With the closure of the Fabric Care Research Association, in January, the industry lost a major asset and resource for training, advice and technical support.

Unfortunately, this loss has occurred at a time when the industry was once again beginning to recognise the need for effective and relevant training as an essential element in modern laundry and textile rental operations, and that training represented an economic investment.

Over recent months, the textile rental sector, and indeed the industry in general, is paying greater attention to the need for training at all levels of the workforce

The laundry industry is becoming more aware of the lack of professional and technical skills as operators realise that they are increasingly dependent on their suppliers to provide the back-up skills which would formerly have been expected and found in-house. Basic skills, which now have to be brought-in at a cost, were once common currency and regarded as day- to -day knowledge.


Traditionally, high levels of unemployment, both regionally and nationally, resulted in the ability to retain staff in what is seen as an unglamorous and low pay occupation. Training was rudimentary and based on practical shop floor experience gained over a period of years.

Technology was also relatively low level and the practical skills and experience were usually sufficient to ensure the job was carried out satisfactorily.

In the current economic climate and with relatively continuous high levels of employment, the industry has been faced with high levels of staff turnover, with the uncertainty and costs these entail. This situation provides some incentive to look at the need to retain staff, and it has long been accepted that appropriate and relevant training can be a prime staff motivator.


Given relevant technical and practical training, many individuals will rapidly develop an ‘ownership’ of their role or job, and the workforce will have greater stability.

The economic argument for investment in training is also very strong.Training will help the industry to reduce operational and resource costs. Improved job knowledge leads to better staff performance and allows a business to make better use of staff. It also avoids waste and mistakes being made through ignorance, helping to ensure that the customer’s requirements for high quality are met.

Generally, major operators will invest readily in training at managerial level. Lack of training is most evident at‘shop floor’ and at first line supervisory levels.

The ‘best approach’, one that I have adopted at SDML over many years both in UK and abroad, is to offer basic technology programmes, designed and intended to reinforce and develop staff’s existing practical and background knowledge. Such programmes provide the ’why, what and where’ answers to the questions which all staff have, in many ways a simple back to basics approach.


You will often hear the cry ‘it isn’t rocket science’, but as any launderer will agree, the range of functions and activity areas in a modern operation is extremely diverse and requires a considerable depth of understanding of the various component parts of the operation and the need to ensure that these are maintained in an effective and balanced manner.

  So the issues that appear to be driving the need for training are mainly


•Unacceptable costs generated by

inefficiencies in the operation.

•Unacceptable or poor quality and

customer complaints.

•Poor process control and management leading to a waste of resources, high and unacceptable levels of rewash and higher stock replacement levels.

•Pending legislation leading to potentially swingeing cost implications i.e. Climate Change Levy, higher fuel costs.

Training providers will need to develop more focussed training programmes in support of the basic information provided, which will allow the incremental development of staff over a period of months or years. Structured programmes provide a real opportunity for staff to accept the industry as a worthwhile career.


SDML plans to revive, in modified form, the laundry management course which used to be available from the FCRA.

Usually, one of the first questions posed to students on SDML laundry technology courses is ‘Can anyone give an example of any activity which an individual undertakes, from the time of birth to the time of death, where they have no involvement with textiles or fabric in one form or another?

Students have given some strange answers, some unprintable, but very few realistic ones.

Textile and fabric aftercare, has been with us for a long time and will continue to be with us in the future. SDML has provided training and consultancy services for several years.In recognising the difficulties now being faced by the industry at large, it is developing its services with the help of Roger Cawood, formerly of the FCRA and latterly Minit, and Ged Swallow who brings over 20 years experience, most recently as senior engineering manager for Minit.

The company itself, originated in South Africa, but has operated in the UK and internationally since 1997 and has worked extensively with the laundry industry.and for textile rental, NHS and commercial operations. At a time when the UK industry is once more waking up to the need to invest in training its staff, I believe that the company is making a major commitment to effective and high quality textile care training and is now in a position to further develop its existing services in response to the needs of the industry.