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Sorting Through New Laundry Textiles (Conclusion)

The importance of thorough testing of new textiles in laundry plants

RICHMOND, Ky. — Textile suppliers are constantly coming out with different fabrics with new construction and properties.

So, with all of the new textiles coming out, how is a laundry and linen service supposed to choose the right product for its customers and operation?

Duane Houvener, national manager of value-added solutions for reusable textile solutions provider American Dawn, discussed how to approach new textile products during the Association for Linen Management (ALM) webinar The Textile Trap.

In Part 1, Houvener discussed examining new fabrics in the marketplace. In the conclusion, he covers the importance of thorough testing.

TEST, TEST, TEST

So, with all the new textile products that come out and pique interest in laundries and their customers, what does Houvener recommend when it comes to analyzing and implementing new textile products?

Test, test, test.

He says it’s vital to test wash all new products in the plant. In fact, test them in every plant an operation has.

“It may vary then from the plant a hundred miles away because of different equipment, because of different chemicals, you name it,” he says. “There’s nothing that can simulate what happens in your laundry better than what happens in your laundry.

“Test wash everything. Thread counts, weights, find out how those affect production. You increase the weight, it not only affects the cost to the customer, but it has an effect on production.”

For example, Houvener says, an operation is using a 110-pound washer-extractor, and it’s processing 110 1-pound sheets. Then the operation shifts to a 2-pound sheet. 

“Guess what? Now, you’re only going to get 50 of those sheets into that 110-pound washer,” he points out. “So, the weight not only has an effect on the cost to the customer, but also on the production, so you’ve got to measure that as well, anytime you change the numbers.”

New products with zippers and buttons can also have an impact on processing and use, says Houvener. How? By adding extra time to zip zippers and unbutton buttons.

“I know it takes a little bit of extra time, and we talk about productivity, but it will make your linen last longer,” he says. “Those zippers are very sharp. They have a negative effect on the other items that are in that washer, in that dryer.” 

Fastened buttons, Houvener shares, pulls on threads during processing. 

“That’s, probably the No. 1 reason that buttons come unraveled off of shirts or off of garments, whatever the case may be, because they’re buttoned during washing too much and makes the thread that’s holding the button in place prematurely fall off,” he says. 

“So, if you can take the time to unbutton buttons, they will last longer and you’ll save time having to replace, resew on buttons.”

It’s all about doing the legwork, according to Houvener. When customers have special items they want to use, he says the laundry should go out, find the item and test it.

“If they find that other slider, if they find that new bedspread, if they find those new scrubs that they heard about, your current vendors probably have something like it,” he recommends. “That will help ensure it’s industrial-laundry compliant. Do the work for them. 

“Don’t ask them to go out and find it, but if they do, do a real-world test washing and provide that back to them so they can see the negative effects of industrial laundry on the noncompliant linen products.” 

Houvener says that it’s a value-added benefit for a customer when the laundry does the legwork. 

“They’ll appreciate it, and you’ll find something that you’re able to process better, that will look better for them, and they’ll be happy with it,” he says. 

“Educate your customers so they know why the chemicals are used, how they affect the linen, especially the linen items that they might want you to add, the textile fabrics, and so they know the differences and know how your system works.”

Houvener says that a laundry also needs to educate its customers on its par system so that the customer purchases enough product. 

“We’ve all seen or heard or been involved in situations where, especially cubicle curtains are probably the most notorious for it, they need 150 to outfit the entire facility, and they usually have about 152 in inventory, right?” he posits. “So, they don’t understand why it was placed in a soiled linen bag on Tuesday night and why it’s not back on Wednesday afternoon.

“The more we can educate our customers on how the system works with these special products, the better off we’ll all be. Explain to them if you deviate from the process or the procedure, these are the negative effects of it. In other words, going out and buying your own or not having enough in the system. So, it’s all about par levels. Follow the process.”

Houvener also says it’s important to not take shortcuts, to completely follow the processing instructions and make sure that the new products mesh with the laundry’s formula and its mission, its production standards.

“If they don’t mesh, they can be adjusted, obviously, but make sure everybody’s on the same page about the special requirements for processing,” he points out.

In terms of processing, Houvener says it’s important to know and understand the fabric care symbols.  

“You may or may not know, or may not be surprised at, all the different symbols that are out there,” he shares. “It doesn’t take much to do a Google search, but be familiar with these. Make sure that these are posted in the washroom, especially where you’re doing customer-owned goods, so that these symbols are understood. If something comes through that’s never seen before, the No. 1 key to treating it right is following the wash-and-dry instructions that are found on the labels.”

Finally, Houvener says to measure results versus expectations. 

“You can’t just assume; you have to have expectations,” he stresses. “Your customer has them. Measure the results versus them.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

Houvener concludes by recapping the essential factors for assessing and putting new textile products into use. 

“Learn your business, know your business,” he says. “Understand the science and the effects of the science on not only the new textiles that they might be looking at, but also your current ones.” 

Consider all fabric options, shares Houvener. Understand how the different options are affected in, and affect, the system, and what makes some more attractive than others—the cause and effect. 

“Recognize wise merchandise control,” he adds. “Keep it in the right place, at the right time and used for the right situation. Measure the return on investment.

“Finally, test, educate, follow the standard operating procedure and don’t assume.”

Miss Part 1 on examining new fabrics in the marketplace? Click HERE to read it.