The Testile Service Association’s s Scottish Conference, held in Edinburgh 20 – 22 October, had an international flavour with three representative from the Russian textile care industry and on the speakers platform Steve Spreir from Disney Corporation , Orlando,.

After the welcome by chairman Michael jones, TSA president John Shonfeld underlined this international note by highlighting the effects that EU legislation was having on the UK textile care businesses. He cited a member who was being pursued by the Job centre for advertising for a driver over 25, in compliance with his insurers conditions. Shonfeld had recently addressed the European Parliament and explained the impact of increasing globalisation on SME’s.

Selwyn Burchardt of Kannegiesser distributor Ducker started the future predictions by looking at laundry operation. We would always owe much to the past – the archimedian screw principle is still used in today’s tunnel washers.

The aim of future laundry development would be to make life easier for the operator and to improve productivity. Proven automation is already available throughout the process. Currently a rate of 180 – 220 pieces per operator hour is possible, but this can still be improved by filling some missing links: auto location of each piece to the feeder, and intelligent folding based on length and width.

He foresaw greater use of the Internet in processes, and a high proportion of future development would rely on RFID technology for precise identification and tracking.

The UK might adopt automation for delivering and loading goods onto lorries as laundries do already on the continent. As this automation continues to progress we might see productivity rise virtually ten fold to 13,000 – 20,000 pieces per operator hour.

On the environmental and cost front, we could see energy monitoring systems that would measure exact consumptions per piece and this could link to taxation systems.

The workwear industry is as competitive and price pressured now as it was in the 1980s , but the nature of the clothing has changed greatly, much influenced by leisure wear said Tom Black of Carrington Career and Workwear.

Future garments might owe much to technologies such as nano technology. Garments might be able to adapt with the environment, so we could wear the same clothes in hot and cold areas.

We already have garments with odours built in. Could hospitals be able to use garments with medicines that would be slowly absorbed into the body, or that would monitor patients.

In 2020 could we see garments becoming wearable computers – certainly scientists are already working on concepts such as garments with memory chips.

Sue Davies from Richard Haworth, gave a personal view of the textile developments the market needs. The market is cost conscious, but should take into account the whole-life costs of an item. We need to look at products which reduce processing costs, with good stain release for example, and at those which cut the customers labour costs such as easy-change duvet covers and valances.

Davies also saw more emphasis on market niches. The growing number of boutique hotels are attracting brand-aware, more demanding customers and therefore want higher quality linen. This produces challenges for the laundry as such linens are not only more expensive but need gentler handling and have a shorter life. Will this lead to separate plants, or even separate businesses for niche work?

We can also expect to see different textiles coming on to the market, organic cotton, bamboo, soya, hemp. Charles Betteridge from Christeyns, took a broad view of the influences likely to affect the textile care industries.

Energy costs will continue to rise, addressing climate change is a becoming high priority. The environment is an ever present influence and the industry will see more legislation, in this respect. Are we underestimating the effects of EU energy and water directives on our industry? Workplace legislation is increasing, affecting wages, working hours, and the retirement age. A widening Eu brings with it potentially greater choice in employment, and a body of workers willing to work for less than the minimum which could even push the minimum down.

To keep competitive Betteridge suggested focussing on five areas: increasing productivity; improving performance and knowledge; identifying high margin niches; providing personalised services, and using more efficient communication technology. Throughout the supply chain there will be more just-in-time operation, activity based pricing, a wider range of services and more flexible contracts.

In looking at employment, Robin Rhodes examined common preconceptions. For example tribunals are widely disliked. A CBI survey of 450 companies found that firms with fewer than 50 employees settled every claim even if they might win, and 45 % believed tribunals were ineffective . However tribunals don’t make laws they apply them. So far in 2006, there had been 33 acts of parliament and 1000plus regulations.

Perhaps there is less need for concern about tribunals. If you are faced with a tribunal hearing on unfair dismissal and concerned about the result – then something has already gone wrong. The process has been revised and is not necessarily weighted against the employer.

Finishing on a satirical note he imagined the extension of the nanny state’s anti-discrimination laws to include the inability discrimination act “ a law that “would be hailed by people with little ability”.

After these various future visions Stuart Corrigan of management consultant, Vanguard Scotland struck the note for a theme that would carry into the next session. His speciality was managing change. We are born resistant to change he told the audience. Even his baby son recognises and objects to changes in routine.

But in business change is often essential. He gave some pointers.

Change the system, not the people

Be ready to challenge beliefs.

Make it easy for the customers. Listen to what they say at every stage of your business.

Measure what matters to the customers.

Design to meet actual demand. one fireplace manufacturer produced batches of 42, but the reality was that most customers only buy one

Always keep focussed on your purpose. many managers have initiatives that are irrelevant.

Incentives, bonuses and targets do not help productivity.

Only do work that has true value as this will help productivity.Finally, don’t be complacent don’t keep saying OK.

P& O Cruises” hotel operations manager, Richard Godwin is responsible for controlling all aspects of hotel management for five ships with a sixth being launched. That covers 5,973 passenger cabins, 4,360,290 passengers, 5,000 crew, 30 restaurants, 6 spas, 12, swimming pools, and 6 medical centres. The ship’s laundry service on board is just a part this massive scale operation and has to handle linen/clothes for all the ship’s needs, including some passenger clothing, special uniforms,and costumes for the entertainers. Ships do weddings and provide an on-the-day pressing service for the bridal gown.

The laundry service operates 24 hours with 1 laundry master, 13 day workers and 5 night workers. It has to overcome all the problems of working in limited space in a self-contained environment, away from back-up services. It also has to work to strict hygiene controls operating as it does in a close community with the infection control problems this involves.

Facts and figures backed up the scale of the management problems involved.

The final speaker, Steve Spreir operations manager at Disney Corporation Orlando had a different take on a large scale operation. His staff work with little supervision.

It has not always been run this way, but 10 years ago he realised his operation had to add value to the laundry. It’s not core business. It could be outsourced.

He began to change the operation. He was prepared to expand, but he realised he also needed to turn the laundry into a full textile services operation. That meant a change in the management’s relationship to staff so the manager’s role was one of teaching, empowering and supporting.

Spreir aimed “to create a high performance team by encouraging them to do what they do well.” In the spirit of Disney’s theatrical/ fantasy resort – his team members are not employees but cast members. At the heart of the strategy is commitment on both sides.

The management is committed to its cast members and making sure they know the importance of their roles. They are taken round the hotels and to the parades so they can the end results of their work.

The textile services cast members are international and include speakers of 35 different languages. Interpreters will work alongside them.

The staff have to give total commitment. If a disaster breaks out when they are on leave, that leave is cancelled.

The philosophy is one of self management. Cast members assess their managers rather than vice versa. They help to set the budget by setting their own productivity targets. It’s a philosophy that works. Staff turnround is the lowest in the resort at just 5%.

The conference has a strong social side, Friday night saw the formal dinner dance with the traditional piping in of the haggis.

Golf and clay pigeon shooting were arranged plus a tour of Edinburgh, and the city itself had plenty of other tourist and retail attractions.

Picture of Edinburgh courtesy of Visit Scotland. For more information on taking a break in Scotland go or> /citybreaks or telephone 0845 22 55 121.

John Shonfeld
NTERNATIONAL NOTE: TSA president John Shonfeld highlighted the growing impact of EU legislation

Edinburgh Castle
ATTRACTIONS: The Edinburgh venue offered many attractions to conference delegates and their partners

Stuart Corrigan
ACCEPT CHANGE: Stuart Corrigan stressed the importance of being willing to change

EMPOWERING: Steve Spreir, seen here in one of the laundries, wants cast members to feel empowered and he tells them: “I want your brains as well as your hands”