Textile Distribution, Part 1

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Eric Frederick |

Important to understand how each system component is designed to work

ROANOKE, Va. — Often, the distribution and control of textile products is far more challenging than achieving a smooth, well-operating laundry facility. The challenges are based in the number of people and locations involved in the textile distribution system.

Each person has one simple goal and that is to not run out of the textiles they need. Their perspective is narrow-minded and personal: “Do I have the textile products that I require to properly handle the needs of my patients?”

The textile distribution system increases in complexity as we move the laundry processing facility off-site from the end-users or as we add additional customers (buildings) to the textile distribution system. It is important that we understand how each component of the system is designed to work in order for us to understand how to properly maintain it.

The basic level of any textile distribution is the textile storage area within a using area. Even this basic unit can become complicated. Since I was just in the hospital for a total knee replacement surgery, let’s first look at a nursing unit. The particular nursing unit that I was in had two textile closets, one on each end of the unit. All the textile products for that unit are supposed to be stored in those closets. The closets are inventoried (counted) once a day (count is entered into a computer) and then restocked at a pre-set time (by use of a printed delivery ticket generated from a computer system).

This nursing unit will have all the textile products it needs for a 24-hour period—if the closets are big enough to hold the required textiles, if inventory levels have been properly set, if the laundry has delivered sufficient amounts of textiles, if the delivery personnel have properly performed their jobs and if end-users have not created alternative safety-stock locations.

The first parameter is that the actual delivery quantities actually reflect what is needed by the unit on a daily basis. One potential pitfall in this area is taking too broad a sample. An area that normally only operates at a high census five days per week should not be averaged out over a week’s period of time. The average usage plus 10% safety stock may not meet the daily needs of the end-users.

There is a tendency in some facilities to ignore recommended stocking levels and stuff the floor textile rooms with as much linen as possible. The drawback to this approach is that overfilling the shelves leads to overuse and more linen falling from the shelves. It is human nature to fill the shelves with the most available textile product and underfill on those in the shortest supply. Having an extra 50 flat sheets will not help the unit if it runs out of patient gowns.

If the storage shelves will not actually hold enough textiles to cover a 24-hour period, then either a larger storage closet needs to be found or twice-a-day delivery will need to be established. Administration needs to be clearly informed that twice-a-day delivery is required for an area if the closets are too small. It is an ongoing operational expense vs. a one-time relocation expense.

The next area of concern: Have the actual linen stocking levels in each closet been reviewed in the past 12 months? It is amazing how many units have not looked at their stocking levels in the past five years. Unit directors will always understand what textile products are frequently in short supply but have no idea what items are overstocked or for which they never run short on. There is a finite amount of space in every textile closet, and sometimes the only way to get more of one item in the closet is to put less of another in.

Working in close cooperation with the unit staff, conduct a textile usage study on an annual basis. The staff of the area can assist you in knowing which are the normal peak days. You are looking for peak usage, not average usage. Textile products need to be consistently available when they are needed.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Eric Frederick served 44 years in laundry management before retiring and remains active in the industry as a laundry operations consultant. You can contact him by e-mail at elfrederick@cox.net or by phone at 540-520-6288.

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