This year’s contributors introduce themselves, describe their operations, identify challenges and list their accomplishments for 2009.
Textiles: Elizabeth Easter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.
I’m a professor at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, in the Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles Department, where I’ve taught textile science courses since 1984. I received my master’s degree and my doctorate in textile science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Since 1972, I have conducted research, and presented and published papers, in the area of laundry fundamentals. My ongoing research focus is in both home and institutional laundry fundamentals.
I also supervise UK’s Textile Testing Laboratory. It provides contractual and fee-based test-piece services for the Association for Linen Management (ALM), as well as for the textile and apparel industry in the state of Kentucky and the appliance industry.
Since 1988, I’ve taught the Basics of Linens course to laundry and linen managers and allied tradesmen at ALM’s American Laundry and Linen College. It’s been an extremely rewarding experience to continue my industry involvement.
[NP][/NP]A major challenge is balancing energy use and textile care. For example, washing in colder water will save energy but may sacrifice cleaning. Today’s linens are no longer cotton or cotton/polyester blends.
With advances in finishing and new developments in fibers, yarns and fabrics, care is more important than ever. A “smart textile” may lose the ability to react to body temperature or other stimuli, for example, if the manufacturer’s recommendations for care aren’t followed.
I would like to thank American Laundry News for allowing me the honor to sit on this prestigious panel. I look forward to supporting the outstanding operators and industry that we serve.
Equipment Manufacturing: Joe Gudenburr, G.A. Braun, Syracuse, N.Y.
I’m the chief operating officer for G.A. Braun Inc. I have responsibility for all operational, domestic sales, and R&D/technology development initiatives that take place within our organization.
Braun has been in the business of designing laundries, and smart laundry solutions, for the past 64 years, and I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with our outstanding team for seven years.
[NP][/NP]Because Braun provides a full line of stand-alone and automated conventional washroom systems, tunnel systems, and textile-finishing solutions, I’ve had the unique opportunity to serve and support the healthcare, hospitality, industrial, and institutional markets.
I visit well over 100 operating facilities (hospital OPLs, prisons, industrial plants, cruise ships, and large co-op/central processing sites) annually, which affords me the opportunity to see where our operators are doing an exceptional job; and where they have challenges that can be turned into opportunities for improvement.
I’ve been an active member of the Uniform & Textile Service Association (UTSA) and the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA) since joining the industry, and currently sit on multiple TRSA task-force teams.
Since graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1991, and prior to my joining G.A. Braun, I ran domestic and international production facilities, technology, and sales organizations in the electronics and plastics industries.
Each industry deals with complex production and development environments, and leveraged state-of-the-art manufacturing practices and automation to deliver results. These experiences enable me to assess laundries from an outsider’s perspective (there are no sacred cows or stones that should be left unturned).
Our industry will face a great many challenges this year. The economic tsunami of 2009 started to alter our landscape. There has been and will continue to be a great emphasis on creating lean, highly efficient, and safe work environments for our team members.
Operators and suppliers alike have and will need to identify where waste exists, and take the appropriate steps to address shortcomings so they remain competitive and financially viable. As plant operators look to automate, they will also be faced with the task of “top-grading” their organizations to successfully maintain and harvest the benefits of technology.
I look forward to serving the industry as a member of this panel.
Textile/Uniform Rental: Kurt Rutkowski, Universal Linen Service, Louisville, Ky.
I serve as one of three vice presidents at Universal Linen in Louisville. I grew up in the restaurant business, which took me all over the country. I started as a busboy, worked my way into management at age 16, became a certified executive chef in my 20s and eventually owned my own restaurant. It was great experience on how to run a business from the top down.
I left the restaurant world in 1994 and moved into sales and distribution management, which laid the groundwork for my career in the linen business. I worked for two successful Fortune 500 companies and had the opportunity to come on board with Universal in 2007.
[NP][/NP]My knowledge and contacts in the restaurant business, along with my sales management background, made this a perfect match. I’ve recently turned over the reins of the sales department to focus on technology, marketing and continuous improvement.
Our 1924 building is listed in the National Historic registry, but our operation is state-of-the-art. Our ownership invested more than $5 million in 2007 to fully automate our new laundry. We’re the largest independent linen rental company in Kentucky, producing roughly 320,000 pounds per week (primarily flatwork) in serving more than 1,200 customers throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
The single greatest issue facing our company is hiring qualified sales representatives who can consistently meet our expectations. We continue to look for new and creative methods of recruiting.
As far as accomplishments in 2009 ... well, we survived. Universal looked at the economic downturn as an opportunity and continued to invest in people, upgrade routes, and increase efficiencies. Our greatest accomplishment was to implement key performance indicators. Monitoring and constantly working on improving deficiencies made 2009 a successful year.
Equipment/Supplies Distribution: Donnie Weiland, Tingue, Brown & Co., Alvin, Texas
I am the sales engineer for Tingue, Brown & Co., the largest and oldest (since 1902) distributor of ironer/folder textiles in the world.
With a bachelor of science degree in business administration and a minor in economics from Belmont College in Nashville, Tenn., I started my career in business management with Genesco. After 16 years in data processing and accounts receivable management, I joined the textile care industry in January 1980 as a production manager at Shared Hospital Services Corp., also in Nashville.
[NP][/NP]The challenges of learning to deal with personnel of a different culture and language in a hot, humid environment taxed me in ways I never imagined! Helping me to work through this massive bewilderment was a man quite adept in the world of laundry — my general manager, and mentor, George Wade.
In July 1984, Ty Acton Sr., my Tingue, Brown representative, asked me to join him and his company in serving our industry by accepting South Texas as a territory. Exuberance, affirmation and a quick move to the Lone Star State ensued.
Twenty-five years of padding ironers while meeting folks just wanting to survive, some wanting to be industry kingpins, and a lot of folks in-between has been so rewarding!
The best part of my job is solving problems and teaching the basics to the ever-changing employee base. I’ve taught many ironer seminars, including those at PMI (Production Management Institute, Texas Woman’s University) and the American Laundry and Linen College at Eastern Kentucky University.
Our thanks go out to the 2009 Panel of Experts: