BATAVIA, Ill. — Superior Health Linens’ brand-new plant here is the latest facility to seek accreditation by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), a non-profit organization that determines by inspection if applicant laundries meet or exceed high standards for processing healthcare textiles.
American Laundry News visited the plant west of Chicago in late July, after it had been in operation for only four weeks. Scott Reppert, Superior’s president/CEO, and other Superior Health Linens officials, as well as Kathy Tinker, HLAC’s executive director and her husband Steve Tinker, HLAC’s Advisory Committee chairman, discussed the merits of HLAC accreditation and how Superior was preparing for its inspection slated for this month.
UPON CLOSER INSPECTION...
The inspector assigned to visit Superior Health Linens’ Batavia plant next week will see a facility ready to process 9 million pounds annually by Oct. 1 (all coming from new hospital and nursing home customers, Reppert says), and that intends to grow to process 32 million pounds a year.
The plant employed 25 people at the time of the magazine’s visit, but Reppert said he expected to hire more workers pending the addition of a new account and the transfer of some work from the Madison plant.
The Batavia plant operates an eight-hour shift Monday through Saturday, but will eventually settle into a five-day workweek, according to Juan Guillen, director of operations for the three Superior plants.
The complete facility in a shared industrial-park building covers 58,000 square feet; the soil-sort room with three docks covers 11,000 square feet itself.
Superior sorts soiled goods by individual account, which helps keep losses low.
The plant was design-built from an “empty shell.” The company chose to outfit the laundry with refurbished equipment rather than new, and relied on distributor J.P. Equipment of Indianapolis to supply what it needed, Reppert says.
Two 16-module Lavatec tunnel washers with shuttles, dryers and conveyors anchor the wash room, while three ironers with feeders and folders (Lavatec, Chicago Dryer Co. and American), a G.A. Braun folder, two Chicago® folders, and six Chicago® small-piece folders make up flatwork finishing.
PROTOCOL TO IMPRESS
Did the HLAC standards influence any decisions in constructing the Batavia plant from scratch?
“We paid a lot more attention to air handling in this plant than we did in the other facilities,” Reppert says of the system that keeps Batavia’s soil room under negative pressure, a requirement under HLAC standards.
There is an active safety program companywide, he says. All employees are trained and tested on a number of protocols, including lockout/tagout, working in confined spaces, and more.
“We wanted to have the certification process be something that taught employees on the floor how to function,” he says. “I didn’t want it to be a book on the shelf. I wanted it to be more of a living document of programs that people kept up.”
“One of the key areas of HLAC accreditation is ... making sure that a culture of employee safety is built into the operation,” says Steve Tinker, who also has a vendor’s perspective through his role at Gurtler Industries, a laundry chemical company.
Reppert says management at all three plants conduct basic inspections daily to ensure protocols are being followed properly.
“The key is not to set it up so you have a peak performance on one day and then it’s done,” he says. “We really tried hard to make it a little bit more of an institutional-type thing, how to get people more involved on a day-to-day basis.”
What has Superior Health Linens learned from undergoing these examinations?
“I think the biggest thing you learn is that your employees are a lot smarter than you might give them credit for,” Reppert says. “If you spend time training them, they absorb, they’ll do what you ask them to do, they understand the importance of it.”
Superior Health Linens has used HLAC accreditation to compare its operation to industry benchmarks for production and safety.
“HLAC provided the framework, and we were able to say that if we want to impress hospitals and nursing homes, we have to follow this protocol,” Reppert says.
Boxes drawn on a regional map in the conference room identify areas from which Superior has received service inquiries. There are several.
“We’ve started to look at how we’re going to get there, and how can we use Batavia as a hub,” Reppert says. “If we just mind our P’s and Q’s, if we don’t grow too fast, we ought to be able to keep everybody happy.”
And HLAC accreditation should bring some smiles to Superior Health Linens.
Click here for Part 1 of this story!