“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?”
Long-Term Care Laundering: Albert J. Raymond, Healthcare Services Group, Bensalem, Pa.
The main thing to realize is that the laundry process is based on the equipment operating at all times. The client/customer expects the par levels to be maintained at acceptable levels. There are several things that you can do to make the unexpected easier to manage.
Look at work assignments. An employee’s job routine in housekeeping is timed to account for the entire day, with assignments to be completed every minute. Some flexibility is built into an employee’s job routine in laundry, and employees working here need to understand that the unexpected can occur, and must be prepared should the need arise.
Incorporating the statement “Schedule/hours may change due to power/equipment failure” is proper for all laundry employees. It wouldn’t be considered good management to leave a staff of employees in the laundry if there is no power, or no work to complete.
Another statement for the job routines: “Breaks can only be taken if all machines are running.” Keeping the linen processing even in normal situations will benefit the client and buy time in case of an emergency.
Address the actual linen usage during the emergency or downtime. Get to each of the nursing units as soon as possible and let them know to use only the linen necessary for the shift: be aware of taking linen off carts, don’t drop linen on the floor, and take only the linen needed into each resident room.
Another area worth notice is ordering. Make sure that your linen order is placed every month so that a supply of emergency linen is developed from within your monthly budget.
Important to realize here is that emergency linen is ineffective unless it’s washed, dried, stacked and ready to be sent to a unit. New, boxed linen does no good in a power failure.
Depending on the length of the emergency, refrain from removing any potentially salvageable linen from service. There are certain standards for linen when it’s removed, but a thorough recheck of linen may save time and dollars.
Equipment Distribution: Bill Blumel, MHS, Reliable Equipment & Engineering, Ogden, Utah
Contingency plans for the laundry facility should be in place to minimize impact to customers when a major piece of equipment is inoperable or the entire facility’s ability to process is eliminated for whatever the reason.
The question is not if a significant operational shutdown will occur, but rather when and under what circumstances it will occur.
This possibility is one of many reasons why an off-site or commercial laundry facility should have at least three pars, and the customer at least four pars.
If the laundry facility is on the premises, the laundry and customer facility should have a combined three pars, if not four, at all times. Many four-star hotels maintain in excess of five pars, and this supply is even greater when laundry service is provided off-site or by a commercial supplier.
If one major piece of equipment shuts down but there is a secondary piece of equipment in the laundry facility, it’s still possible to deliver to customers by processing longer and after hours.
For example, any laundry facility with a single batch tunnel washer system should have auxiliary equipment capable of handling one-third of the total wash room capacity. The washroom can then put out the total daily workload in 24 hours or less when the tunnel system is down.
A laundry can usually justify having this auxiliary washroom equipment operating full-time by using it to process heavy-soiled loads such as food-and-beverage (F&B) goods; bypassing the batch tunnel washer system as a temporary management tool; processing colored, cotton F&B in separate batches; and processing rewash.
If the entire laundry facility is shut down due to utility failure, its contingency plan should include a pre-established backup with another laundry facility located within a 15-mile radius of the site.
Processing goods can be accomplished during the hours that the partner facility is normally shut down. Usually, the backup agreement will permit the laundry facility that is down to use its employees for the processing.
Depending on what utilities failed, there is the alternative of renting a temporary electrical power supply, steam boiler system, and/or air compressor. Also, LP gas can be used when the dryers and/or water-heating and steam boiler systems are set up to allow it.
Many commercial laundries could be utilizing a dual natural gas/propane gas setup on their dryers anyway to provide a lower-cost natural gas rate per therm from their supplier.
Textile/Uniform Rental: David Gibson, ARAMARK Uniform Services, Sioux City, Iowa
Disruption of service to customers needs to be avoided at all costs. While most customers are understanding and would not be upset by a delay in service, providing consistent service no matter the circumstances sends a strong message about the service provided.
There are a few processes that can be put in place and used as a contingency plan to avoid a disruption in service.
The first contingency plan is for laundry and uniform service companies that exist in multiple locations. A blueprint should be in place that spells out the schedule to transport the soiled merchandise to the nearest sister plant in case of an emergency.
An alternate wash schedule must be enacted to accommodate the extra merchandise so it can be transported back to the original plant and delivered to the customers on their normal delivery day without disrupting the flow of the merchandise that already goes through the plant.
With this plan already in place, there are few details to work out, and everyone already knows what to do when a situation arises.
For an independent laundry, or if a sister location is too far away for the first plan to be feasible, a plan with a competitor could be established.
The same issues with transportation, wash schedules, and delivery to the customers must be worked out. This situation can seem uncomfortable, but when both parties agree to a plan ahead of time that will work for both when an issue arises at either plant, it’s a win-win situation.
In either of these situations, the financial compensation must be negotiated ahead of time. The cost to have a sister company or a competitor wash the product will be higher, but the avoidance of any disruption to the customer makes the extra cost worth it.