TRSA Draws 500+ for Facilitated Virtual Market Sector Information-Sharing; Launches Market Business Recovery Task Forces

Posted March 30, 2020 at 5:16 pm



As the effects of the COVID-19 virus empties restaurants and hotels, healthcare and other Critical Infrastructure operations such as food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, public works and essential functions struggle to maintain or meet demands. TRSA, the association for linen, uniform and facility services identified a need for these varied market sectors to share information on best practices and swiftly launched a series of market-specific teleconferences pertaining to COVID-19 response and operations.

Recordings of these four events, hosted during the week of March 23, are now available under the “COVID-19” header in TRSA’s On Demand Library at  www.trsa.org/ondemand. All four market-sector teleconferences emphasized the importance of ongoing, transparent and regular communications with employees and customers to reduce anxieties and with business partners such as suppliers, banks, unions, government officials and other critical partners.

Jim Buik, TRSA chair and president, Roscoe Co., emphasized the importance of these meetings and industry information sharing from an operator’s viewpoint. “These calls are very important because they offer a range of perspectives and operational best practices,” Buik said. Highlights of the four teleconferences, in the order they were held, appear below:

Hospitality Sector

Outsourced laundries servicing hotels exchanged ideas for managing though the crisis that has halted most operations. They also discussed plans to ramp operations back up in the coming months. Despite dire near-term predictions, participants remained hopeful to begin serving customers again soon. While much of the discussion centered on seeking financial relief and staying connected with their laid-off or furloughed employees, they did identify several potential post-COVID-19 crisis opportunities such as increased interest in out-sourcing laundry and switching from customer-owned goods (COG) to linen rental to help offset the costs of reopening shuttered hotels. Several participants also discussed servicing properties that have been converted to temporary hospitals. TRSA thanks the more than 120 linen, uniform and facility services operators and suppliers that participated in the teleconference and especially the industry leaders Harry Kertenian, CEO, Magic Laundry Service and Chair of TRSA’s Hospitality Committee; Steve Miller, vice president, Victor Kramer Co.; and Keith Pooler, vice president, Sacramento Laundry Co., who facilitated the discussions, presented a variety of perspectives and answered questions.

F&B/Linen Supply

For the nearly 130 food-and-beverage (F&B) laundry operators and suppliers who participated in TRSA’s market-specific teleconference, the F&B market sector has felt the most profound impact from the COVID crisis with most restaurants either closing or limiting their services to curb-side pickup. Participants shared stories, strategies and tactics for managing through the crisis, including improved inventory management and accounts receivable (AR). The majority have laid off all or most of their employees and are uncertain when, or if, they can restart operations or what the new, post-pandemic F&B market will look like. Participants also discussed tactics for ensuring the health and safety of their employees, customers and communities whether working or at home. Those plants that are still operating have implemented measures to reduce health risks for production and route service representatives (RSRs), including increased personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, rotating breaks/lunches and limiting contact with customers to maximize social distancing. They’ve also increased efforts to disinfect hard surfaces and vehicles. The teleconference was led by Ken Koepper, director, TRSA Membership and Industry Outreach; and included panelists Phoebe Ellis, owner, Lace House Linen Supply; Jesse Jassny, director of sales and service, service linen supply , MediCleanse Linen Service; and Mark Lewis, corporate sales manager, Dempsey Uniform & Linen Supply.

Healthcare Sector

Nearly 200 operator and supplier laundry executives participated in the healthcare market sector discussion facilitated by TRSA Director Randy Bartsch, owner, Ecotex Healthcare Service Linen Corp. The healthcare market has a different set of challenges as compared to the other markets as they prepare for the peak of the pandemic in the coming days/weeks. Surprisingly, many of the laundries servicing both acute healthcare – hospitals and long-term care facilities – and non-acute, such as outpatient surgery centers and medical facilities, are operating below normal volumes due to early-discharge policies and cancellations of elective surgeries. In addition, the healthcare sector has been most impacted by supply chain shortages as hospitals attempt to shift to reusable isolation gowns, surgical scrubs and PPE following the depletion of their disposable products. Before the crisis, healthcare facilities had switched 90 percent of their isolation and surgical gowns to disposable products, despite evidence of additional cost and waste. The new demand for reusables, while more sustainable, has created shortages and an inventory backlog of months. It also underscored the importance of the Hygienically Clean certification, as other laundries, including on-premise and non-healthcare operators attempted to reduce risks to their employees and customers by changing standard operating procedures (SOPs) already followed by certified laundries such as OSHA’s Universal Precautions and increased disinfecting and cleaning protocols. To further mitigate the potential for transmission of the COVID-19 virus, healthcare laundries emphasized the importance of PPE, handwashing and social distancing in the plant and at home, as well as increased education for those handling soiled linens.

The teleconference closed with a detailed question-and-answer session facilitated by Bartsch with panelists Murray Cohen, PhD, MPH, CIH, FAIHA, retired CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) Epidemiologist and chairman, Frontline Healthcare Worker Safety Foundation, and David Goldsmith, Epidemiologist, George Washington University.

Industrial/Workwear Sector

Jim Buik also offered an owner’s perspective (industrial launderer, the Roscoe Co.) during this teleconference. He spoke in-depth about dealing with the impact of COVID-19. “Our first step was to educate ourselves and our team, relying on credible sources such as the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration),” Buik said. He commended the industry’s efforts to help the industry manage during this crisis. “The information TRSA provided at www.trsa.org/covid19 was timely and invaluable. We printed and posted CDC flyers on handwashing and shared information about best practices to ensure we followed them closely. Buik also discussed the impact of Roscoe’s decision to earn Hygienically Clean certifications several years ago which put Roscoe in a better position to serve its customers.

While a slightly smaller group with nearly 100 participants, the teleconference addressed the importance of operations as “essential services” for Critical Infrastructure customers, especially manufacturing of medical supplies and food services, as well as transportation and public services. Discussions focused primarily on employee and customer health and safety, as this sector does not typically handle and process potentially virus-contaminated products.

Participants from the industrial/workwear sector also shared best practices on social distancing in the plant, boosting employee morale and reducing anxiety during these difficult and stressful times. In addition to Chairman Buik, TRSA thanks moderator Israel Cartagena, chair TRSA Industrial/Uniform Committee and Maintenance/Fleet/Utility Team Leader, Roscoe Co.; and panelists Jeff Delazzer, service team leader, Roscoe Co.; and Michael Shulevitz, president, Cadillac Uniform & Linen Supply Inc.

Members expressed appreciation of TRSA’s facilitation of the opportunity that brought the industry together for the greater good.  “I attended all webinars and thought they were well done and informative,” said Greg Brown, of Mickey’s Linen. Tom Yohn of Gurtler Industries agreed. “Very informative. Contributions between competitors that enlighten one another with the sole purpose of EVERYONE in their market segment surviving and working through this together is unbelievable. I’m proud to be associated with TRSA.”

For more information and guidance related to COVID-19, visit TRSA’s COVID-19 Resource Center at https://www.trsa.org/covid19 and register for TRSA’s April 2 COVID-19 Update:  State/Federal Relief Update, Market-Sector Reports and Business Pulse Reports.

These four teleconferences set the stage for TRSA’s organization of Market Sector Business Recovery Task Forces for all market sectors, groups that will strategically examine the potential, long-term impact of the pandemic on each sector and opportunities for the linen, uniform and facility services industry in the new, post-COVID business environment. We need your help! Please contact Ken Koepper at kkoepper@trsa.org for details and to participate in TRSA’s Market Sector Business Recovery Task Forces.

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