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Textiles - A Look To The Future!

The laundry industry has come a long way since the beginning days of laundry. Hand washing and labor intensive practices have been replaced with machines and automation moving goods quickly through facilities. Those who labored before us would be amazed.

And although it seems like yesterday when we all gathered for Clean ‘01, two years have flown by. In many ways our industry has not changed – and in many ways we have.

The basic premise of our industry will never change, but there have been advancements in machinery and automation, government regulations have been passed and daily procedures have become somewhat more controlled and easier as computers play a larger role in facilities. But what is in store for us in the future? Laundry Today asked industry professionals to reflect on where they think we’re headed. Are they right? Only time will tell.

Nancy Brier - LaundrySpy, Founder
We believe that security systems will take on an increasingly comprehensive business management role as new technologies are integrated into more sophisticated systems.

Technology already enables more remote management than ever before. Plant managers can view multiple facilities, even if they are in different cities, from a single remote location. Managers can see and hear live footage and access previously recorded footage of their plants from the convenience of their homes or offices.

It is also possible for several managers to have access to footage from different remote locations simultaneously. Password protections let users define what functions managers can and cannot perform. In the future, more technologies will be incorporated into these systems, allowing managers to regulate water temperatures, lock doors, and control machinery from remote locations using their security systems as the management tool.

Surveillance systems will take on a more important role in the future as workers compensation and general liability costs continue to increase. As the cost of workplace accidents increases, tools will be used more aggressively to prevent and investigate workplace claims. These tools will safeguard workers and management from unnecessary and costly litigation.

Digital surveillance will be used in a more comprehensive way for loss prevention. In the future, more sensors will be integrated into the technology for safety and equipment maintenance.

As the industry continues to consolidate, computerized systems will be used more aggressively to promote cost effective and streamlined business practices. By reviewing and studying digital images, managers can determine what works and duplicate these efficiencies throughout their organizations.

Technology has been a vital part of the commercial laundry industry for some time. The future will see nontraditional uses of technology finding a home within the industry to sharpen performance, maximize efficiencies, promote workplace safety, and increase profitability. It is an exciting time to be in the laundry technology field.

Greg Gurtler - ARTA, President
I feel that the future is very promising for reusable textiles based on several factors. There have been large improvements of fabrics with regard to usage and durability, consumer awareness has fostered a keen interest in environmental issues and cost containment issues have also played a part in making the horizon very bright for reusable textiles.

Al Jenneman - KEMCO, Executive VP
Competition will cause a price ceiling on services and rentals, thus driving the emphasis to labor and utility efficiency. Profit margins increases will be driven by utility cost reduction and productivity more than price increases for services.

OSHA and EPA will emerge as a burden and relations with government agencies will be best handled by industry associations. Local authorities will impact location and growth by regulating and economically limiting utilities and services.

Work places will be safer and more pleasant. Robotics and equipment development will eliminate unpleasant repetitive work. This may be limited by lack of skilled operators. Environmental compliance will be a significant expense.

Jack Reiff - Wet-Tech, President
The Textile Care Industry is alive and well and will be for a long time. Some of the methods of operation or priorities may change but for my money we will still have a vibrant, profitable and busy enterprise. Some of the techniques may change due to new technology, regulations or health demands but by volume and dollars produced, the industry will grow.

Only 1 percent of the total water available on earth is considered fresh water and available for human consumption. Industrialized countries are consuming more than our share of water and pressures are coming to bear for us to provide decent levels of water to the rest of civilization.

We have all heard about some of the horrors of chlorine, yet chlorine is widely used in our industry for stain removal and disinfection of linen. The application and use of Ozone along with new technology will help to maintain the vibrancy of the present linen supply industry and provide environmental conservation.

The pressures that are being brought to bear on the laundry industry by the unions may change the dynamics of the industry. Unions seem to be pressuring industry on the wash practices that have been accepted for years. This pressure may cause many large laundries to adjust practices and pricing that will affect the rental industry. If linen rental increases disproportionately to labor costs it may become more practical for present OPL’s to reconsider closing or outsourcing and remain in business as an OPL. Some may give up present day outsourcing and convert to in house operations. This would provide some benefits to them that would be too costly to give up.

Blood borne pathogens, airborne bacteria, SARS and other communicable diseases would require less handling and transportation of contaminated linen. New rules, laws and practices along with personal demands can place intractable demands on industry that could force a ground swell of end users to set up their own controlled laundry facilities. This change in dynamics could only be one part of the change. The use of water and chemicals as they affect our air quality and waste water treatment facilities may also impact on the design, operation and costs of operating a large laundry processing plant. Here again, sanitation and disinfection is critical but the low cost use of chlorine may prove to be costly in many other ways.

Better use of present day processing equipment, more efficient design criteria and the honest effort of chemical companies to help provide the tools and the methods to work with those companies that are providing new techniques to the industry, are in order.

Arnaud Henrard - Altec, President
For many years, consolidations and price sensitivity challenged the industry in providing reliable linen and equipment at reasonable prices. The industry needed the added pressure to become leaner and healthier. Unfortunately, these changes also brought some undesirable consequences that will in the long term negatively impact the industry.

Price wars have forced manufacturers to invest most of their efforts in cutting costs of existing products rather than spending it in research and development. This comes at a time when new reforms are essential to meet today’s demands in protection of people and the environment.

The industry needs to realize that it will be better positioned for the future if it stops selling on prices and starts selling on added value. Fortunately, I notice that some of our customers, especially in the hospitality industry, lure customers back to their premises by offering better products and higher standards of services. Many hotels and restaurants now offer better linen and are more critical of its feel and look.

The industry will grab hold of this trend and use it to rebound by selling added value, reach healthier margins, and invest in new products that would improve living conditions of future generations.
To summarize, the industry will take advantage of the recent surge in interest for better linen and better quality to stop selling on price and start selling on added value. The healthier margins are essential to ensure that manufacturers can properly invest in new technologies that will meet the demands in protection of people and the environment.

David H. Cotter - Textile Care Allied Trades Association, CEO
For the future I believe that consolidations will continue. They’ve already been pretty dramatic. What I’ve seen and think will continue, particularly on the distribution side, is companies finding a nitch or gearing their businesses more to service and less towards moving product.

Obviously, there’s still pressure from overseas and we’ve seen some companies take their manufacturing operations partly off shore. I think that will continue for a while and it’s partially due to government policies and NAFTA which has opened up the US market overseas.

Skip Kemberling  - KEMCO, CEO
I believe that industry will grow at a slightly faster rate than the GPD rate. Industry will consolidate with more than 75 percent of volume being concentrated in 5-10 corporations (versus independent and family). Institutional, hotel, hospital will continue to out-source versus in-house service at about the same rate.

In the future I believe the trend will be to diversify into products which require distribution and services capabilities available in our industry. Consolidation and automation will provide economy of scale to give our industry the ability to be the single source for our clients. Energy and water availability will be a major concern. Textiles cost and availability will ease due to global sourcing.

Robert Fesmire Jr - Ellis Corp, Director of Sales and Marketing
We see a continuing push for automation to increase efficiencies and the overall workflow in the plant. We also see a great desire for wastewater reuse. This is a big trend with our customers. They want to be able to reuse more than just their rinse water to drive their operating costs down. Single source responsibility is also an important but slower burning trend. Our customers find it increasingly desirable to contact one company who is the OEM for as much of their needs as possible.

Mike Dreher - Kannegiesser-USA, President
We see a trend to more efficient systems saving labor, floor space and utilities. Two distinct tendencies are clear: first, the necessity for “over-width” finishing systems (feeders/ ironers/folders), and second the advanced technology of extraction devices behind tunnels.

Leo Yokiel - Maytag, Director of Marketing
First of all, I believe the outlook for the commercial laundry industry is a bright one. Manufacturers and suppliers will continue to work with customers to provide the best equipment possible. Some things are ongoing like equipment that is easy to operate and will last a long time. Machines that are simple to use, have flexibility in programming and one touch operation.

One of the biggest challenges that face the industry is the rapidly rising cost of utilities primarily water and energy-electric and gas. Manufacturers are responding to this challenge by producing washers that use less water and energy, machines that have higher extract speeds and use inverter drive. The more water that can be extracted, the less dry time needed.

Manufacturers are also going to washers with larger capacities. If you can reduce the number of loads you can reduce the cost to run the machine. I believe you will see more machines with computer controls for bulk chemical injection to make the most efficient use of chemicals.

I believe you will see more government regulation regarding the efficiency of future washers. Currently the commercial washer industry does not fall under the federal energy standards; many states such as California have enacted their own energy standards as they relate to water and energy use for commercial washers sold in that state. Without some sort of federal standard, individual states can mandate their own standards which could vary on a state by state basis making it difficult for manufacturers to comply. Manufacturers and distributors along with their trade associations need to work together for a single federal energy standard.

Dryer safety is also becoming more of an issue. You will see more dryers with fire suppression systems built into them.

Jim Thacker - NAILM, Executive Director
"The laundry & textile care industry has suffered the same woes as other industries facing a tough economic period during the past couple of years. We believe the industry is headed toward a future where the efficiency of an operation is even more important than it is today. While a particular operation may have been efficient in the past, we're asking our members to ask themselves the question, 'How can we continue to be efficient in the future?' It is NAILM's goal to provide the education necessary to allow our members to answer that question affirmatively. In a future where efficiency is king, knowledge is power and that's what NAILM is dedicated to providing."

Michael Wilson - TRSA, Director of Government Affairs
“TRSA will continue to address various legislative and regulatory issues relevant to the industrial laundries. TRSA is acting on a variety of industry-specific issues, including: working to eliminate commercial competition from the Federal Prison Industries (FPI) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); supporting the permanent repeal of the federal estate tax; and ensuring that OSHA does not establish a broad new ergonomics standards for the industry. TRSA also continues to monitor issues that are forecast to have an impact on the industry in the near future. Examples of such issues are: the pending Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Shop Towel rule; EPA’s shift from treatment technology to water quality based controls with regard to discharge limitations; the possibility of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Center of Disease Control (CDC) and EPA regulations being established to address concerns about SARS, Smallpox, and other biological hazards.”

Steve Tinker - Gurtler Industries Inc., Director, Research & Development
The biggest factor that will impact the laundry industry in the next few years will be the advancement in new textiles and fabric finishes. This advancement will require new and different chemistry that will assure good soil removal without harming the fabrics or the finishes. In addition, lower temperature cleaning will become the norm as improved surfactant and polymer technologies are introduced.

On the regulatory front, I expect that laundry chemistry will soon go through a major change as manufacturers convert to detergents that are more biodegradable and environmentally friendly. This may be accelerated by government regulations, such as we see happening in Europe and Canada. Any change like this will require a reformulation of nearly every liquid detergent currently on the market. Although there should not be an impact on quality and overall performance, there will be a cost associated with this change that will have to be absorbed by the industry. But the bright side is that these newer detergents tend to perform better on oily soils especially on polyester fabrics.

Ross West - Colmac Industries, Inc., VP Marketing
Ergonomics and economics, I think, are major issues when you consider the working conditions and employee absenteeism and turnover in laundries and drycleaners. With summer upon us, the work environment will go from hot to hotter, the work will be more exhausting and the probability of making mistakes will increase. Also, employee productivity will diminish while absenteeism and turnover will increase as the temperature rises.

Insulating tunnel finishers, redesigned exhaust systems, pulling more excess heat and steam not needed for recirculation back to the tunnel, for evacuation away from the workplace results in cooler, less humid work environment.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Crothall Employee Critically Injured

ROME, Ga. — A steam explosion which critically injured a maintenance worker is under investigation at Crothall Laundry Services. There were no other injures. Crothall Laundry Services provides linen and laundry services to medical facilities.