Why a laundry fails: 7 signs to tell your laundry is headed south

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Romy Apolega

The laundry industry is definitely booming. But while everyone is excited to open a new laundromat or try the new service provider in the neighborhood, laundry operations (at a profit) can be quite tricky.

Over the last 46 years in the Philippines’ cleaning and laundry industry, I have seen many businesses cease and hotels/hospitals/companies close down their on-premise laundry after failing to sustain operations. Their solution is often to outsource to cut back on cost. But as someone who came from both service provider (plant manager of one of the biggest laundry service providers in the country) and on-premise laundry (consultant for hotel, hospital and manufacturing OPLs) – I would say that it boils down to understanding the laundry process, maintaining quality (read: Total Quality Management) and knowing the signs before your laundry fails.

I list below 7 general symptoms that require your attention.

 

  1. A lot re-wash

Managers and executives in hotels, hospitals and companies that require laundry services do not often realize the huge impact of re-wash on cost. Re-wash repeats the entire laundry process due to failure in providing quality results. The normal re-wash rate is 2% to 3% daily. If you’re beyond this, your utility costs double as you have to repeat the same process for the same items. In laundry, doing it right the first time is crucial.

 

  1. Excessive cost

There are cost-related events that cannot be controlled such as rising power and water costs and force majeures. But in general, when costs rise faster than the rate of production, it is important to check what inefficiencies and challenges exist. Are these utilities? Can manpower be streamlined?

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  1. Machine failure

A machine that doesn’t run efficiently (or one that breaks down) is lost opportunity for the business to earn. One of the worst things that can happen is a flatwork ironer breakdown, which can spell chaos for the laundry staff.

 

  1. Delays in delivery

For commercial laundry companies, failure to deliver on-time can break their client’s business – especially if the customer is a hotel with very few linen par stcck. Systematic delays are a cause of concern for the service provider.

 

  1. Damages, losses and mix up

One by one, your linen inventory decreases due to pilferage, or perhaps your linen’s life shortens due to bad wash, resulting to degradation. Bad wash and incorrect usage can negatively affect lifespan – for instance, using guest towels to scrub areas in the bathroom where strong chemicals are applied will eventually damage the linen.

 

  1. Graying of whites

Gradually, your linen loses its white luster and fails to meet the whiteness test.

 

  1. Customer complaints

The most obvious sign that something is wrong is via customer feedback – especially from loyal clients. For hotels, failing laundry services (whether OPL or outsourced) often lead to delays in releasing a hotel room (e.g. housekeeping doesn’t have fresh linen to replenish) or smell and stains on the towel (need for re-wash).

 

Are you encountering any of these signs? Consult with Romy Apolega through rhapolega@yahoo.com.

READ NEXT: Hotel Laundry: Outsourcing vs On-Premise Laundry

Hotel Laundry: Outsource or In-house?

Depending on a hotel’s business objectives, outsourcing laundry or operating an on-premise laundry (OPL) can provide a wide range of competitive advantages. Outsourcing avoids the capital investment in laundry equipment and paying for labor. It is an ideal option when a reputable commercial laundry supplier exists in the neighborhood. OPL, on the other hand, allows the hotel to control quality and inventory and can be an additional revenue stream for a hotel (laundry services for guests and outside customers). The key is understanding which options can drive greater value to the hotel.

Based on my experience in managing a service provider’s laundry operations and advising hotels with their OPL, here are my thoughts about outsourcing vs. in-house laundry.

On-premise laundry

Before outsourcing became a trend, the only way for most hotels to do laundry is to invest in huge institutional laundry machines, flatwork ironers and other equipment to wash and dry their linen, including hotel staff uniforms.

Linen, itself a huge investment, must be taken care of by a large group of personnel – from the housekeeping staff down to the laundry team. A well-known hotel in central Makati, for instance, has around 70 staff working on laundry alone. In addition, laundry consumes a lot of electricity (heat) and water, and environmental considerations such as water treatment must be factored into the equation.

Investing in equipment and paying salaries and high utility cost may not sound attractive for OPL, but in-house laundry has its unique advantages:

  1. Revenue source (OPL is a laundry and valet shop service combined; laundry and dry cleaning services for guests and outside customers)
  2. Faster turnaround time (hotels need to have higher pars in inventory of linen and uniform to avoid shortage due to delays in delivery or bad coordination)
  3. Property protection (risk of service providers misplacing your linen assets)
  4. Low replacement cost of linen (bad wash lead to faster deterioration of linen)
  5. Low risk of contamination (commercial laundry companies also have other customers, like hospitals)

For many luxury hotels, having an OPL is often a default choice. Hotels not only need to provide a full suite of services (including guest laundry), but they also need to maintain the highest standard in linen quality, which can be a risk in outsourcing. Even in cases when the service provider is at fault, the blame for bad service (such as rooms lacking linen due to low pars) will always fall on the hotel.

 

Outsourcing

Over the last decade, more hotels have opted to choose service providers over OPL. While this is now the trend among lower-tiered hotels where cost is tightly controlled, we have also seen big hotels close down their laundry shops. Here are the major advantages:

  1. No need for capital investment
  2. Less utility, labor and overhead cost (although these costs would still be incurred the service provider and pass on to its customers)
  3. Space for laundry can be used for revenue-generating activities (additional hotel rooms, gym, spa, office leasing)

Here are some areas in outsourcing that both the service provider and the hotel must watch out for:

  • Losses, pilferage and miscounts
  • Mix up (including mixing linen with other hotel customers)
  • Fabric degredation
  • On-time delivery and pick up
  • Linen life

The value-add of service providers is that they absorb the cost of purchasing equipment and paying for utilities, salaries and other overheads to do laundry albeit some of these costs are eventually passed on to its institutional customers. A good service provider will minimize the risks of bad wash, misplaced linen, contamination and delivery delays.

 

Are you still undecided? Let’s talk at rhapolega@yahoo.com or call +639173235203.

 

(Featured photo c/o http://www.brightwatergroup.com)

7 Trends Shaping Commercial Laundry in the Philippines in 2019

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Big laundry operation. Image from Gulfnews.com

The commercial laundry industry in the Philippines over the last few years has grown immensely. Self-service laundry shops have mushroomed within our neighborhood, while big laundry companies have benefited from hotels and restaurants increasingly outsourcing their laundry operations. The laundry care business alone (fabric softener, bleach and detergents) grew by 9% to a PhP52 billion industry in 2017, according to Euromonitor International.

Here are the trends that will drive the sector this year:

 

1. New equipment that do more with less

With barely 4 in every 10 households owning a washing machine (according to Euromonitor for 2017), it’s no wonder why commercial laundry is popular. Urban dwellers not only wish to avoid paying so much for a washing machine, but they’re also looking for the convenience offered by commercial laundry — quick and quality wash.

New equipment for commercial laundry today provide sophisticated moisture content capacity and energy, labor and production efficiency. This is particularly important for big laundry companies where cost savings are critical. New equipment are also faster in washing and require less water and heat. Make sure to check these features the next time you invest in an equipment.

 

2. Water will be more valuable

Cost of good water — an essential ingredient to good laundry — has risen. Whereas laundry shops will find cheap water from deep well, hard water and water with iron, these actually harm linen more than they make them fresh anew.

With rising costs of utilities and fuel, companies are looking for practical ways and technologies that will result to cost savings, especially on water. These range from sophisticated innovations such as recycling of water to simple and practical methods such as rainwater harvesting.

 

3. Environmental compliance will be a growing issue

With the rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay, laundry businesses will be looking more at environmental compliance. A pressing question among commercial laundry players today is investing on waste water treatment, which doesn’t come cheap.

Big laundry companies will also be concerned about Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). BOD and COD should pass government regulations, otherwise there are heavy penalties for violators. The DENR also now prohibits phosphate content in waste water, thus affecting the type of chemicals laundry shops will purchase.

 

4. Less dependence on chemicals

Like how laundry technology is trying to make use of less water, it is also moving towards efficient utilization of chemicals (preferably, zero phosphate as well). This makes the resulting waste water more environment-friendly and easier to recycle.

 

5. Outsourcing laundry — and linen — will continue

Laundry in the hotel industry is a sizable operation, employing dozens of staff and incurring maintenance cost for various equipment. Recently, a number of hotels have closed their in-house laundry operations and resorted to outsourcing of even linen (to save storage cost and maximize their real estate). This will definitely continue as hospitality companies focus on their core strength (service) while outsourcing non-essential processes such as laundry operations to specialist companies.

 

6. Higher standards of quality

As the number of commercial laundry players increase, customers — whether retail or institutional — will look for service providers that can deliver the best quality wash and prolong linen life. Not many companies use quality management tools such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Total Plant Maintenance (TPM) and whiteness test in the commercial laundry business to ensure best-in-class services are provided. These tools will become more important to satisfy the requirements of institutions and the public.

 

7. Data analytics in laundry

Not many companies and laundry shops today collect metrics on the performance of their business and laundry operations. As competition grows, data analytics will certainly help them survive. What is the production vis-a-vis capacity? What is the peso per kilo wash load? What are the monitoring systems in place?

I have always thought laundry is an efficiency game. After collating information, we can use the Ishikawa principle or fish-bone analysis to answer important questions.

 

For questions, email me at rhapolega@yahoo.com or editor@isitcleanph.com