCIATION/ATTEND EVENTS

There’s no debate that joining organizations such as TCATA, the Association for Linen Management (ALM), the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA), TRSA or other national/regional organizations specific to you brings tremendous upside. Some associations focus on distribution and manufacturers, but they are great sources to learn best practices. 

However, greater value can be leveraged through various educational opportunities and webinars.

Membership in these organizations is as simple as you get out what you put in. We are all busy and often don’t carve out time for such learning opportunities. We join an organization, read the newsletters, but sometimes don’t make more time to take our involvement any deeper. 

Trust me, making time for conferences and webinars truly is time well spent. Not every session is going to elicit an epiphany and a deluge of changes you’ll make to your operation, but if you walk away with one solid idea, it’s worth it. The nature of education and continuing it is to, at its base, elicit additional thought—that resonance that happens afterward. This is where you begin looking at the operation with new eyes.

Networking with peers at these events also is well-spent time. We can all agree that chatting with others in our profession offers casual access to new ideas and new ways of thinking. But again, you must put forth the effort and engage with those folks.

ATTEND THE CLEAN SHOW

Let’s face it, we could generate a list that will fill this entire space with reasons to leverage the educational value of our largest trade show. 

For starters, the educational sessions, which are well attended, always do a fabulous job of getting professionals in our industry updated on timely topics. Best of all, they often include a good mix of general and specific topics. 

For instance, if you are attending this year’s event in New Orleans in June, you’ll see themes such as, “Preventing Microbial Growth and Infection in Laundry Facilities” and “Labor Law and Compliance: Current Issues and Trends.” Those are just two of the many educational session topics at the show, but they illustrate the broad range of learning available over the four-day run. It’s definitely worth your time to go out and visit the site and see what’s scheduled.

Learning at the Clean Show is not confined to just the break-out sessions. The show floor offers a wealth of opportunities. Having all the key equipment manufacturers and providers of additional services and products in one spot is a fantastic chance to see what’s new and get your own new ideas on how you might leverage advancements in all those arenas. 

I would stress that you come with a plan in hand. Decide before leaving what areas you want to explore. Get a grasp on your pain points or areas that might need improvement. 

Are utility costs going up? Maybe you want to look for new washer-extractors and drying tumblers. Is labor management a question? Maybe you want to draft a list of the different technologies you want to better understand and how they might work to help manage your operation. Laundry chemicals? No better place to see the options. 

Again, have a plan of specific areas you want to improve and the booths you think may offer solutions.

MANUFACTURER, DISTRIBUTOR TRAINING

Many equipment manufacturers and even local distributors offer training to help owners get better acquainted with their machines. This can be another great way to increase your educational base. Often, such training is focused on service and maintenance tasks. 

Certainly, I always recommend managers take advantage of such opportunities. When we have a better understanding of how our machines operate and how small process variations can negatively impact overall laundry performance, we are better off.

I think it’s particularly important in terms of technology. Work with your distributor to understand the features and functionalities of what you paid for. Today’s equipment can track large amounts of data. Working with the manufacturer and distributor to learn how to efficiently collect and leverage the information will help your operation. 

Take the time to learn these details and then continue to expand your knowledge base through networking with peers to see how they are using it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If we aren’t growing, we are stagnating. And in this so-called “information age,” there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of opportunities to expand our knowledge base. We just need to set aside time to grow. 

If the perfect laundry was established decades ago, we’d never have a need to upgrade equipment. That’s clearly not the case. 

By networking with peers, attending conferences, training and webinars, we give ourselves a variety of options to glean new ideas to implement in our own operation. Never stop learning.