“What criteria should I establish to rag out or discard linen? Also, do you recommend a multistep process to make this determination, or should one pass per item be enough to decide whether it stays or goes?”
Consulting: Tom Mara, Victor Kramer Co., Oceanport, N.J.
As a consultant to the healthcare and hospitality segments for more than 36 years, I can verify that, in fact, almost everyone has a different opinion as to rag-out standards. Unfortunately, in my experience, many of these so-called “standards” aren’t founded on the basis of justifiable economies.
For example, if a sewing technician and the requisite equipment can be justified on the basis of uniform tailoring needs, as is the case at many luxury-class hotels, then the technician should be kept busy and productive at other times by repairing expensive linen articles or by remanufacturing discarded items into new goods.
At one of our managed luxury hotel laundry units located in South Florida, annual linen replacement expense is budgeted at nearly $300,000. The tailor helps reduce that expense by more than $6,600 simply by repairing $28 king sheets having minor damage within 10 inches of the hem. When tucked under the bed, these repairs will never be seen.
Working together with Karen Schneider, Crothall laundry manager, we realize similar results in connection with (1) banquet cloth hem replacements and minor near-edge repairs, (2) usable pillowcases manufactured from ragged sheets, (3) damaged terry items remanufactured into wiping cloths for the kitchen and engineering departments, and so on.
Altogether, the tailor’s salvage work helps to avoid or defer linen purchases, which substantively exceed the program’s related payroll, supply and equipment amortization costs.
Absent tailoring requirements, it would be easy to justify the expense of a repair-and-salvage program in practically any healthcare or hospitality situation, because typical linen replacement expenses these days usually constitute the second-largest laundry cost center.
At one of our 400-bed hospital accounts, we instituted a program that reduced replacement expense 15%, thereby fully funding the program while yielding a tidy net savings.
To make such a program work, it’s necessary to put into place an efficient quality-control system, both within the laundry and out in the hospital or hotel.
Damaged, stained or rewash work should be collected separately during the finishing process or at the point of use. Then, a trained technician should regularly inspect and sort the culled goods for subsequent handling. The laundry manager must periodically review this work to certify the inspection process.
Next, sort damaged articles into discard, repair and remanufacturing candidates. The first group is officially retired (and recorded as discards), bundled and sold as rags; the second goes to the salvage technician for further review and repair; and the third group is used to make new pillowcases, smaller tablecloths/napkins, cleaning cloths, surgery drapes/covers, baby blankets, etc.
I’ve found that it’s important to maintain detailed records of these activities so that we can quantify the value of the salvage program and develop a comprehensive list of the types of damage that can be effectively repaired.
As a final opportunity, the laundry manager should regularly review the damaged linen items to help identify the source of repetitive damage and, for example, to determine if linen-chute or delivery-cart repairs are due.
Chemicals Supply: Rhonda Amendt, U.N.X. INC., Greenville, N.C.
The key to determining rag-out is the grading process in your finishing department. The main goal is to correctly separate stained, damaged and/or abused fabrics. Separate any fabrics with holes, tears or cuts in a cart; stained fabrics in another cart; and fabrics that were misfed into ironers in another cart. This may sound extreme, but is essential to being cost-efficient.
Assess all damaged linens for repair, if possible. Keep in mind that items not salvageable for your use can be of great value to other businesses. Healthcare items that are dyed an off-color, or garments that are stained or damaged, can be downgraded and used as cleaning rags, for example.
Linen plants are able to make alternate use of their linen items a bit easier. However, high-end accounts that have stringent requirements will reject linens for minor flaws. But other accounts that allow for more “error” may use these rejected items if the price is tempting.
Rejected and damaged items that have reached the end of their service life for you can still be useful. Check with local charitable organizations and animal shelters. These places are usually grateful to receive ragged-out towels and blankets.
The idea of recycling industrial garments is difficult. But it’s still a possibility when reassigning a damaged manager-type uniform to a service uniform on which minor stains aren’t an issue.
Keep these general rules of thumb in mind:
My thanks go to Region Manager Bobby Dodson and Territory Manager Tom Berger for their assistance in answering this month’s question.
Equipment Distribution: Bill Blumel, MHS, Reliable Equipment & Engineering, Ogden, Utah
The life expectancy of reusable textile items is an ongoing responsibility of every laundry manager, in order to update and stay within the established budget for linen replacement costs.
The rag-out decision-making process is more complex for a commercial/industrial laundry processing the reusable textile items for a customer than it is for an on-premise laundry. But in either case, the customer’s criteria should be pre-established and agreed upon by all parties involved.
The life expectancy of reusable textile items should be determined during the procurement process, before the decision to purchase is made. The laundry manager should be involved in this process. Vendors should provide textile samples for verification and comparison of the predicted number of washings before rag-out.
Actual life expectancy is affected not only by the textile’s specifications but also by the wash formulas recommended by the textile manufacturer and the laundry’s chemical supplier.
The equation grows even more complex when we consider the variables caused by post-sort vs. pre-sort; load factor (pounds/cubic foot); capacity of equipment; washing and drying cycle times; maintaining and operating equipment within the manufacturer’s specifications; par levels in the customer’s system; water system delivery capacity; sustainable hot-water temperature; steam capacity; and percentage of rewash.
To make sure that all processing variables are what the laundry facility knows they should be, it’s imperative to process third-party test pieces in the washroom equipment regularly. This is done to make sure the test processing of a soon-to-be-purchased textile reveals no unexpected deviations.
It’s quite easy to establish the predetermined time to rag out textiles from the laundry system, as well as the customer’s par levels for these items, when it is based on irreversible stains or tears.
The other, less obvious reason for ragging out is the residual cotton content that is left or the fading of colored cotton textiles after you’ve met or exceeded the predetermined number of washings.
When dealing with polyester/cotton, there comes a point when the amount of residual cotton is too low to complete the laundry process in the finishing area. The cotton-to-polyester ratio declines until measuring and folding by the flatwork folding equipment is no longer feasible.
I recommend that all laundry managers attend one of the industry’s recognized educational offerings by organizations such as the Association for Linen Management (ALM) or the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA). This is the best, quickest way for someone interested in industry longevity to become a professional laundry manager who is able to bring irreplaceable value to his or her customers.
Long-Term Care Laundering: Albert J. Raymond, Healthcare Services Group, Bensalem, Pa.
Effective laundry management consists of everything from staff reviews, production and cleaning schedules, inventory tracking and linen monitoring, to name just a few areas. Let’s take a look at linen monitoring in long-term care.
It’s the 21st century and linen production in most skilled nursing centers is still a manual process. A 120-bed facility running one shift in laundry with two washers and two to three dryers doesn’t appear to have a great need for automation. Most linen is folded manually. There begins the cycle of looking over the linen as it is folded.
Training is the biggest key to this process, working on a routine basis. Establishing the standard of management for the employees to follow – any rips, frays, holes, stains, or alteration from the original product – is vital so they can place the appropriate pieces of linen in a bin for management to clear for disposal.
If, by chance, a piece of linen makes it to the units in unacceptable condition, others in the facility should understand that they are to place the linen in the soiled bin for additional processing.
Basically, we’re looking at a two-step process.
Step one is the employee who is folding the linen recognizes when a piece of linen needs to be evaluated by management. When identified, this linen is placed in a bin within the folding area.
Step two is the laundry manager evaluating each piece of linen to determine whether to discard it or return it to inventory for usage. This process directly affects your linen budget and placing new linen into service each month.
Click here for Part 1 of this story.