Once upon a time, all accommodation providers managed their own housekeeping and linen departments. In a large property, housekeeping was often the largest department and biggest headache!
Managing and facilitating both housekeeping and linen within a hotel is a costly and time consuming affair, not to mention the need for space to house all the equipment. One way to solve this expensive problem is outsourcing. Many accommodation managers have already discovered outsourcing as a productive way to manage expenditure, better manage time and resources, and maintain a high level of guest service.
Within the industry, housekeeping and laundry are now commonly outsourced. Many have analysed the pros and cons of outsourcing, and frequently the pros have outweighed the cons… But what are some of the possible pitfalls?
Some accommodations, even well-known brands, have come unstuck thanks to sham contracting. The entire industry has, at times, found itself embroiled in a tangled web of employee/contractor problems. Clearly, outsourcing is a legitimate business arrangement but in highly competitive markets for low-skilled work, it could increase the risk of underpaid workers. As a business near the top of the supply chain you (as an accommodation provider) must be the price-maker and settings controller.
It is vital that before you outsource, you do some research and find an outsourcing business with an outstanding reputation within the sector. Take care to ensure that misrepresentations in employment are not made regarding the true nature of a worker’s engagement: if you don’t do this, you risk exposure to prosecution and pecuniary penalties for breaching the Fair Work Act.
How can outsourcing to a reputable service provider help your business?
Task focused. Commercial laundries are all about the linen. They are set up to handle large volumes of linen from a variety of sources, and they have the facilities to wash, dry and iron hundreds of kilograms of linen each day with trained staff to cope with it all.
Some can also offer a linen rental service where the linen is owned, managed, and replaced by the laundry, while others simply launder the accommodation facility’s own linen.
Outsourced housekeeping companies have their eye on hygiene and can provide a very attentive service.
Financial benefits can come from outsourcing. Streamlining what you do allows your business to focus more on guests and increasing profits.
Peace of mind for accommodation managers, if you work alongside your outsourced company, you can achieve great results without the headache of managing a huge team of housekeepers yourself.
Analysis of your linen/housekeeping processes, budget, needs, standards and ideal schedule, carried out by the outsourcing company can prove useful.
Save time, for you and your team because it’s precious.
Storage ability. Outsourcing means there is no need to dedicate space for laundry equipment, or to accommodate large staff teams.
Increased standards. Monitor standards to ensure a top-notch service and if you are not happy, change to another service provider. This power gives you more of a guarantee that cleaning and linen will exceed the standards achieved in-house, which may not be fully equipped to cope with the required turnaround or have the most up-to-date machinery.
Cost, demand and competition determine this! Beware, the cheapest provider is not always the one for you. Remember to make sure employees are paid correctly.
Consistency. Monitor standards and the quality of service/product. Sheets and towels, for example, can be replaced by the laundry when required rather than proving a budget constraint.
You are relieved of personnel headaches. With less staff to manage, you can feel relieved, use your free time for other things and increase the budget in other areas.
Reduce your carbon footprint. Use your buying power to outsource with a sustainable business; some outsourced cleaning and linen contractors have state-of-the-art machinery and earth-friendly practices.
Laundering is a harsh process that uses up resources, as well as harsh chemicals during the washing process; however, sustainability is much more attainable by an outsourced laundry contractor because they have more of a customer-driven incentive to reduce their carbon footprint.
Most commercial cleaning businesses do have eco-friendly cleaning practices and products, but some are more committed than others.
Increase environmental efficiency. Again, choose a provider who (at the operational level) practices environmental efficiency. Many leading commercial laundries and cleaners focus on reducing water and energy use.
We hear from Robert Herz, managing director at Sunshine Linen Services P/L. He describes what he believes are the main benefits when outsourcing linen:
Avoid the CAPEX of the linen purchase because the linen hire service now bears this cost.
Avoid the cost of linen replacement due to age and ordinary wear-and-tear because the linen service is responsible for maintaining the linen stock on an ongoing basis.
Maintain the quality of the linen throughout the term of the contract; a good linen service will maintain the quality of the stock through an ongoing replacement and renewal program.
Generous stock: it is typical that hotels owning their own linen are driven to minimise cost by minimising linen ownership and postponing or avoiding ongoing linen replacement. The outcome is insufficient linen onsite, with negative flow-on effects for housekeeping management and efficient room return.
Once deliveries become time critical, due to linen shortage, housekeeping’s job becomes impossible; if anything goes wrong with delivery schedules, housekeeping is starved of linen, rooms are returned late or not at all, leading to unhappy guests and unsold rooms resulting in chaos.
On the other hand, when a laundry provides linen rental with correct stocking, housekeeping runs efficiently, delivery disruptions are immaterial, deliveries are no longer time critical and all rooms are returned to service on time, with a minimum housekeeping labour input. Hotels will notice labour savings in their housekeeping department.
Flexible: a good linen service provides stock flexibility.
This can sometimes include different stock balances to reflect changing occupancy patterns at the hotel. At times, a hotel may need higher levels of certain products, and at other times, lower levels. The ability of the rental linen service to adapt deliveries to the hotel’s requirements is key to efficient supply and maximum room use. Need more stock due to a busy time? Just call the linen rental laundry…
A linen buffer: a good rental linen service will encourage a customer to hold enough linen on site to deal with the sudden increases in demand.
Better quality: when hotels use their own linen, there is pressure to continue using items way beyond their ‘use-by date’.
On the other hand, when they are receiving rental linen, the linen rental laundry works with the hotel to ensure that linen is replaced as and when it becomes necessary. The hotel will therefore avoid making up rooms with linen that sells the hotel short on quality. A good linen rental laundry builds its reputation on the quality of its linen and is more than happy to work with the hotel to continuously improve standards.
Cost advantage: linen rental services are able to bring to bear production and buying advantages to the overall cost of supply, making linen rental more cost-efficient and therefore cheaper overall than customer-owned linen.
Mr Herz expands on how outsourced linen rental and laundry works…
The right start-up stock level is established, based on room configuration, delivery schedule and length of stay characteristics. This is best done as a joint effort, combining the knowledge of housekeeping and the linen hire service. These figures are critical to the smooth operation of supply and must be subject to variation in accordance with the dynamic and changing requirements of the hotel. Proactive flexibility is the key, as well as ongoing good communication between the linen hire service and the hotel.
An ongoing supply and re-supply schedule must be established, guided by the hotel’s usage and occupancy. Deliveries should always be at least a day in advance of requirement, to facilitate good distribution through the hotel and to allow housekeeping maximum staffing flexibility. Again, good communication between the hotel and the linen hire service is critical to successful supply and re-supply.
Regular stock-taking and adjustments. Inevitably, imbalances will occur in a hotel’s stock both in terms of oversupply and undersupply. Regular stock-taking allows the hotel and the linen hire service to correct these imbalances and ensure that the right linen is onsite at the hotel.
Sharing information is of utmost importance. A linen hire service needs to know the hotel’s business forecast so as it can be ready to supply the hotel’s changing requirements. The linen hire service can then be flexible to the hotel’s requirements.
The most important thing to remember, is that the linen rental service and housekeeping department work best when they work together!
Mr Herz examines how a linen hire service should manage quality…
They should carry the right linen standard, matching the requirements of hotel customer. Quality starts with the quality of the linen owned by the linen hire service.
They should own the right quantity of linen for each customer, with ample stock on hand at the laundry to allow for replacement of stock as required. If the linen rental service does not own enough linen for its customers, linen will degrade quickly.
They should implement an ongoing linen replacement programme. Every single day, the linen rental service will need to remove damaged, stained or aged linen from the customer’s stock, and replace it with new linen. While linen has a theoretical life, things happen to make individual pieces of linen inadequate for use, and they must be replaced as part of linen rental service procedures.
Quality should be controlled. The linen rental service must have quality control procedure to identify and remove faulted linen from circulation. An important element of this is an effective rewash and stain treatment programme to return good linen to circulation. It is recommended that the linen service keep records of rejection and manage them as a KPI.
Your accommodation should be a quality partner: when items reach the hotel that should not have, the hotel can support the linen rental service’s quality management by separating rejected linen and returning it to the linen service’s attention. It is recommended that the linen service keep records of rejection and manage them as a KPI.
AS4146 – Australian Standard for Laundry Practice. All good linen rental services should meet and exceed the requirements of AS4146. This is your guarantee of absolute hygiene. Linen hire services that do not meet or exceed this standard cannot provide quality.
ISO Accreditation. Quality linen rental services should be capable of meeting ISO Standards by having a Quality Management System in place.