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Plant Inspections Offer Opportunities to Shine (Part 1 of 2)

I know that my laundry operation is due to be inspected sometime this year, but I'm not sure how to get ready for it. Where do I start? Where should my focus be? In what areas am I most likely to face criticism or sanction if our plant is deemed substandard?COMMERCIAL LAUNDERING: Richard Warren is the general manager of Institutional Services Corp., Conway, Ark., a commercial laundry that provides COG, rental and linen distribution services for healthcare clients. His experience also includes OPL and industrial laundering, linen supply, and leather/fur cleaning.
Inspections, by their very nature, increase your heart rate. First of all, you need to know what entity is doing the inspection.
Commercial laundries are inspected by state agencies that have points of interest to them: water temperatures, boiler operator licenses, etc. The fire department's agenda is aimed at fire safety or the safety of emergency service personnel: extension cords, junction box covers, exit lights, chemicals, etc.
City officials will usually make an annual inspection to see what you're putting in the sewer system.
Sometimes a customer’s policy will require an annual inspection. Those people are looking for airflow, housekeeping and separation of customer goods.
An on-premise hospital laundry’s biggest concern is awaiting a Joint Commission [on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)] visit.
Sometimes you can find out in advance what criteria will be used.
I’ve found through the years that an inspector has personal favorites they look for that may not have been a high priority with previous inspectors.
Be aware that some inspectors will try to “bust” you over some item that has been obscure previously. The fact that you’ve been “approved” in the past is by no means a guarantee that everything will be OK the next time.
Inspectors have compassion and will usually give management time to correct any problems. Sanctions are not something to be worried about. Instead, focus on correcting things that need changing.
Be assured that a dirty or cluttered plant is seen negatively. These plants will get unwanted attention, and very close scrutiny. If your plant is neat, clean and bright, inspectors will be less inclined to poke around.
Some inspectors will want to talk with some of your workers regarding how they handle certain things, like stains, dropped items, rewash and housekeeping.
The week prior to an inspection is the wrong time to prepare. A more productive approach to inspections is to operate as though one could occur any day. If your operation runs quite smoothly most of the time, you won’t need to focus on fixing bad things.
When the inspection is completed and you’ve responded to the criticism, continue to operate in that mode. Next time, your heart rate won’t climb nearly as high.EQUIPMENT DISTRIBUTING: Jeffrey Barman became co-president of PWS – The Laundry Co., a full-service with offices throughout the West and Southwest, in 2005. He was CEO of LuckySpin Laundries, a PWS affiliate that acquired and sold the SpinCycle chain of coin laundries.
As the plant manager, head of operations or other title you may hold that connotes onsite management of your laundry facility, I’m sure that you strive each day to have your plant ready for a surprise inspection at all times. In fact, you may run your facility with your people understanding that you’ll hold a snap inspection at any time on any function.
A solid plan of attack to get ready for your plant inspection is to do your own detailed, internal review. Make your checklists of every department, create a specific timeline and choose a responsible party to inspect, identify and repair.
Don’t limit your review to what we, as OPL distributors, consider the most obvious and most important – the equipment. You’re running a business, so all facets of your business need to be shipshape.
You will need to make sure all areas that impact your facility, such as human resources compliance, chemical storage and disposal, and accounting are each in line with expectations and or regulations. This is particularly important for independent (rather than captive) facilities.
More direct items to be considered include proper cleaning processes, employee training and supervision, and the handling and storage of the items you’re actually cleaning.
Your local distributor will be happy to help you focus on what we know best.
As for the facility itself and the equipment in it, a clean, well-lit, organized facility is a great first step.
Schedule specific downtime to thoroughly clean from top to bottom: the machines, the ancillary equipment and the facility.
Consider touching up paint. Cosmetics are just that, but they produce significant returns on a small investment.
I’ll presume you don’t have any machines that are down or even dead, but now would be the time to remedy that with at least a full-day service call, if necessary.
When cleaning, pay attention to the soap dispensers, confirming that you have no corrosion from your chemicals. Check all your drains for blockage and backup. Look for mold in places like door gaskets. Confirm your heater (or boiler) and storage tank(s) are up to code and operating efficiently. Check that the dryers are fully delinted, including behind the front panels.
You should be doing a thorough duct cleaning every 6 to 12 months, so if you haven’t done one recently, now’s the time. Also, be sure to check the vents and hoods (if you have them). If you vent through the roof, climb on up and have the lint and debris that naturally accumulates over time cleaned as well.
Your inspection should be a time to shine, not something to fear. When you’re already working each day to run the best facility you can, you’re likely to do great. If you’re in the unfortunate position of catch-up, start today. Good luck!HOTEL/MOTEL LAUNDERING & LINEN SUPPLY: Bill Kartsonis is chairman of Superior Linen Supply Co., Kansas City, Mo. He’s certified as a Master Hotel Supplier by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA). His company warehouses and distributes linens and uniforms in addition to washing and renting them.
These days, a laundry should be expecting a visit anytime. After all, some of our customers, hospitals, are in this mode. The Joint Commission can pop in anytime – unlike before when inspections were scheduled.
We’ve experienced “pop inspections” and learned to accommodate them, but really a new paradigm is called for.
Laundry managers should plan to use plant tours as a marketing tool. Most people have never seen a commercial laundry and are impressed with our facilities. After a customer or prospect sees the efficiency of your operation, they can understand how you can serve them on a cost-competitive basis.
People who are inspecting are shown production flow and the handling of their linens. If the goods are customer-owned, you demonstrate the process of isolating the batches. This is a critical issue, as the customer has a significant investment in linens he does not want to lose.
Other points of interest shown are equipment, wash controllers and chemical injection/management systems, as well as material-handling techniques.
A planned tour is better than a “pop-in” for a number of reasons. What are you processing at that time? If you’re soil sorting only, they won’t see any washing and finishing. If you’re not handling their linens, they won’t get to see their specific process.
In fact, if you’re ironing tablecloths, an executive housekeeper may not get to see you iron sheets. If they arrive during a shift change, the flow won’t be the same as when things are humming in normal production.
If you’re undergoing maintenance or repair on a machine, again, things won’t look the same. Even a few minutes’ notice makes a difference. For instance, aligning carts makes them look much better.
A well-managed plant won’t have any critical failures but could display some small ones. When issues are identified, solutions should be as well. Explain steps that will be immediately under taken to resolve them.
Assurance of follow-through is essential. Integrity and credibility are our most important assets.

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