“A laundry service is at a standstill — a key piece of processing equipment is out of commission, or a natural disaster has left the immediate area without power. What sort of contingency plan should a manager have in place to make certain his customers continue to receive clean goods in a timely manner?”
Linen Supply/Commercial Laundering: Duane Farrington, RLLD, Hancock Co. Laundry, Weirton, W.Va.
All laundry managers should partner with good, working service providers on contingency. When I say “working,” I mean one that can actually perform the work when needed.
I’ve seen service providers that when called on were not able to meet the demands. The contingency plan was only there on paper to make it through an inspection. This situation could lead to disaster when a real emergency hits.
I recommend partnering with a provider whose facility is located slightly out of your area. It may seem a little inconvenient, but it’s a good idea that the other facility isn’t on the same power supply as you are, or at least in the same general area.
It’s quite possible that the disaster that takes out your plant could very well take out the other plant, too. This would leave neither plant with a contingency plan.
As far as providing service in a “timely manner,” you can look at this in a few different ways.
First of all, both parties must define what it means to them. Most facilities will have at least a day’s worth of linen available; many have three or more days’ worth. Any facility that is asking for a 24-hour turn in linen must first look at the number of pars it has in its system.
Following a true emergency, it could take 48 hours or longer to respond with the linen. If this is known and understood ahead of time, then there will be no surprises.
There are also different types of contingencies. In one case, you may need the linen to be ironed or dried, or maybe washed because that particular piece of equipment is down. This is usually a shorter, less-expensive turnaround than when the full contingency is required. Again, this should all be detailed beforehand.
Activating a contingency agreement should occur smoothly when needed, with few or no surprises. There will be enough uncertainty caused by the disaster or breakdown. A little planning will go a long way to keep your customers happy and impressed during their time of need.
Equipment Manufacturing: Dan Goldman, Wascomat Laundry Equipment, Inwood, N.Y.
I would rather do business with a fool with a plan than with a genius without one — Warren Buffett
I had the privilege 25 years ago of working closely with a power laundry that serviced many of the drycleaners, hotels and restaurants in New York City, sending its trucks out daily for pickups and deliveries.
Ironically, while it seems so hard today to develop good wholesale accounts, most drycleaners, big restaurants and hotels were constantly looking for someone better to provide this vital service in the early ’80s.
Most cleaners and hotels have added their own in-house laundry equipment, and the most prestigious restaurants no longer send out their expensive table linen.
Business was everywhere in 1983, but keeping it was a challenge.
The laundry’s owner was under constant pressure to deliver the goods, and he always had a backup plan in case of emergencies. The business employed two full-time technicians; stored spare air compressors, vacuums and steam boilers; and had a backup labor pool.
When the technicians weren’t repairing a machine or putting another piece into service, they were rebuilding units in their shop. The parts department was so well stocked and organized that it put many laundry equipment distributors to shame.
“Hospital Laundry Service” was printed in big letters on the sides of the delivery vans. The owner hoped it would be enough to convince the Highway Patrol to allow his trucks to make their deliveries when there was a snowstorm.
Everyone knew to whom they reported and what would not be tolerated under any circumstances (like smoking). They were paid well, with benefits that are unheard of today.
This was before the Internet, cell phones and GPS systems, and I often marvel at the detail with which the owner comported himself in his business environment.
Alas, when business shifted and even an attempt at marketing a diaper service to environmentally conscious mothers failed, the business ran out of laundry volume.
I often think back to how the owner planned for everything that could possibly go wrong. He had a hand-painted sign near the flatwork ironers, which were serviced and padded only during the wee hours of the morning. The sign read: “Good luck happens when preparedness meets opportunity.”