OPL 101: Wash Quality Starts with Quality Team, Communication

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Bill Brooks |

Author says all players involved with wash formula variables need to be on same page

RIPON, Wis. — Wash quality is quite simple, right? At its root, wash process and quality are driven by just four simple segments: time, temperature, chemical action and mechanical action. Quite simple.

Only problem, as we all know, is that it isn’t that simple. There are far too many variables under those segments that have an impact on wash quality.

While I like to think that when a UniMac piece of equipment is bolted into place in a laundry that quality is a given, all of us in the business know that it’s just not enough to have a great machine. Achieving the best possible results requires a team approach. All players involved have to be on the same page. Poor wash formulas and process issues are the enemies to quality.

A LOOK AT THE VARIABLES

When visiting with customers not all that familiar with the challenges running a laundry can present, the question often comes up, “Why do I need so many wash cycles?” Soil type, alone, offers up a variety of interesting hurdles for washers. Consider the variety of difficult stains a hotel might deal with, from make-up and shoe polish to suntan oils or kitchen/dining room food stains. A generalist approach to washing will not cut it.

A long-term care facility, hospital or clinic presents entirely new challenges. Stains are part of the variable set, along with the requirements to meet health safety regulations.

Then there’s the fabric type. How easy and uncomplicated our lives would be if everything was a straight-up cotton/poly blend. That’s not the world we live in. Heck, in the hospitality world alone, bed linens can vary greatly in their makeup from that cotton/poly blend to high-thread-count linens. Athletic laundries present seemingly endless challenges in fabric types, from technical fibers to moisture-wicking materials. Some football jerseys may even have as many as seven to eight different fabric types in their designs.

So, with all these different fabrics at play, flexibility within washer programming is imperative for a tailored approach today and for allowing adaptability to future changes in fabric.

In addition, it’s equally important to work with the linen, uniform or personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer, in the case of firefighter gear, to develop the best wash programs. This is the first piece of that team approach: working with manufacturers to get the best results, while not stressing the fibers that make up the pieces.

STILL MORE VARIABLES

While the laundry manager, equipment distributor and linen manufacturer can form a great team and design a game plan, the quarterback in this team is going to be the chemical company representative. This is where a true partnership between the equipment distributor and chemical representative is so important. They must utilize their combined expertise to manage the next set of variables that will impact wash performance.

Some laundry operational challenges may be priorities related to water savings, processing times, or staff hours and overtime. Again, we go back to the only four elements these professionals can tweak: time, temperature, chemical action, mechanical action. Moving one element requires an additional shift.

For instance, if utility savings is spotlighted as a high priority for the facility, it will mean that managers will want to lower wash temperatures (less hot water). That focus will necessitate additional time to assure proper cleaning and rinsing.

If water savings is the goal, the laundry may elect to go with higher temperatures and additional chemical action to deliver the clean results they need, particularly if the laundry is serving a healthcare or long-term care facility. 

PROBLEM SOLVING

When a quality problem comes up in an on-premises laundry, it’s obviously a big deal. No facility we work with is going to take this lightly. Hotels understand the importance of online reviews to draw guests, healthcare facilities need to keep staff and residents safe … quality matters and must be addressed immediately.

Again, this is where a team approach makes the difference. While it is rare, there definitely are situations where finger pointing among the stakeholders can happen—it must be the machine because the dosing is right; it must be the chemical company, because our cycles and machine are running correctly. Thankfully, that’s the exception; the rule is the team working together to solve the problem.

A hotel property, for instance, might have a situation where white towels or linens are turning yellow. The laundry manager might look at this as a situation where these are stains that the washer and chemicals are not removing—not good for anyone. However, this type of situation is more typical of linens not getting fully rinsed. As a result, residual chemical is left in the fibers and it turns yellow when it is “baked in” during the drying or finishing process.

Working together, the chemical company representative and equipment distributor would increase the rinsing (and double check that linens are not being over-dried) or perhaps lighten the amount of chemical used in the wash process. These two experts know the variables they can tweak to get the best result, keeping in mind the other goals of the operation (water savings, utility savings, etc.).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Though there are just four elements to wash quality, there are seemingly countless variables that drive the tweaking of those segments. This is the reason laundry managers must rely on a team approach to deliver the best results while taking into account the other goals of the facility.

The quarterback of this team truly is the chemical company representative. They will take into account the makeup of the water feeding the laundry equipment and set a baseline for chemicals to deliver the best results 

From there, wash programs can be dialed further in to match the recommendations of the linen, uniform or gear manufacturer to produce the best results and longest life of the pieces. Nothing less than a team approach will work. And when problems or quality issues arise, that communication is the most important tool in quickly getting to the root cause. Does your laundry have the right team in place to do that?

About the author

Bill Brooks

UniMac

National Sales Manager

Bill Brooks is the national sales manager for UniMac, a provider of on-premises laundry equipment. He can be reached at bill.brooks@alliancels.com or 920-748-4437.

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