The Textile Services Association (TSA) 2022 Spring Conference  got under way at the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel in Birmingham last month, with sprint legend Linford Christie OBE lining up on the starting grid as a key speaker. Pulling no punches, the TSA laid out its vision for the industry and believes when things are tough the industry needs to work together.  And it is doing all it can to make that happen, as Kathy Bowry reports.

It was the first Spring Conference after two years of pandemic and a welcome opportunity for TSA members to meet face to face. The TSA team’s intention was to entertain and enlighten so delegates could go back to work feeling refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead. Neither TSA chairman Charlie Betteridge (See his welcoming remarks here) nor CEO David Stevens pulled any punches as they predicted that things will be not be easy going forward.

Stevens uttered more than a few words of caution. “What I can tell you, because we keep hearing it from you, is that we are not out of the woods yet. In fact, with two years of Covid and now the energy crisis, we cannot even find the path to get out. The industry is in unprecedented crisis and it ain’t over yet.” However, there were and are positives to celebrate, he said.

On the upside, membership is rising and the TSA board has agreed to continue with the discount for membership fees at pre-pandemic rates which, he said, “was based on the ongoing reality that we are not bouncing back as we had hoped”. He added: “We are only able to do this, and still trade profitably because of the growth in membership and the ongoing support of our supply partners.”

In order to support this process further, Stevens announced a new initiative, the TSA Roadshow, which will take to the nation’s highways and byways this summer in order to encourage more laundries to get together and share experiences.

“The key here is to get our supply partners to help us identify and invite non-members to come and have a drink and a chat. So far we have Edinburgh, Glasgow and London planned, with more dates and venues around the country to be announced, depending on demand.”(See full story here.)

Announcing the appointment of Emily MacDonald to the role of events and admin co-ordinator, Stevens explained that more members means more work and he acknowledged the hard work of TSA staffers Emma Andersson and Shyju Skariah in supporting members through the pandemic and beyond.

“What I can assure you, is that the team gets it. Our only purpose is to support you as industry and we are still acutely aware that we need to continue this journey throughout next year,” said Stevens. Programmes, topics and initiatives the association is working on include:

The Culture Study is complete and a lot has been learned about process and how to do it better. Meanwhile, a People Steering Group has been set up which feeds into the Knowledge Network. Let’s look at some achievements Stevens highlighted.

Health and safety
TSA has completed its fifth year of data gathering. According to Stevens: “It is a great example of how, from a slow beginning we can build momentum and really deliver on such a key topic.”

The UK Hospitality Round Table showed that hospitality operators now have a genuine concern that hospitality may outgrow laundry capacity. “This may create an opportunity to change the model. We have real homework to do here and before the next Round Table we will be consulting with the CMA,” said Stevens.

Healthcare market

Stevens said: “For the past three years I have been talking about care homes and adult social care. It is a big market but a tough one to penetrate. We have now commenced the UK’s largest survey of management and worker attitudes to infection control in regard to laundry.”

“It is the same old story here. We keep sending letters to Government representatives and they keep ignoring them. The supply chain sector collectively needs to improve its game here. We did get essential worker status but that was only for healthcare workers. It seems if the Government needs you, you may get support; otherwise it is one market for the rest of us.”

Stevens pointed to a success in preventing the passing of new legislation pertaining to mats, saying: “If that new building standard had been approved it would have wiped out the entire floor protection industry and I am proud that it was the TSA that spotted it.”

Domestic v industrial washing
“Another exciting one,” said Stevens. “Following the TSA/De Montfort University project to improve the testing around wash procedures, we are now using the revised protocols to test domestic washing machines against industrial ones and so far have had total failures on some domestic machines. There will be a lot of lobbying opportunities when we have the research published.”

“We have never done as much as we have now. More than 200 people have benefited from the courses held over the past 12 months, including, among others, highly laundry specific courses on workwear technology and PPE training.”

Sustainability continues to be a big one, said Strevens, and the circular economy, of which the laundry industry has long been a star performer, and innovator, is very much a part of the TSA’s ongoing strategy.

More reports follow….