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Once Item Quality is Specified, Cost Per Use Signals Best Value (Part 3 of 3)

When selecting and purchasing linens or uniforms, what specifications or qualities are most important for me to consider, and where on the price scale can I find the best long-term values?Healthcare Linen ServicesCindy Molko, RLLDCindy is the director for Linen and Central Services at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. She is a director for the National Assn. of Institutional Linen Management and a member of its Education Committee. Cindy was NAILM’s 2000 Manager of the Year.
The process of selecting and purchasing textiles requires two areas of expertise: knowledge of the customer’s needs and knowledge of the facility’s textile laundering process.
Customer needs may include:

  • How the product is to be used (functionality).

  • Expected product performance.
  • Comfort/feel.
  • Fit.
  • Absorbency or repellency.
  • Color compatibility.
  • Appearance.

Understanding the specific chemistry, water and equipment used in the laundering process will determine the impact on the proposed textile.
The laundry process can impact:

  • Shrinkage.

  • Durability.
  • Appearance.
  • Barrier life cycles.

Specifications outlined by the linen manager should include thread count, fabric blend and weight. Other factors related to the categories listed should also be considered.
To judge long-term value of a product, all factors listed should be given weighted consideration before making a decision.Equipment ManufacturingRichard AlbersRichard is marketing director of laundry systems for Pellerin Milnor Corp. and has more than 30 years experience in designing, selling and installing continuous washing systems for large commercial and institutional laundry operators.
Joe is starting a cab company and needs to buy cabs. He places an ad in the newspaper: “Must have four wheels, four doors and be able to go 60 miles per hour.”
He gets all sorts of bids. The lowest bidder is the Wee-Go dealer 100 miles away, so Joe buys a fleet of cabs. After a while, he finds out the Wee-Gos are expensive to operate. The gas mileage is lousy, and the repair bills are high. He finds he must replace them every year or two because they fall apart.
The cars run so noisy and rough that his customers complain they are terribly uncomfortable. The cab doors are even too small for them to get their bags through. Many customers swear they will never ride in one of Joe’s cabs again.
Meanwhile, Sam decides to go into competition with Joe. He needs to buy cabs, too. He writes a detailed specification that includes minimum size and weight, features, color, expected fuel mileage, warranties, service contracts and the like. The specs include just about everything Sam wants in a cab.
He only gets a few acceptable bids but still cannot choose. He checks the mileage rating for each model and calculates the expected annual gas costs. He talks to friends in the cab business about their experiences with each car.
He checks old issues of Taxicab Digest for user articles and calls up the TRSA (Taxi Rating Society of America) for any data it might have. He even arranges to testdrive each car and asks some of his best customers to come along.
Finally, he puts all of his data on a spreadsheet and calculates the overall cost. He discovers that some of the higher-priced cars were nearly the least expensive to operate. So, he ends up buying the cabs near the top of his customer poll for comfort – and which are sold and serviced by the dealer right around the corner.
Which company do you think stayed in business – Joe’s or Sam’s?
Always buy linen your customers like. Nothing less will do. Then, do your homework regarding expected turns, washability, processing costs and availability to assess full costs.
With linen prices for many basic items staying low anyway (one healthcare plant operator tells me the price of a 50/50 percale sheet hasn’t changed significantly in decades), the initial purchase price may not be as important as you thought.

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