Commercial Laundry: Phoebe Ellis, Lace House Linen, Petaluma, Calif.
Wow, what a tough question when all that we know about budgeting and planning is out the door for 2020-21.
We are all used to spending considerable time and energy on our annual budgets using the prior year’s data and projections into future years. Since all this data is inconsistent and our future profits are difficult to predict, we are forced to make monthly, weekly and even daily budget decisions.
In commercial laundries, so much of our budget is labor, thus we are continually increasing and decreasing our production hours based on customer needs. While closures/shutdowns of restaurants and hotels are ongoing, we have begun to re-evaluate our number of employees and hours weekly.
We know that this is difficult for our employees, but we are trying to keep as many people employed for as many hours as we can afford each week. The workflow is very unpredictable as well, so we want to ensure that we staff enough employees to process the linen to fill orders.
Another aspect of the production flow is to manage days of operation. Obviously, we can save real money by not opening the plant, so we have reduced days and hours of operation as indicated.
Our service manager has focused on consolidating routes and delivery days, which has also helped reduce labor. We do these evaluations daily, which is time-consuming, but invaluable, with our ever-changing customer demands.
Another area of focus to consider during this uncertain budgetary time is working closely with our wash and wastewater chemical vendors to ensure that all wash formulas and wastewater treatment are not overusing chemicals or water.
As production mix, load sizes and water discharge are changing, it is important to stay on top of chemical usage and dosing. Equally important is to make sure that equipment is functioning optimally by checking steam traps, air lines and water leaks on a regular basis.
These are not big-ticket items but can save money and time in production.
Communication with customers who are struggling to pay their bills has also been useful. We are open to setting up payment plans, accepting partial payments and moving customers to COD as needed to keep a close control of outstanding monies owed to us. We want to be partners with our customers so that they can continue to operate while paying their bills.
We have learned a great deal during this pandemic about managing labor needs and we are scrutinizing expenses daily. We are watching trends, re-negotiating vendor contracts and closely following closures and re-openings to guide our financial decisions. Now, more than ever as owners and operators, we must be flexible and agile in our business planning and budgeting.
Textiles: Cecil B. Lee, Standard Textile, Cincinnati, Ohio
Efficiency is always king. For years, my management mantra was 1) fill the orders, 2) manage the hours and 3) stage the plant for the next day. This job never ceases regardless of the circumstances—good or bad. The plant should always run on time, maintain its quality standards and position itself to beat the budget.
Standard Textile is a manufacturer, supplier, distributor and seller of healthcare, hospitality and home textile products. We experience budget and quality challenges from just about every perspective.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the saving grace has been our ability to produce and sell reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) and surgical products as our hospitality textile business decreased dramatically and patient care items have been in less use because of the reduction in elective surgeries for several months.
Thus, our diversity of product and the ability to be flexible has been an asset. Plant operations must be flexible and diverse also! Furthermore, there should always be the thought of what additional service can we provide?
One gratifying experience I will share was when a plant I managed was ending its time processing for a temporary customer of significant size. During the time of servicing this customer, we became very efficient. With the upcoming loss of volume, we no longer needed 17 FTE (full-time employees). The last thing I wanted to do was to lay off all these people who had been such a big part of our growth, maturity and success.
We were heading into the summer months. We shared the concept of cutting hours through planned time off. Associates could theoretically have all the planned (unpaid) time off they wanted regardless of paid time off entitlement. This included full weeks, Fridays and Mondays if it was planned.
We operated the first shift full throttle, and the second shift would stop working when the working need was complete. Fundamentally, the associates “shared” hours such that we could keep everyone employed without experiencing a layoff. We would still operate on schedule, maintain quality and not exceed the annual budget as presented.
By the way, this was a union plant.
First shift employees averaged just under 40 hours each week while the second shift was around 33 hours. This plant was a two-tunnel operation with state-of-the-art sorting and monorail systems on the clean and soil side. It was designed to be efficient.
When it is difficult to grow or diversify, the option is providing what is needed very efficiently. Bear in mind, it is tougher to control and reduce costs when volume is going down as many overhead items are fixed. It is a painful challenge to shrink and a delightful efficiency opportunity to grow.
If you know that volume is not going to increase and many of the costs are fixed (or even variable costs such as wages), you need to look at all areas to reduce expenses, waste, etc.
Sometimes the smallest things will add up to being under budget. Staggering shifts would be an example. Changing the soiled pick-up schedule to make sure there is work in the plant at all times is another.
Fundamentally you treat this need like you would any other emergency in the plant.
In summary, with this challenge it is necessary to address the three largest expenses—labor, utilities and linen replacement—and you must manage them efficiently.
Labor: Manage use of hours. Cross-train and make use of every employee hour, managers included.
Utilities: Manage them. Turn off lights, ironers, boilers, washers and machinery as soon as feasible.
Water: Manage usage. Minimize usage with the help of your chemical supplier and specialized equipment. There should be zero leaks.
Air: Manage usage. Turn off compressors when not needed, and there should be zero leaks.
Linen replacement: Manage it. Utilization and buying the correct products are key. Linen life matters. Minimize rewash and stain loads.
Fundamental practices remain important for success. Efficiency is always king.
Chemicals Supply: Campbell Dodson, Lavo Solutions LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio
Throughout my career, laundry budgets have been getting tighter and tighter each year. It is nothing new. However, they do put a lot of pressure on the employees of laundry facilities. Do more with less and in fewer hours is something we commonly hear.
There are a few areas for commercial laundries to help ease the pressure of tight budgets and possibly create additional savings along the way.
When was the last time you reviewed your wash formulas? One could make the argument that wash formulas are one of the most important parts of a laundry operation. Consider this, wash formulas can affect areas such as linen quality, water consumption, energy consumption, production time, overall guest perceptions, linen life and much more.
Checking and reviewing wash formulas on a regular basis should become part of any laundry maintenance program. Small improvements to wash times, temperatures, water levels and extraction steps can save production time and resources, which will lead to bottom-line savings.
And, who knows, you may even see improvements in cleaning quality and linen life, also.
Stick to a regular maintenance schedule. With all the laundry room duties, it can be easy to let maintenance tasks fall to the bottom of the to-do list. However, nothing can impact a laundry’s revenue stream more negatively than an extended period of downtime because of equipment issues.
Having a documented maintenance schedule makes it easy to keep up with specific items needing to be repaired, keeps preventative maintenance tasks on track and holds individuals accountable.
Also, it is important to make sure to keep part closets stocked to save on expensive overnight shipping fees and rush charges from parts suppliers. In short, do everything you can to avoid downtime.
Properly train and consider incentives for laundry employees to be on the lookout for cost savings opportunities. For wash aisle personnel, it could be double-checking sling and cart weights; watching for leaking drain valves, water valves or steam valves; and making sure dryer vents are always free of lint to optimize drying efficiencies.
For other personnel, it could be keeping an eye on product flow to ensure fast and efficient deliveries of goods to various areas throughout the plant or looking for ways to improve time on route builds, staging, and folding or feeding. Gift cards, T-shirts, or something simple like recognition in front of their peers, will go a long way in developing this type of cost-saving culture.
And lastly, try getting creative with increased service offerings. Experimenting with expanded service offerings can be a cost-effective way to increase revenue from current customers and attract new business.
The idea is to create something that you can add without having to expand staff or your budget too far. If the service offering is high quality, you might just impress your customer base and create new customer opportunities!
Healthcare Laundry: Tammy Barrett, HHS Environmental Services, Bonita Springs, Fla.
In my industry, there would be a few ways I would assist in helping my employer to meet the budget.
I would first seek out any opportunities I could take advantage of. Make those changes to save dollars on weekly invoices.
I would then monitor clean/soiled variance very closely to ensure the end-of-month linen-loss charge is at a bare minimum.
Along with watching clean/soiled variance, I would also control inventory ordering. Always make sure there is not an overabundance of inventory on hand.
Quality linen is always of importance. Linen should be inspected before hitting the floors. Also, a program should be in place and educated on for clinical staff to remove less-than-quality linen out of the rotation.
This will ensure quality linen to the customer.
Miss Part 1 with ideas from long-term care laundry, equipment manufacturing, consulting, equipment/supply distribution experts? Click HERE to read it.