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Working with Laundry Suppliers as Prices Rise (Part 1)

“Faced with inflation and other rising costs, vendors are having to increase prices. How can I work with my suppliers to make sure my laundry is getting the best product or service cost/efficiency/quality possible?”

Uniforms/Workwear Manufacturing: Dan Schwartz, Fashion Seal Healthcare, Seminole, Fla.

Developing a trusting partnership with frequent communication with a supplier partner continues to be key to ensuring a consistent supply of product.

Pricing on a majority of products has increased due to many factors, including raw material, labor and transportation costs.

The lead time for suppliers to obtain product has increased as well. Those laundries communicating their needs in advance will have the best opportunity to have product available.

Most suppliers do understand that every laundry will have last-minute needs as well and that precise forecasting is not always possible; however, any communication will have a positive impact on inventory availability.

Since the pandemic began, many laundry customers have also committed to inventory reserves to ensure a consistent garment supply for their customers. A program like this allows a laundry to monitor their inventory levels and better plan for the future. 

It also creates a strategic conversation between a laundry and their supplier partner instead of simply relying on stock inventory available to all customers.

The current challenges are likely to persist and actions taken today will help manage the impact throughout 2022. Sourcing experts expect delays will continue and costs worldwide have not yet stabilized. 

The key to a productive partnership will continue to be consistent and transparent communication.

Equipment Manufacturing: Al Adcock, B&C Technologies, Panama City, Fla.

While the provenance of the saying “May you live in interesting times” is uncertain, the reality is that we are indeed living in interesting times. 

With much of the world in chaos due to the still-unfolding global pandemic, the only thing we can count on is our humanity. With increasing inflation and prices, it’s becoming quite difficult to predict what will happen in the future, and as we all know, uncertainty is the enemy of profit. 

I believe the way forward is relationships, as trusting relationships can help us ensure that we’re receiving the best value for our money spent, whether it be on laundry chemicals or your accounting department. 

Trust is surely the glue that holds our relationships together, and this is even more true when it comes to business relationships, as trust ensures that we aren’t wasting our valuable time and energy protecting ourselves from exploitation.

If you’re already working with suppliers you know and trust, the best course of action is to continue to keep the lines of communication open so that you aren’t hit with any surprises. 

If you’re evaluating new business relationships, it helps to begin with a trusting attitude but also to verify that this potential relationship will benefit both parties. 

Of course, the relationship should be reciprocal and any new business partners should also show that they trust you.

Trusting relationships differ by culture and upbringing and can include points like competency, openness, respect and similarity of values.

Generally, a trusting relationship can be recognized by openness and consistency during the negotiation phase. If you are able to share relevant business information regarding your priorities and the reasoning behind this information, your supplier should reciprocate and help to build the necessary trust, leading to a mutually beneficial relationship.

Chemicals Supply: John Schafer, Diversey, Fort Mill, S.C.

Great question. You will need to visit with your current vendor and identify what types of linens you are washing, what types of soils you are encountering and any issues you might be having with equipment—water softeners, leaking valves, drains—and you will need to repair those items as they lead to increased costs and issues with results. 

You will then need to make sure the current product selection is appropriate for the linens you are washing and the soils you are encountering. Sometimes a simple product change can lead to cost savings.

Also, see if increasing pack sizes might save you money. Sometimes, not always, a larger size will cost less per gallon.

Have your vendor look at the program times for your washer formulas and see if they can reduce times or consolidate rinses and/or wash baths. These savings in time will increase productivity—reducing costs—as well as savings in utilities. 

Finally, the largest cost in your laundry is labor. Because of COVID-19, most facilities are short on labor. Under-staffing can create issues. Be sure and evaluate your staffing levels to see if you are maximizing your available labor. 

Make sure your machines are being properly loaded—over and under loading can increase costs and affect results. Also, identify linen flow to see if there are any bottlenecks creating issues that could be alleviated thus saving you time and money. 

To summarize:

  • Product—Do you have the right products in the right sizes for your linen and soil loads?
  • Equipment—Is your equipment in proper working order?
  • Time—Are your wash formulas optimized for time? 
  • Mechanical Action—Proper loading of your machines?
  • Labor—Optimizing available labor for the amount of linen being washed?

Check back tomorrow for advice from experts in commercial and hospitality laundry and consulting services.

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