The last few months have been about facing the pandemic, but now there is a shift in the approach. With businesses reopening, the focus is on accepting the pandemic and growing from there. In this exclusive interview, Tim Bacon, Director Middle East, Africa and India, Alliance Laundry Systems LLC, talks to Clean Middle East about the new innovations and trends seen in the ‘new normal’ and the current need of the hour in the laundry industry.
What approach has Alliance Laundry Systems taken post the onset of the pandemic?
From the outset, the health and safety of our team has been paramount. Our first focus was to ensure we supported each and every team member around the world in the best way possible given each country's unique challenges. We have also taken this time to ensure our technology, design, production and sales and service teams are aligned with a post- COVID world - meaning we are agile, adaptable and committed to achieving customer needs. We remain in a leading position to fully support all of our partners and customers as they face up to new challenges.
In terms of a direct response, we immediately ramped up the production of barrier washing machines used in healthcare institutions by 300% to cope with the increased demand and to enable rapid deployment in the field. We also partnered with Stanford University to develop a viral decontamination protocol for N-95 masks. This uses the unique attributes of the Unimac 75lb tumble dryer (over 100,000 in the marketplace) to extend the lifespan of this critical piece of PPE by up to three times.
Alliance Laundry Systems engineers and research lab staff worked tirelessly to help craft this repeatable decontamination protocol and to supply supporting test data. We could not be prouder to help research a way to protect the brave men and women in healthcare and first-responder roles, who are on the front lines of this COVID-19 fight every day.
Do you plan to launch any new services this year?
In addition to thermal disinfection programs already introduced on our smaller machines for multihousing use, we continue to listen to our customers, and we do see a dynamic change in the industry. This change requires us to be faster, more flexible and focused on utilizing new technologies to drive higher value to our customers. They are looking to us to leverage technology in solving their laundry and laundry business challenges.
With this in mind, our technology innovation and digital services team are rolling out the next generation of on-board technologies and digital offerings to solve our customers’ biggest challenges. One of our latest launches is an integrated application covering a payment gateway, resource management, fiscal reporting and even smart linen management all in one simple, easy to use platform.
What are some trends that you’re seeing in your sector (Post COVID)?
The most significant trend we have seen recently is the growth of inhome laundry - more people are doing their laundry at home using professional machines where they can control the process and where they do not have to venture outside. This is particularly prevalent in homes with people at risk.
The adoption of contamination protocols in progressive laundries (not just healthcare) is another fast growing trend and as laundries become more familiar with RABC norms (Risk Analysis and Bio-contamination Control - like HACCP for laundry!) we forecast this to continue. Whilst this has traditionally been seen as the role of a barrier machine, we are seeing a blending of new processes with existing technology to minimise reinvestment.
One other focus area for customers is being able to validate a laundry process - customers are requesting even basic machines to have this level of reporting whereby a machine can download the exact temperatures and times of various stages of a program. What was once an option is now compulsory.
What is the current need of the hour in the laundry sector?
As a global company, I think each region in which we operate has different priorities and hence the needs will differ. For our region of MEAI, I think the continual easing of international travel is very much needed and appreciated from an industry continuity perspective. From a business segment standpoint, I would say that laundries need to reposition themselves to be a partner in hygiene and personal safety rather than a simple washing service.