SADDLE BROOK, N.J. — It is well established that these are challenging times with the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. We live this fact daily; all segments of the laundry industry are impacted.
Volume in the hospitality segment is down as much as 90%, and some operators have temporarily shuttered their plants. Food and beverage is slightly better, seeing declines generally ranging from 40%-70%, depending on geographic location, with the big coastal cities hardest hit.
Healthcare volume declines vary as well, depending on geographic location, with some actually up while others seeing declines of 30% or more. Uniform is faring well comparatively, with “modest” declines of 20%-30%.
With this said, I do believe the situation is beginning to rebound, and laundries should start planning for a return to relative normalcy.
Determine your incremental staffing needs to accommodate a gradual increase in volume. Start with your pounds per operator hour (PPOH) goals and calculate how many people will be needed to reach that goal at expected poundage intervals.
For example, if your PPOH goal is 100, an increase of 4,000 pounds per week justifies one employee at 40 hours.
For furloughed employees to return, it is important to verify contact information prior to calling them back to work. Reach out to employees to confirm availability and take this opportunity to communicate your return-to-work plans.
Some addresses and phone numbers are likely to change, and availability may be limited due to school closures or other circumstances. We want to be sure to have available staff prior to needing them, and it is important to maintain open lines of communication.
Finally, if you work in a union environment, be sure to check your collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to verify return-to-work parameters.
As businesses get back to business, I expect that textile and supply vendors may experience some product shortages. Inventory your supplies on hand and check with your vendors to confirm product availability moving forward.
Keep in mind that demand for cleaning items such as towels and microfiber products will likely continue to increase. If necessary, stock up, however, be sure to avoid hoarding.
Additionally, be sure to communicate expected volume increases with your chemical rep. He or she is likely inventorying and ordering based upon your current volume. As work increases, you want to be sure to have adequate chemical inventory on hand.
Be sure your fleet is ready for business by periodically starting and test driving your trucks. Batteries can go bad when not in use and running your trucks will keep them charged.
Fuel can deteriorate if left in tanks for prolonged periods. If you have not already added fuel-preserving additive to your tanks, it might be a good idea to do so.
Check fluid levels to be sure you are ready to go. In addition, contact leasing agencies to communicate anticipated mileage increases and expected service needs.
Periodically test run dormant equipment as well. Clean and wax ironer chests and check belts on finishing equipment. Steam traps and ASCO valves that have been sitting for extended periods may stick. Check them and verify that they are operating properly.
In closing, it is probable that some customers will not return, and that decreased volume may be a reality for longer than we would like to see. Laundry operators will have to operate more efficiently.
To assure success, manage by the numbers to maintain PPOH goals and prepare for a gradual return.
Maintaining World-Class Reliability During the COVID-19 Economic Downturn, April 23, 2020