Commercial Laundry: Lee Baldauf, Superior Linen Service, Tacoma, Wash.
As the chief engineer at our plant, I am responsible for most parts related to keeping our equipment running and safe.
I count on my vendors a lot for insight and value. I believe, on the maintenance side anyway, that relationships are the constant, even when markets are this fluid.
What my M.O. is all about is networking. Be hospitable to your vendors—and their competition. Having good relationships with the people you buy parts from, and other people that provide the same goods and services, makes you an educated buyer.
Cheapest isn’t always best, but neither is the most expensive. If shopping a project, consider the reliability of the company you are buying from, the relationship with their rep and the quality of the product when considering the price.
Your best fit for any given issue is usually an easy decision.
The bigger concern for engineers is parts availability. This means having non-laundry, local vendors that you can lean on to be creative to bridge a supply-chain issue that the OEM may be struggling with.
Treat all of these people well, don’t scream 911 on every purchase, pay them quickly and don’t be afraid to enter into a handshake parts trading cartel with your parallels at other plants.
Be honorable in this. We are not in sales. None of this is top secret. Loaning a guy a cradle lock now might mean you can borrow a motor tomorrow.
I’m not saying I am not shocked by pricing and that I am not waiting for some items. What I am saying is this works for me in a way that makes me feel comfortable that I am not being taken advantage of, and I feel less panicked knowing I have all of these people to lean on when we have the notorious “crisis” occur … like every Monday and pretty much every day.
Consulting Services: Jon Witschy, Spindle, Woodridge, Ill.
The objective for all of us—vendor or operator—is to provide the greatest value to our customers for our products and services. This is how we compete and stay in business, especially as we address factors that affect our pricing.
On the front end of the process is the proper definition of a product or service. As the sales manager for our business, it is my responsibility to define our solutions for new prospects and existing customers, explaining their application and benefits.
This ensures an understanding and agreement that what we deliver will be the best fit for the user.
During implementation, training is a key component. This leads to further understanding of how a solution should be used by the customer. Proper utilization then increases the value that the product delivers.
After installation, continued training is important, and system maintenance is essential. Training might be required for new personnel, and a refresher is always nice for experienced users.
For a software solution, new features often need an introduction. For a hardware solution, which is also often a part of any software product (i.e., servers, monitors, network switches, etc.), maintenance helps to retain the functionality of a system and to extend its life. Combining these two together, proper training on system maintenance is a necessity.
A key aspect that repeats itself above is communication. The vendor must explain, train and define how to maintain their solutions, and the customer should have open ears throughout the process to ensure they understand how to achieve the best results. This leads to a true partnership between customers and vendors.
Beyond communication, action is needed; proper system utilization, maintenance and support will help to realize the value that is possible from a solution.
Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Kelly Reynolds, Sea Island Acquisitions, Sea Island, Ga.
To ensure that all these aspects are addressed, my team and I prioritize our products and services by how critical they are to the process.
One way we do this is by asking, “Do we really need the best product or service for this project?”
Priority is given to long-term and local vendors for critical parts and services.
Equipment downtime must be looked at this way. It costs you money, so if you cannot get by without it, then you need the best. For items that affect our bottom line, we have confidence that our established vendors are giving us the best price for the service we receive.
A great way to ensure this is to not buy the first run of equipment. Ask your supplier who else has purchased them. How long have they been making them? Are there any installations where they can see the equipment in use?
When it comes to other products and services, we compare prices among suppliers. If the item can be found at a lower price, there is nothing wrong with tactfully mentioning to a supplier that the item can be purchased elsewhere for less.
If they can meet or beat the price, then it is worth it to give them the business; otherwise, we will save money whenever we can.
The important thing is to maintain a great rapport with our established vendors and suppliers because it pays off when faced with costly downtime. If you let them know that you want to save money whenever possible, a great supplier or vendor will look for ways of saving you money when they can.
Checking in with vendors and suppliers occasionally is a good practice instead of just contacting them when you need something. For very large companies this may be difficult to do.
Click HERE to read Part 1, with insights from uniform/workwear, equipment manufacturing and chemicals supply experts.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].