Who can blame them? A few months ago, no one could tell what COVID-19 would mean to all of us. In a recent webinar hosted by the Clean Middle East, along with guest speaker – Joseph Ricci, the TRSA President & CEO, the industry got an insight into what the linen and laundry industry is witnessing worldwide. These certainly are the most challenging times, and we cannot emphasize enough on the significance of the effective measures that should be taken while handling linen and at the same time the necessary precautions that must be taken to deliver clean and hygienic linen.
The webinar witnessed a tremendous turnout and kept the audience engaged with interesting facts and figures that Ricci offered during his presentation. Ricci touched upon how the international market scenario was a very positive one with growth being seen during the ‘pre-COVID’ era - with the majority of the sales coming from various sectors including uniforms, healthcare, hotels, F&B restaurants, etc. Ricci said that economists who were working with TRSA informed that the Middle East & Asia Pacific were some of the regions where the opportunities were very promising in the ‘pre-COVID’ time.
However, post-COVID the impact is being witnessed by the world over, and the laundry industry is not far behind. While the numbers are far less in the Middle East compared to some other regions, Ricci denotes that there has been a sudden drop-off in the workforce, healthcare sector, and hotel linen. The operational impact post-COVID has been one that most could relate to in the present scenario – closing of plants; reduced workforce; delayed/ reduced orders, etc.
The webinar then touched upon some of the best practices that are being followed internationally. There were a lot of questions about the kind of wash cycles, chemicals, and precautions one should take. Ricci said that while the laundries can continue to apply normal wash formulas, it is key to increase the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the workforce and improve hygiene and cleanliness in the premises. The webinar then shed light on the kind of support laundries can provide their clients at the time of crisis.
Ricci says that communication is a key element here. By bringing out quality content in the form of videos, posters, etc., can help in regaining trust in the customers. Another key aspect discussed during the webinar was the alternate revenue opportunities a laundry can look into during the time of crisis. Some of the suggestions were: providing cleaning supplies; distribution of hand-sanitizer/ antiseptic; getting into direct sales products, i.e., masks and other PPE; assisting other laundry operators (overflow); and replacing hotel OPLs that are operating minimal laundering.
However, it is also important to note that laundries need to be prepared for what the market will behold once the pandemic has come to an end. Ricci says that post-crisis strategic resilience opportunities should be taken into consideration. Sustainability will be the keyword in this stage, i.e., maintaining inventory levels and reduce depletion of natural resources etc. The approach towards the washing process will surely change with heightened precautions being taken towards cleanliness & hygiene in the laundry and among the staff as well.
Outsourcing from OPLs will also see an increase, notes Ricci. One has to remain hopeful and utilize this time to think of innovative ways one can help the supply chain and create more awareness. No doubt we are all in this together and together the world will come out stronger.