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What Do We Do When the Power Goes Out? (Part 3 of 3)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

If There is Service Interruption, What Sort of Contingency Plan Should the Average Laundry Have in Place?

UNIFORMS/WORKWEAR MANUFACTURING: STEVE KALLENBACH, AMERICAN DAWN, LOS ANGELES, CALIF.

Typically power interruptions come with myriad issues, like the aftermaths of storms and major weather events. Laundry plants are a major operation, from an energy, water and sewer supply steve kallenbachperspective. To have an on-site backup system in place (electrical, steam, water, sewer) would be a daunting and expensive proposition. Laundries do, however, lean on sister operations, suppliers, and, many times, competitors when catastrophe occurs.

National and regional companies have a distinct advantage here, since their locations can back each other up. Using relay trucks, they typically truck laundry back and forth, just like a depot situation. Not quite as easy as it sounds, but most, if not all, of these larger companies have contingency plans in place.

Smaller independents should have a plan in place as well. This means you reach out to another independent or national in your geographical area (typically one far enough away that they don’t directly compete) and make a contingency plan to back each other up in the case of a catastrophic event.

Our industry is an amazing community. When catastrophe occurs, everyone jumps in to help, regardless of competitive situation. But it does behoove an independent to draw up a more formal plan of action, and even an agreement to support, with another company. Many times, the cost of processing can be set for each other, so that both parties have their costs in place.

Typically, regardless of the support in place, a laundry has to “put in” at least one day’s supply of textiles into the system to recover immediately. Make sure that your suppliers have healthy inventories of “route-ready” goods in place for your core merchandise. If you have the cash on hand, it may even be a good idea to have these goods on site, and secured for emergency purposes.

Communication is the biggest issue in these situations. All of your associates need to be accounted for, not only that they are OK, but that they are going to be able to show up for work. All of your customers need to be called, not only to make sure they know you'll be open and on which day, but to ascertain their special inventory needs for cleanup, etc.

Whether you manage a large national location or an independently owned operation, you should have a detailed plan of action, starting with an outline on Processing Support, Logistics Support, Route Ready (New) Textiles, Employee Communication and Customer Communication.

A final word of advice: whether you are billing out extra merchandise in an emergency or for normal operations, make sure you have an accounting method in place so you know whether you got your goods back after the storm. The cost of catastrophe is many times seen in lost textiles. Your typical merchandise control rules go out the door during crisis. Don’t let them! Make sure goods are accounted for, regardless.

Your emergency contingency plan should be thought out, written out, reviewed and tested in training. The key in any catastrophic crisis is to carefully think through your plan of action beforeit happens.

LINEN SUPPLY: STEPHEN MARCQ, GENERAL LINEN SERVICE, SOMERSWORTH, N.H.

Having a written, updated disaster plan in place will help identify problem areas in advance, and direct you toward anticipating problems (including power outages) and having procedures in place to effectively deal with them.

stephen marcqThe Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) has provided excellent and recent information about creating one. This is a great time to either get to work on such a plan for your company, or pull the current plan out and update information as needed.

Speaking from the customer service side, communication, both internal and external, can be critical during the first hours of a power outage.

One key short-term issue is accessibility to your computer system and software without power. For example, being able to contact your customer base from offsite phones could be helpful, but you need access to the information in your database to do so.

Also key is the ability to receive calls, faxes and e-mails. With many companies now using VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) systems, your phones go out along with computers when the power does.

Having small backup generators in place can help maintain continuity and allow key customer service and billing/invoicing functions to continue.

Printing or uploading invoicing to handhelds a day in advance at minimum is good practice, as is fully loading delivery trucks a day in advance. Both these steps will buy additional time, during which power will hopefully return and production will have resumed.

If not, you will have already started to implement other parts of your disaster plan, such as reaching out to competitors you have reciprocity agreements with, borrowing or ordering additional products, etc.

Most power outages last a day or two at most, and as long as you can talk to your customers, print invoices and communicate internally and externally, you should be OK.

Click here for Part 1!

Click here for Part 2!

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