CHICAGO — Over the past few years, the laundry and linen services industry has been in “survival mode.”
However, as public health and the business environment move past recent challenges, it’s time for laundry operations to move past survival into improvement for growth.
The most recent American Laundry News Your Views survey points to training, sustainability and cost management as the top areas in which the industry can improve.
When asked, “In what areas do you think the industry needs improvement (check all that apply),” 48.3% of respondents selected training.
Both sustainability and cost management were indicated by 41.4% of survey takers, followed by labor relations (37.9%) and certification/accreditation (17.2%).
Almost 7% chose the “other” category, with one respondent writing, “Work with our federal and state governments to provide faster immigration legalization processes.”
Various reasons were given for the answers provided to the question, including:
- Times are changing. Chemicals are more improved, water technology, reuse of water, needs to also improve. With these factors, labor and expenses should improve.
- Our industry is seeing a huge change in the lack of labor availability. Labor-reducing technology and advancements are needed.
- “If you treat your employees like they make a difference, they will.”
- Hire experts to help you with cost management, budgets and pricing. Labor relations and training go hand in hand. Team members are more important than your customers; train them, and they will look after your clients.
- I have seen a real decline in the efforts of laundries to work with hospitals on linen use/waste. This leads to the purchase of inferior-quality items to save money.
- I don’t believe we are training people enough to do the jobs we ask them to fast enough.
- The big boys need to treat the mom and pops better.
- All the chemicals used for the purpose of cleaning need to be transformed into more amicable products for the ecosystem.
- Keeping up with preventive maintenance on equipment.
- More and more we are seeing a need to utilize green products and processes. Cost management is imperative, especially in the healthcare sector with recovery from the pandemic still evident. Training of staff can only help to elevate awareness and keep one of our most valuable resources safe.
- Train the end users so they have more of an idea of your process or processes—better communication as they have their problems, and we have ours—working together as a team/partners.
Improvement needs to be an industry-wide effort. First, when asked the best way laundry and linen services operators can improve the industry, 30% of respondents indicate “make sure all equipment is functioning properly.”
Just over 23% say operations need to provide a comfortable, safe working environment followed by using environmentally friendly chemicals (20%).
“Provide good customer service” was selected by 16.7% of respondents.
“When it comes to improving ‘the industry,’ I think sharing best practices (mechanical, product info, customer service and processes) with others in the commercial laundry business is going to have the most impact,” writes a survey respondent who selected “other” for the question (10%).
“Change the business model,” another shares.
The leading method indicated for distributors to best improve the industry? “Visit my facility more often, and offer advice” was selected by 23.3% of respondents. That was followed by 20% wanting distributors to provide faster delivery of parts and supplies.
Both “offer more opportunities for service training” and “alert me when new or improved technology is nearing release” were indicated by 16.7% of survey takers, followed by 13.3% saying “provide better equipment service.”
Of the 10% of respondents who selected “other” for the question, one writes, “Offer realistic pricing for machinery and service.”
“Disrupt the current inefficient, outdated and failing model of selling and servicing wasteful commodities,” another shares.
Overwhelmingly (48.1%), respondents say manufacturers can best improve the industry by focusing on more energy efficiency on conservation.
Almost 19% indicate manufacturers should “offer more comprehensive warranties,” followed by “expand network of full-service distributors” (14.8%).
Just over 11% say manufacturers should assist more with financing, and only 3.7% indicate “offer a larger variety of equipment” and more product training.
When asked what the most common complaint operators receive from ‘average’ customers is, 40.7% say these customers indicate that service costs are too high. Just over 22% indicate “don’t fill orders correctly, or run short on items.”
Both “don’t clean the goods well enough” and “don’t iron or press the goods well enough” were selected by 14.8% of respondents.
“Par levels or running out of linens due to linens leaving through ER or with discharged patients,” shares another survey taker.
Finally when asked, “What is your No. 1 recommendation, overall, for improving the industry,” American Laundry News received a variety of responses, including:
- More information on the industry’s true cost to produce and deliver quality products.
- Provide the best customer service and resolve problems quickly.
- To improve the industry, pour all your resources into team members. Build a highly functional team who cares, is engaged and has the company’s best interests at heart.
- Improve efficiency but not at the cost of safety and employees. Costs can always be reduced but the industry needs to increase the revenue for work provided. You cannot cut your way to profitability. Volume is important but at the right price.
- Recognize we are doing business in an open system where it is needed to cope with environmental topics to preserve the long run. This is regardless of cost.
- Too much of “everything” is being used. We need to scale back on laundering frequency—as well as water, energy and chemical usage. Current standards are unsustainable. The best results can still be obtained if one is conscientious.
- Train sales personnel to be more forthright with customers. In nearly all the times (we don’t lose many) we’ve lost customers to competitors, they have been deceived by salespeople and have signed a contract without it being explained to them.
- The laundry and linen industry must move into the age of technology and utilize as many practices as possible to improve service and provide data.
- Improve communications between all parties.
- Better education for laundry operators to get the most return on their company’s investment. If you don’t utilize your equipment to its full potential, what’s the point of having the technology?
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.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].