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Stepping Outside Comfort Zone All About Weighing Risk, Reward

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(Image licensed by Ingram Publishing)

Eric Frederick |

ROANOKE, Va. — Are you a creature of habit? Do you order something different every time you go to your favorite restaurant or do you order the same thing every time? We know what we like, and we are sure of the end result. Many people tend to go to the same place every year for vacation; it is safer and requires less planning and work.

We managers often fall into using predictable procedures—ruts—because we know what to expect and there is little risk associated with our choice. When it comes to investing, I like to keep my risks down to a reasonable level, but eliminating risk means reaping little reward.

The laundry/linen industry is rapidly changing around us. New fabrics, blends and equipment are being introduced every year. These new products and equipment represent opportunities to improve our operation or our customer satisfaction. They also represent risk because not everything always turns out as expected. There is danger in embracing new technologies, procedures and linen, but there is also the potential for great reward.

Are you capable of operating outside of your comfort zone? What is required to get you to try something new? I have found in my own life that it all starts with trying to keep an open mind. The longer I have been in the industry, the harder it is to take a new product seriously without remembering the failure of other products of a similar nature. I have to fight the feeling that I know it all and there is nothing new to learn. The truth is, we never stop learning, and we should never stop growing.

At the last Clean Show, I took time to listen to a company’s presentation on its new linen system. I quickly determined that it was not appropriate for my operation. I tried to determine what would be the best application for this system. I found merit for select applications (my review was based on the system as a whole, not on its individual parts) and moved on to the next booth.

Earlier this year, I started looking for more energy-efficient textile products for use in my healthcare laundry. A linen company representative recommended that I look at a certain spread blanket that was part of a larger system. My initial reaction was, “been there, done that, and it was a disaster.”

Way back in 1976, I tried to process a 100% polyester yellow thermal blanket. It was easy to wash and dry, but quickly discolored as the fibers collected fugitive dyes from other linen. I moved away from the product and had not ventured that way again.

But I decided it was time to revisit that issue, and started working with several companies on higher-polyester or 100% polyester thermal spreads. I found that the newer blankets had some of the older blankets’ restrictions. I had to reduce both the dryer temperature as well as the time. Over-drying the product encouraged static electricity to develop. Some of the blankets processed better through folding equipment than others. In the end, I was surprised at how well one type of thermal spread felt, washed and processed through the laundry. I will move into wider testing on this product.

During phase one (testing) and phase two (limited customer testing), I tried to limit the risks. In phase one, I could damage a piece of equipment or frustrate my employees by giving them hard-to-handle items. In phase two, I added the concerns of wasting money and dissatisfying customers. But the potential rewards of meaningful energy reductions, longer linen life and improved patient/customer satisfaction balance out the potential risks.

I still have a tendency to order a favorite meal at my local restaurant, but I also delight periodically in trying something new and different, and perhaps stumbling upon a new favorite item. We must learn to manage our fear of risk if we are to earn a better reward.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at efrederick@carilion.com.

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