Previous posts in this series have argued that quality standards, regulation and compliance to international best practices are critical if the UAE commercial laundry industry is to fulfil its potential of becoming a world leader in quality, innovation and environmental responsibility. We can no longer accept a situation where the lack of quality standards results in a ‘race to the bottom’ - a ‘vicious circle’ of aggressive price competition often at the expense of quality, hygiene standards, risk to the end consumer and laundry employee safety.
To achieve and maintain high quality standards, a skilled workforce is required. Staff training, continuous professional development and agreed career progression paths are critical to ensuring quality conscious employees. Delivering high quality output to a discerning customer base across the leisure, hospitality, healthcare and construction industries requires quality staff, rewarded appropriately. We need to remove the sweatshop image of commercial laundry.
The lack of qualified, trained staff is one of the major barriers facing commercial launderers in the region in meeting the rapidly growing demand for sustainable high quality output. There is simply not enough expertise in the region. If the market is to develop to its full potential then large scale, in-depth and on-going training is required.
Arpal Gulf has long argued that education is a critical pillar of future success, enabling the industry to handle volume growth at a high quality level consistently and within budget. Back in 2007, we proposed that training was the future of the industry and hosted a laundry seminar in Dubai. It was evident at the time that the laundry market was not prepared to make the required investment in professional training.
A decade later, this attitude needs to change. Any market driven by the cheapest price alone will inevitably cause a negative impact on quality. Commercial laundry should be viewed as a process delivering quality, not the lowest price. Most laundry work is ‘seen and touched’ by paying guests and customers. The ‘product’ is a reflection of the quality values of the hotel or restaurant. It is one of the main products that guests see, determining in their minds whether an establishment is quality driven or not. In an era of customer-to-customer reviews on Tripadvisor and similar peer review sites, the risk of reputational damage from poor quality laundry is high.
There needs to be wider acceptance that investment in employee training, both for new and existing employees, is crucial to ensuring that workplace safety, productivity, and customer satisfaction levels are enhanced and exceeded. This needs to be accompanied by improvements in management communications, employee motivation and employee recognition.
Training is required not only in the proper use of detergents but across the entire laundry operation. Managers, supervisors, engineers and operatives should all be involved to ensure that the industry keeps pace with accepted international best practice. The level and type of training should be customised to the specific needs of different types of employee - operators, supervisors, engineers and managers.
Training for engineers should include the following: washer extractor operation; tumble dryer maintenance; ironer optimisation; garment finishing equipment; utilities; environmental impact; health and safety; laundry troubleshooting; overall effect of good engineering on laundry cost, quality and productivity.
Training for supervisors or aspiring supervisors should cover knowledge development and practical skills in the following areas: health and safety; people and supervisory skills; washing and finishing technology; operating cost control; product quality; machine productivity; and customer care.
For laundry operating staff, training should cover all aspects of working in a laundry including: health & safety; classification of items; wash process; drying; pressing and finishing; packing and distribution.
Investing in staff training will deliver a wide range of business benefits to the professional launderer. It will result in a happier, more productive workforce delivering the highest quality standards now expected by customers in a highly competitive and discerning market place.
By ensuring that the investment made in staff training is fully aligned with and supportive of agreed business goals and objectives, the following outcomes will be achieved - improved health and safety; lower operating costs; enhanced quality of finished items; improved machine and labour productivity; and perhaps most important of all, improved end customer satisfaction.
Specific tangible benefits include:
By mixing classroom with on-the-job and e-learning options, training costs, time off work and interruptions to production schedules can be minimised - where appropriate, accredited qualifications are available.
Many other industries have a very positive attitude to on-going staff training and development. In commercial laundry, we need to make that leap of faith. With booming demand for professional laundry services from increasingly discerning customers, it is now imperative that we invest in our people.
Our customers now expect it.
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