Panel of Experts

(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

You are here

Talking Textile Trends and Operations (Part 1)

“It seems like I’m always hearing about a new, high-tech textile trend. What textile trends should I be aware of? What trends could impact my operation? How can I stay on top of this?”

Healthcare Laundry: Richard Engler, John Peter Smith Health Network, Fort Worth, Texas

If you are concerned with hearing too much about the latest innovation or trend, then you are doing the best thing you can do to stay on top of it; you are paying attention to it.  

There is always something new and amazing coming at you, and if you are looking at these things with an objective eye and perspective, you will find things that just might be of value to your operation.  

The things that I noticed the week this question came up included: ozone, cold wash detergent, silver ion linen, polyamide, C. diff kill claim chemistry, UV everything, and so on, and on, and on. It can be quite noisy if you don’t keep it at bay with a careful focus on what your operational priorities are and what value they bring specifically to your operation.  

The new, high-tech trends that you can check into are not going to go away. They just keep coming up and don’t seem to stop. When you keep hearing about something, it may be time to learn more about it. I believe that the very best of the new persist, so you do not have to realize the potential the first time around or even the second.

Always examine the latest thing from your perspective first, second and last. Too often these items are pitched using a list of benefits that are not directed at your program but further downstream, perhaps for your customer. 

I find it interesting that the pitch is made here rather than at the point the benefit, and I suspect that this is so because the beneficiary found the amazing improvement to be not so amazing after all. If so, then you can close the door on these items. If your customers want these things, you can be sure they will tell you so, both often and loudly, if you are not paying enough attention to them.

For some operations that I have been responsible for where cost savings is key, and particularly as an overhead department, any opportunity to reduce expense should be taken seriously—as long as it does not compromise the integrity of your operation. The math should be straightforward and clearly measurable.  

Always do your own review and take the offered math with a grain of salt since it will be (at the least) highly optimistic. If it’s not both clear and evident, something is not as it was presented.

Textiles: Hal Kanefsky, Monarch Brands, Philadelphia, Pa.

Modern-day towels date back to 17th-century Turkey, where woven cotton or linen towels called “pestamel” were used in Turkish baths. From Arkwright’s cotton spinning and carding machines to shuttle less looms that use air alone to weave, mill technology has been always been a hotbed of innovation. 

However, the basics of textile construction remained pretty constant until the advent of microfiber in 1960s Japan. Now a staple of the linen rental industry, recent microfiber innovations are trending, and I believe not all of the changes are positive.

Microfiber resort towels are lightweight suede cabana towels that dry quickly. These towels do not trap sand and dirt like terry towels, so they are popular with guests and laundries. They’re light and thin, so more towels fit on the truck (and in towel hampers). 

High-definition custom printing helps prevent linen loss and provides branded personality. They will not fade at the same rate as cotton but must be dried at low temperatures to preserve the best qualities of the towels.

Two technologies are reducing the cost of microfiber cleaning cloths:

• Edgeless Microfiber—New “edgeless” microfiber uses laser technology to cut microfiber cloths to size, simultaneously sealing the edge with heat. Priced below traditional microfiber cloths, they are not as durable as stitched-edged equivalents. Several companies have recently entered the market with 12-inch by 12-inch, edgeless microfiber wipers presented in a tissue-style box. These boxes are an excellent source of revenue, easily fitting on route trucks.

• Cut & Sew Automation—Beware of new automated cutting and sewing microfiber technology. Microfiber is usually cut, sewn and sealed by skilled workers using industrial equipment. When machines take over the finishing process entirely, they cannot seal the corners. The corners will immediately start to fray which will drastically reduce the life of your microfiber investment.

Microfiber is naturally antimicrobial because its 100% synthetic construction cannot harbor and grow bacteria when adequately maintained. Infusing silver ions into microfiber takes the process a step further as silver actively damages critical enzymes in the membranes of pathogens. Silvering increases the cost of microfiber production, so is currently a niche product for high-pathogen environments (e.g., hospitals).  

Check back tomorrow for insight from other institution and consulting experts.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].