- Created on Wednesday, 03 March 2004 04:25
- Written by Matt Alexander, MHS
While many professionals agree that it’s important not to overlook the importance of having a consultant involved in the process of building a laundry, many hospital, hotel, nursing home and health club owners/operators engage in the process without a professional consultant. The theory is usually that the laundry manager or corporate management can adequately collect data or otherwise evaluate processes or systems in an effective manor and that they can therefore do it themselves working with contractors, an architect, engineer, and equipment suppliers.
Frequently, the result is that long-term inefficiencies can often be tracked back to inaccurate data collection and ineffective needs analysis, failure to adequately access the total textile life cycle cost including utilization, distribution, and maintenance; missed opportunities to bring greater effectiveness to existing operations; and design errors or poor equipment selections -- all issues that would have been addressed by a professional laundry consultant.
In this regard, laundry consulting is no different then other types of consulting. Consultants collect large amounts of data and develop opinions, best practices, and problem solving techniques based on many years of experience in a multitude of different operations. Consultants not only collect data and experience personally, but consulting firms organize information from associated consultants and projects over many years and weave this information in a rich database of technology, concepts, problem solving techniques, and management lessons.
In the same way a business consulting firm uses the lessons it gleaned from conducting extensive studies for a corn-canning client to bring advantage to a packaging process for a pea canning company, a professional laundry consultant brings a wealth of experience and applies an extensive database of information and resources to effect a project’s development.
THE CONSULTANTS SCOPE OF WORK
The laundry consultant should – whenever possible – thoroughly review the existing laundry facility, equipment, workflow, production and operating procedures including textile utilization as well as future expansion projections. In a new build scenario, the consultant qualifies the task and provides expert guidance relative to space requirements, equipment selection, workflow, and establishment of best practices. In many cases, there is a myriad of opportunities to realize improvements that could have a material impact on the project.
In some cases, reorganization of the plant and implementation of improved production techniques can create enough improvements in throughput to significantly effect the requirement for major expansion. Sometimes it’s as basic as improving wash liquor formulas, sorting and production techniques, materials flow, and staffing schedules. Other times, relatively simple changes in the configuration of equipment can produce significant benefits. Even when the laundry and corporate management may have extensive operational experience, a fresh set of eyes that have no preconceived ideas of how the plant “should be” and that is backed with extensive expertise and experience, may be able to quickly identify opportunities for improvement.
A consultant will carefully evaluate textile utilization and needs. Often, particularly in hospitals and nursing homes, significant reductions in textile usage can be effected by implementing effective inventory and distribution controls and techniques, staff training, and implementation of utilization policies. An independent consultant develops recommendations and equipment specifications relative to the need to expand or renovate a facility or build a new plant based on an analysis of all factors. These include analysis of the existing plant including its maximum potential throughput and operating efficiencies as well as the production requirements after effective utilization procedures are in place. By organizing comprehensive performance based generic bid specifications for equipment, chemicals, textiles, and/or outsourcing laundry services, independent consultants level the playing field by developing bid procedures that can realistically be met by numerous manufacturers and suppliers. The major advantage of this service is to obtain the most value for the client while insuring that the optimum equipment, supplies, and services are purchased.
By fully understanding the requirements, capabilities and limitations of the existing operations and the realistic expectations of the capabilities and operating cost of a proposed – new build – facility, a professional consultant provides critical guidance and expertise.
Because laundry consultants are not certified or accredited, there is the potential for abuse of the title of consultant. Some equipment, contract management, and chemical companies give that title to sales representatives and freelance equipment brokers may use the title.
A qualified laundry consultant should be actively engaged in the process of laundry system evaluations, equipment, design, production management, research and development of technology, laundry chemistry, and report writing and should have extensive experience in these areas. Some consulting firms may be associated with laundry equipment manufacturers or with contract management companies. These firms should disqualify themselves from participating in equipment sales or contract management services to clients that they are providing consulting services to if they are to be considered independent consultants. This is because a firm that wants to sell you management services or equipment may not be the right firm to advise you of good alternatives – there is the potential for a conflict of interest. Nonetheless, firms that offer to design/build and management (design/build/operate) services may be able to offer turnkey solutions. An independent consultant is critical to the process of evaluating the long-term value of complex design/build/operateproposals from companies that bundle such services.
In any major new build or renovation project it is critical that the initial team include the architect and laundry consultant. The specific manufacturer’s/suppliers final input will be required after the bid has been awarded and they join the team
YOU ONLY NEED A CONSULTANT IF YOU HAVE TO BE COMPETITIVE
When considering the cost of design, equipment, construction, and long-term operations, the consultant’s fees are infinitesimal, however, the potential impact on long-term economic viability of the project can be huge. If you don’t have to be competitive with the alternative of outsourcing to a commercial laundry supplier, you can afford to miss the opportunities to bring greater efficiencies to an existing plant. Similarly, if capital investment weren’t a concern you could likely build a big new deluxe laundry with surplus capacity -- it would only mean that you spent a lot more money then you needed to. If, however, you want to be absolutely certain that you’ve explored all the alternatives, done the best job possible getting the most out of your existing operations, and planned most effectively to get the maximum return on your investment, then you should have an independent professional consultant on the team – as an absolutely necessary part of your due diligence.
Matt Alexander is an independent laundry and linen management consultant with 18 years of laundry experience. He is an associate consultant with Pertl & Associates and his clients have included leading textile services companies, hospitals, hotels, health clubs, and contract management and consulting firms. Alexander is a Master Hotel Supplier as certified by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association and was a founding member and past Chairman of the Educational Institute's Laundry Advisory Council.
Quick Rinse - News From Around The World
Mission Linen's Two Healthcare Accreditations
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Mission Linen Supply has received two healthcare accreditations from Healthcare Laundry Accreditation (HLAC) for their Chino, California and Phoenix, Arizona plants. The first was received in 2009 and the Arizona accreditation was received this year. HLAC inspects and accredits laundries that process healthcare textiles for hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.