The chief executive of the Textile Services Association, Murray Simpson, outlined proposals that will radically change the structure of TSA.

Speaking to more than 90 delegates and guests attending the TSA Scottish Conference 2005 at the Moat House Hotel on Clydeside, Simpson said adoption of the proposals would enable the TSA to become more streamlined. A small board of directors would run the association, meeting monthly, and be responsible for the day-to-day commercial running of the association and ensuring that it achieved its objectives.

Direction of policy for each sector and prioritisation of key interests would come from a new commercial services board and new drycleaning sector board. This would separate commercial management from strategic thinking and greatly enhance the effectiveness of the association.

It is hoped to have the new structure in place for April 2006.

The conference was opened by TSA President Ivan Kerry. The TSA Scottish Conference always attracts a keen following every year since its inception 86 years ago and this year saw a 10% increase in attendance for the third year in a row.

The Scottish TSA Committee under the chairmanship of Tom Black sought to follow up last year’s success with an even ‘meatier’ programme and they achieved their aim. The conference began with a meeting of the TSA Auxiliary Members who heard Mike Palin of Technical Matters present an update of the work of the TSA Technical Services Committee.

Palin described the important work being done with the NHS to update the hospital laundry disinfection arrangements. Even before the current problems with nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections, the existing government code (HSG 95(18)) was ”out of date and needing revision”.

To kick-start the process and get the various government agencies moving, the TSA had made an offer of funding to the National Patient Safety Agency.

The TSA technical services committee wholeheartedly endorsed the European Standard for management of biocontamination of healthcare textiles (EN14065) and is seeking to develop a full accreditation scheme for members who wish to become certified for compliance.

This is seen as being the natural successor to ISO 9000:2000 accreditation and represents a major means by which the discerning purchaser can differentiate between suppliers.

Textile rental – US style, was the opening address of the main conference by Roger Coccivera, president of the Textile Rental Services of America. He is backing the proposed and long overdue merger of the separate associations serving flatwork renters and workwear renters in the USA to produce a single unified body serving the entire industry, as in the UK.

The US industry is experiencing turnover growth of 7.4% and earnings growth of 3.4%, with healthcare rental linen showing its biggest growth for years. He said attitudes are changing because it is now recognised that “for a US hospital to have a laundry does not make commercial sense”.

He said that growth in healthcare is being driven by changes in regulation. The TRSA has set up a Healthcare Accreditation Council which links into other controlling bodies in the healthcare sector.

As a result, any healthcare laundry handling linen potentially fouled with blood-borne pathogens must now be audited to Healthcare Accreditation Council standards.

Consolidation of the US rental industry has resulted in 3,000 separate organisations reduced to just 1,000, with four companies accounting for about 69% of the sector’s total turnover.

Companies are tackling the ‘stagnation in pricing’ by growing through the provision of other office services such as bulk shredding of documents, water, coffee and tea machines.

The fight for re-usable surgical textiles versus disposables is as hard fought in the US as in the UK. In every disposable OR (Operating Room) pack, 40% of items are never used and are thrown away. The US rental target is for re-usables to take 30% of the market by 2006 and 50% by 2008. This can be achieved by educating staff in professional knowledge-based techniques.

There is also constructive planning to reverse the trend in restaurants to disposable napkins and tablecloths. “Squirting and wiping is not sanitary,” said Coccivera, and this needs to be explained and supported with credible data. He extended an invitation to a TSA delegation to come and see plants in the USA. “Together we have much to learn from each other!”

Nick Cook of Barcellos updated delegates on the latest developments in RFD technology. He described the radio frequency tag as an ‘electronic barcode’ with a diameter down to as little as 11mm, a reading speed of 1-2 seconds, multi-read capability and an extraordinarily low failure rate when compared with a conventional barcode. These features justified the cost of 60-70 pence/tag when compared with the 8-9 pence per barcode label.

The latest tags can handle being washed 200 times at 90C, drycleaned, pressed in a 22bar membrane press and finished 170C in a steam air finisher.

Cook predicted that electronic tags in garments will replace barcodes within five years. Coccivera stated that in the US he is now using data gleaned from scanning of soiled linen to bill the customer directly and foresees the ‘laser thread’ as taking the place of the chip in flat work applications.

Roger Waistell of Exclusive Linens spoke on the use of brand identity in linen supply with a review of textile terminology. Delegates were taken through carding, super carding and combing to the production of percale with a typical construction of 100×80 threads per inch. The production of a percale sheet with over 180 threads per square inch is now possible up to a maximum thread count of 300 threads per square inch (one over, one under). If a weaver can blow four over, four under it is now possible to achieve a sheet with 800 threads per square inch. The textile rental industry makes little use of this means of differentiating rental quality and it is unlikely that the industry will ever utilise thread from the Giza region of Egypt to achieve sheets which retail in Harrods for £125 each, or sea island cotton which retail for £860 each.

Brand identity is well-used by hotel groups in defining bed make-up which is seen as an integral part of the room design. This is not reflected in the rental offer, with only a few rental operators offering textile differentiation to meet customer requirements.

Delegates were presented with some sobering statistics from the TSA’s 2nd Laundry Cost Index that painted a grim picture of “an industry struggling to cope with spiralling production and direct costs and prices static or falling”. Simpson described the effect of the minimum wage as taking industry costs from £3.60/hour in 1998 to a projected £5.35/hour in October 2006 – a total 50% labour cost increase in eight years.

Energy inflation is currently running at 28% with individual contract increases much higher than this. “There is now no fundamental rationale behind the Climate Change Levy!”

Mike Palin returned on Saturday to present the TSA Code of Practice on the Safe Operation of Tunnel Washers, produced in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive. The code follows a recent fatality and the flaws this exposed across the industry.

Palin described how the TSA committee had to find safe methods which would enable the Health and Safety Executive to continue to permit the industry to allow entry to a washer to clear a blockage. Failure at this point would have rendered most existing designs of washer obsolete on safety grounds.

The TSA document was commended to delegates as being both simple and comprehensive and essential for immediate implementation.

While the status of the guide is advisory, Palin said members can expect to be audited for compliance against it in the event of an accident and non-compliance may well result in prosecution. If there is no reduction in incidents involving tunnel washers, then the guide will have failed and the industry can expect much tougher rules to follow. “It goes without saying that the industry cannot afford another serious incident let alone a fatality,” he said.

Peter Russian, Investors in People Scotland described the whole concept of Investors in People as “a vehicle to change the culture of an organisation, while Shay McConnon enthused delegates with his presentation entitled getting the best out of your people.

Delegates rated this year’s conference as one of the most well-put-together programmes for many years and justified the growing success of the Scottish TSA.

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STRUGGLING TO COPE?: The TSA’s 2nd Laundry Cost Index painted a grim picture