CHICAGO — Every business has room for improvement.
The key is to figure out where improvements can be (and need to be) made—and then to implement and follow through with the changes.
In the most recent American Laundry News Your Views survey, laundry managers were asked how the industry could be improved. Top of the list? Training.
“Employees need continuous improvement training,” one respondent writes.
Another adds, “There are not enough resources in terms of education, assistance, etc.”
When asked, “In what areas do you think the industry needs improvement,” almost 36% of survey takers indicate training needs improvement. That’s more than double the next closest response of “sustainability,” with 17.3%.
Behind sustainability, more areas of improvement include cost management at nearly 14% of survey takers, certification/accreditation (11%) and labor relations (nearly 10%).
Almost 13% of respondents had their own thoughts on areas for the industry to improve.
“Public relations,” shares a survey taker. “Letting the public know how ‘green’ we are and what we do.”
“Safety,” adds another. “We have just had our workers’ comp insurance cancelled because of our industry losses. Our rate goes up every year, and we have never had a claim.”
“Mutual respect, cooperation,” writes a respondent. “Less politics and ego.”
When asked for their No. 1 overall recommendation, overall, for improving the industry, training was the area with the most comments.
“We need a development program for engineers, prior to them having a job in the industry,” writes a respondent. “Develop regional technical schools that are designed to work on equipment in our industry. After completing the certification, the laundry companies who sponsor the training will have first crack at hiring the ‘graduates.’ Our industry needs good mechanics and production managers.”
“Need better-trained maintenance people to keep equipment going,” another adds.
Other commenters took on training in different areas of a laundry besides maintenance and engineering.
“Formal training needs to occur at the route rep level,” one suggests. “They’re the key to providing excellent service, and yet we don’t recognize that they need high-level, detailed, industry-specific training. The receive almost no soft skills customer communication training.”
“Training of incoming management,” writes an operator. “There’s a real lack of a laundry-specific knowledge base in many of today’s managers.”
One way to figure out what training is necessary is to look at where laundry/linen operators have heard the most complaints from customers. Just over 32% indicate that customers have complained the service “doesn’t fill orders correctly or runs shorts on items.” That’s followed by high service costs at nearly 25%.
Quality complaints, in the form of not cleaning or pressing/ironing goods well enough, came in at 11%. “Doesn’t deliver on time” was indicated by 7.4% of survey takers.
When asked, “In what one way can laundry managers or textile rental operators best improve the industry,” the top answer was “provide good customer service.” Just over 32.1% of survey takers selected that response.
As with training, customer service was high in comments for the No. 1 recommendation to improve the industry.
“Improve service to the customers, and strive to be a quality and low-cost operator,” writes a respondent.
Another adds, “Be consistent so trust will be developed with customers.”
“Better quality and better end-user results, which can grow my top and bottom lines,” a respondent indicates. “Commoditization (lowest cost, lower quality) is the enemy of overall growth and profitability.”
Besides customer service, ways survey takers indicate managers and operators can improve the industry include properly functioning equipment (24.7%), providing a comfortable and safe working environment (22.2%), and using environmentally friendly chemicals and providing timely pickups and deliveries, both with 3.7%
Nearly 14% of those who answered the question about how laundry managers can help improve the industry offered other options.
“Cost versus value must make sense,” a respondent writes.
“Design operation processes and systems to monitor and evaluate every step/personnel and manage bottlenecks,” writes another. “Usually laundry processes are not viewed by managers as a system that’s part of a whole operation.”
Another suggestion hearkens back to the training issue: “Improve the knowledge base of the industry employees to accept robotics, capital improvements and acceptance with others.”
Or one survey taker simply writes, “Do the right thing, all the time, every time.”
While laundry/linen managers and operators are on the front line when it comes to industry improvement, manufacturers and distributors also have roles to play in raising the industry.
Asked about one way manufacturers can best improve the industry, just over 44% of respondents indicate focusing more on energy efficiency and conservation. Almost 15% say, “Offer a larger variety of equipment.”
Other factors for manufacturers include assistance with financing (13.6%) and offering more comprehensive warranties (11%).
“Identify, and bring to market, innovative offerings that will help improve quality and efficiencies,” suggests a respondent. “The equipment offered needs to also be reliable and easy to work on.”
“Provide real science and less bluster,” adds another.
Commenters also encourage manufacturers to continue automation efforts.
“More ways to eliminate—sorry to say—employees,” writes a respondent.
When it comes to what distributors can do to improve the industry, the prevailing theme, again, is training. The answer “offer more opportunities for service training” was selected by 26% of respondents answering the question, “In what one way can distributors best improve the industry?”
The next highest response was, “Alert me when new or improved technology is nearing release” (19.8%). Operators also believe improved service from distributors will help the industry: “provide better equipment service” (17.3%), “visit my facility more often, and offer advice” (16%) and “provide faster parts/supplies delivery” (8.6%).
Suggestions offered to distributors by the remaining 12.4% of respondents ranged from the practical to high-end concepts.
“Identify technologies and companies that can offer more innovative ways to process in our industry,” a respondent writes. “Distributors should look outside the industry to partner with other services and companies that can help improve efficiencies throughout the laundry operation.”
“Having manufacturers consider their input more,” another suggests. “Distributors know the customers.”
Finally, a survey taker offers this practical idea: “Distributors need to understand tech and parts departments need to have someone on duty throughout the working day and shut them down for lunch.”
While the Your Views survey presents a snapshot of readers’ viewpoints at a particular moment, it should not be considered scientific. Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100%.
Subscribers to American Laundry News e-mails are invited to take the industry survey anonymously online each quarter. All managers and administrators of institutional/OPL, cooperative, commercial and industrial laundries are encouraged to participate, as a greater number of responses will help to better define operator opinions and identify industry trends.