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Tight Supply Chain Success Strategies (Conclusion)

“Right now, the supply chain for just about everything is tight. What can I do to help ensure my operation has the materials it needs?”

Commercial Laundry: Phoebe Ellis, Lace House Linen, Petaluma, Calif.

The supply chain is just another challenging consequence of the pandemic that none of us even contemplated.

In the spring and summer of 2020, we were all faced with personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as cleaning/sanitizing product shortages, and now there is an abundance of all of these items.

We began to notice delays/shortages in February when business started to pick up and we were finally ordering new linen and supplies. What we see now is the shortage of plastic wrap/bags, cart liners, textiles and some wash house and wastewater chemicals.

We are in close contact with our vendors who all report the same lag in delivery times, some items more than three months delayed. We have had to be flexible and pivot once again to find alternative products and replacement textiles to purchase.

For instance, we have had to eliminate several custom napkins because they are either seriously back-ordered or even discontinued. We were forced to switch our bath towels to a bigger, plusher towel that is in stock.

For the most part, our vendors have worked with us on pricing, trying to match the previous pricing for the nicer items that are available now. The upside to these shortages is that we are streamlining some of our products and in some cases paying a similar price for higher quality.

Our vendors have been very reasonable and easy to work with, as they need the sales volume and they know that we will remain loyal and continue to buy from them even once the supply chain recovers. We have found that loyalty has been invaluable during the past 15 months with our vendors and customers.

In the case of production supplies, including plastic wrap, bags, and cart liners, we are buying a surplus of items sooner than needed, which costs more but ensures that the products will be on-site and will last for up to 12 months. The extra inventory can be difficult to store and is more expensive but allows us to continue to wrap all of our bundles and line our hotel carts to promote hygiene.

We remain hopeful that, by the end of 2021, the supply chains will rebound and bounce back to more normal production and delivery times as well as pricing.

Consulting Services: David Graham, Performance Matters, Fort Mill, S.C.

Happy spring/summer ALN readers! Time is flying by, and I am sure for you entrepreneurs out there, it is really flying by.

Another great topic request. However, just like the prior articles that I have written for ALN (plan to accelerate service agreements, coming out of COVID, tight budgets), we must have a plan, stick with that plan and only shift if needed.

It is the old military philosophy that as soon as the first shot is fired, everything changes. Same here. Altering a plan is easier than writing it once that first shot goes off.

My ear to the ground says we have very good supplies in most products. If you are having trouble, look at alternate sources of supply.

I think loyalty to existing vendors is wonderful and mandatory as we expect that from our customers. However, if you cannot get the products and services timely from current vendors, you are on a losing mission if you do not choose other sources. At the end of the day, all the niceties that your vendors bring to you are irrelevant if your company cannot serve your clients.

OWNER’S CAVEAT—If you have delegated this responsibility, then check with the purchaser on your staff to ensure they are getting what they need. If you fail to do this step, credits will occur, your team might implode, redeliveries will eat you up, and ultimately, lost business will haunt you. Trust your team, but verify their compliance in doing the right thing.

Once per month at the end of the month, assess your needs by product and set up a schedule that you stick to and only tweak if you are running shy or becoming overstocked.

A perpetuating inventory is recommended. If you want to know how a perpetuating inventory works then contact me at [email protected] and I will lay out options for you.

Moving forward along these lines, you will see a consistency in your purchases, expenses and that all-so-important reduction in stress.

You have my name and e-mail so let me assist you, where possible in making your work and personal life better.

Equipment/Supply Distribution: Scott McClure, Pellerin Laundry Machinery, Kenner, La.

The pandemic shutdowns have certainly created a backlog in the manufacturing world. As the world begins to reopen and return to a somewhat “normal state of business,” several suppliers are playing catch-up to meet the supply demands of a normal economy.

Our company supplies laundry equipment and parts for our customers. Most of our customers are experiencing shortages and extreme lead times on linens and other textiles they process. The good news is that this problem is not permanent and eventually the suppliers will catch up to the demand.

But meanwhile, there are several things one can do to help get through these times. The importance of proper inventory management cannot be emphasized enough these days.

A good inventory system will provide high visibility of all items right down to the shelf and bin in multiple locations, if necessary. It will help prevent out-of-stock occurrences, allow for ample lead-time to replenish stock and give you an idea of the value tied up in your stock at any given time.

Within the inventory system, we suggest that you categorize your inventory into priority groups to help you understand which items you need to order more of and more frequently, and which are important to your business but may cost more and move more slowly.

You also need to be consistent in how you receive stock/inventory. It may seem like common practice to make sure incoming inventory is properly processed, but you need to establish a standard process that everyone follows so that your inventory stays consistent and accurate.

Small discrepancies in how new stock is taken in could leave you scratching your head at the end of the month or year, wondering why your numbers do not align with your purchase orders. Make sure all your staff that receives stock are properly trained to receive inventory the same way, and that all boxes are verified, received, and unpacked together, precisely counted, and checked for accuracy.

With such a scarcity of materials and limitations to the supply chain, we recommend understanding and focusing on having an optimal wash process to maximize the life of your linen. Prolonging linen life can sometimes be accomplished through automating the wash process by alleviating the physical stress caused to linen and length of formula time versus a manual washing process.

Making sure your laundry equipment offers good mechanical action, dilution and complete programmability will help reduce the amount of chemicals needed in the wash process, extend linen life and improve quality.

Being able to prolong the life of your linen will allow you to provide a higher quality service for your customers while reducing your overall operating cost.

Miss Part 1 with advice from experts in textiles, equipment manufacturing and healthcare laundry? Click HERE now to read it.

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