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Making the Choice Between DIY and Professional Linen Services

Making the Choice Between DIY and Professional Linen Services

The director of a small, regional hospital wrestles over how much money is being spent on laundry. Across town, a group of restaurant owners talk about the viability of purchasing and washing their own linens. What do the restaurant owners have in common with the hospital director? The choice between DIY and professional linen services.

Professional linen services are nothing new. They have been around for more than 100 years. In fact, Alsco is one of the more well-known linen providers in the U.S. and the first to offer linen and uniform rental in this country. So it is not as though business owners are just learning about professional linen services. But they are beginning to look at the cost-effectiveness of such service.

Trying to decide between DIY and professional service is almost always a question of cost. Like anything else, outsourcing linens might be cost-effective for one business but not another. Business owners and managers have to sit down and run the numbers to see which solution is more cost-effective. For many of them, going with professional linen services is the better option.

Outsourcing Linens and Uniforms

If the point of outsourcing is to save money, the starting point for determining the best course of action is a cost comparison. When a company outsources its linens and uniforms, the savings are immediately apparent. Outsourcing means the company is no longer spending money on:

  • purchasing linens and uniforms
  • hiring staff to handle the laundry
  • investing in laundry equipment
  • purchasing laundry supplies
  • absorbing the cost of repairs and linen replacements.

Despite the immediate savings, there is something else to consider: will the savings be maintained over the long term? That is a big question and one that is often difficult to answer. The amount of money saved today may be drastically different two, three, or even five years down the road. The savings may even translate into losses in some cases.

If outsourcing to a professional linen service is to remain beneficial, savings have to be generated year after year. Otherwise, it is too easy to fall back to the DIY solution.

Beyond Bottom-Line Savings

Though bottom-line savings tend to be the driving factor in the choice between DIY and professional linen services, it is not the only factor. Companies also consider things such as facilities, infrastructure, labor investments, and so forth. Sometimes it is worth spending a little more in order to be able to focus remaining resources elsewhere.

As one example, consider a local hotel that does its own laundry in-house. With fully paid-for equipment and an experienced housekeeping staff, the hotel can handle its own laundry fairly inexpensively. But eventually, the hotel may reach a tipping point at which time housekeeping staff is stretched to its limits.

It may be more cost-effective at this juncture to outsource linen services to a company like Alsco so that housekeeping staff are free to do other things. The other option is to hire more staff which, in the long run, would be more expensive than having Alsco handle the linens.

Making the choice between DIY and professional linen services is not as simple as running a few calculations. Those in decision-making positions have to consider both the short- and long-term effects of outsourcing linens and uniforms.

For companies like Alsco, it is all about providing the linen and uniform services clients want at a price that makes such services competitive. Not offering a better service at a better price just makes it easier for potential customers to continue doing the laundry in-house.

Brian Brown
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