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CHICAGO — Do you ever just think out loud and scream, “Who the heck is driving this bus?” The bus could be your job, your industry, your home, etc. In the past year, I’ve received numerous calls on a few subjects that need to be addressed, so I’ll do that here, as we venture into a new year.
SELECTING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
The first subject is the selection of products and services. Let’s first look at reusable products such as textiles. There should be several elements that fall into this particular category, but first you need to examine the industry as a whole. Very few suppliers have the exact item you need sitting on the shelf for you, unless you have made previous arrangements. So, if you wait until the last moment to order something, you will usually wait a fair amount of time to receive the item or items.
During the selection process, are you looking at comfort issues for your customers? Are you looking at life-cycle characteristics, rather than just how long the item should last? There might be other factors that require your consideration, such as less drying time, productivity enhancements, or, in the healthcare field, better care for patients. Cost is an issue for everyone, but before you make your decision, look at all of your cost options and scenarios.
If your facility or department follows certain trade restrictions, understand those rules as the end-user. For example, if a product label says it’s made in the U.S., but the fabric comes from a nonapproved country, such as China, the item isn’t usually considered domestic. I’m shocked that those in the federal sector don’t do a better job reviewing such matters. Instead, they continue to sputter through the acquisition process until the Department of Justice or Customs shows up at the door. Quite frankly, you need to know textiles from one side to the other. Education with the Association for Linen Management (ALM) will clear all of this up for you. If you’re not educated, get educated.
SELECTING LAUNDRY EQUIPMENT
I’ve written numerous papers on the selection of laundry equipment in the past, but for some reason the question comes up often — “What item should I purchase?” As most readers know, the selection of equipment has a long-range impact on many facets of your operation. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages with all available systems. A well-educated consumer, in my opinion, is the best consumer. You need to know beforehand what you want to accomplish, what pieces you need to process, what space you have available, and what type of ancillary support you have available for the systems you desire (i.e. steam, electrical, air, etc.).
As part of the selection process, service and available training are key factors. You also need to examine ergonomic indicators, such as the time and motion required for operation and the lighting that’s available for employees to see what they’re doing, in addition to the ground-up ergonomic systems that are available to support productivity and new ergonomic issues as they develop.
Also, when it comes to equipment selection, what are the alternatives? Consider rebuilt systems and alternative energy sources for producing laundry (i.e. thermal fluid, gas, etc.). To what extent will you be tied to such systems if you want to make a change (i.e. washer-extractors to continuous-batch washers, flat-belt conveyance to overhead, flatwork system changes, etc.).
While you may have favorites or professional acquaintances that you have used for years, do what’s best for your facility in the long term. Look at everything available, and look at all the new technology. Know all that you can know. Use the web; look at what others are doing.
MICROFIBER CLEANING TECHNOLOGY
Another issue that has been raised recently is microfiber cleaning technology. This technology, which continues to change, is unique and offers a new realm in environmental sanitation. Don’t just look at this product for cleaning floors, look at it for patient-room and ward cleaning.
Some microfiber systems clean better than others, some launder better than others, and some last longer than others. In my estimation, the earlier-developed technologies in this area, which weren’t truly appropriately field-tested, have done some harm to this technology. However, recently developed systems certainly represent state-of-the-art development based on research and infection-control testing.
Look hard at these systems, and don’t settle for mediocre systems that really don’t perform. Do yourself a favor and look at all of the systems before leaping into this new evolution in cleaning. I’m hopeful that the professional organizations involved in this area will make this a new focal point for education and training. Ask for samples of claims when reviewing this commodity.
Laundry chemicals continue to be beaten up in our industry for really no valid reason. The service and systems that support the chemicals are as important as the chemicals themselves. As I hope everyone knows, water alone (even at room temperature) combined with mechanical action and ironing and drying temperatures will generally make textiles hygienically clean under any circumstance (according to The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 149, January 1984, University of Chicago, University of Colorado, Department of Veterans Affairs study “Killing of Fabric-Associated Bacteria in Hospital Laundry by Low-Temperature Laundering”).
Issues such as stain removal and fabric integrity still come up for discussion, and the quality of chemicals always becomes an area of discussion as well. Therefore, I go back to square one on this subject. Quality, industry-qualified customer service, and the systems that control and monitor your chemical and wash systems, are critical. My suggestion is to know your chemical companies, know the technical support that can and should be provided, and finally, know the basics of laundry chemistry. Develop a sense of trust with your chemical provider, but don’t solely rely on that provider.
Happy New Year to all!