Vendor relations can often be tenuous when expectations are not aligned. This can be potentially costly when dealing with linen and laundry services. In order to hold vendors accountable, while also maintaining strong relationships, organizations should start by considering their expectations and standards regarding an internal linen program.
The University of Maryland Medical System’s leaders discussed key contracting and vendor practices with HBI’s Supply Chain Academy. Patrick Vizzard, vice president for supply chain and strategic sourcing, Barry Rider, senior contracts manger, and Al Johnson, materials director, utilize these processes as they continue building a stronger linen utilization policy and customizing the linen program.
To build strong vendor relationships and communication, The University of Maryland Medical System built up a strong standard of a zero-defect policy. The organization decided on this standard of no tolerance for tears, stains, or fraying before even solidifying the decision to sign a contract with a specific vendor. Each vendor must be compared at the same standards.
“We need to make sure that everybody is quoting on apples to apples items,” Vizzard explained. “We don’t want to have a vendor quoting on a high-quality linen where another vendor is recommending a lower quality for us.”
Vendor Decisions and Developing Relationships
The most important step within building strong communication is to choose a vendor that understands and matches the standards for linens within the facilities. Once those standards and regulations have been decided on within the health system, vendor decisions become more effective.
It must be determined what type of program the organization would be involved in, whether it be cost of goods or a rental program. Once that has been established, it should be ensured that the vendor meets regulations for healthcare standards as well as has the technology to support the level of linen usage and conservation that the organization requires. The most useful step that The University of Maryland Medical System has experienced is to go out to the vendor for an on-site visit of the facilities.
“It’s important to have a central contact point,” Rider said. “We want a focal point for communication to deal with at the laundry company. If there are any issues, we want to consolidate those to determine if they’re sporadic and effecting one hospital or something that effects the entire system.”
Communication goes further than issues and standards expected of the vendor. The organization must be ready to discuss any challenges that the vendor is facing when dealing with the hospital facilities. If the truck docks are unreachable or consistently occupied at the time of delivery, the facilities must be ready to hear those issues and present potential resolutions. The University of Maryland Medical System found this to be an even more vital reason for walk-throughs of not only the vendor’s processes, but their own.
“If you don’t know where your linen is going, there’s going to be a degree of mistrust between the hospitals and the vendors,” Johnson explained. “There needs to be strong communication, strong KPIs, lots of transparency with delivery and pick-up times to make sure they’re on time. When you have these measures available, it gives you the insight to know whether or not your laundry vendor is performing at the [highest] standards.”
KPIs and Measuring Performance
The University of Maryland Medical System chose key metrics and standards in order to ensure that not only was the vendor was performing at high standards, but the linen services were running as efficiently as possible. To further develop that transparency, the organization utilized the metrics to ensure that the zero-defect policy was being strictly followed.
Both the organization and the vendor track delivery times, product weight for both clean and soiled linen, and quality. The organization can determine the exact quantity and value of what the vendor considers “ragged out” or linen found to have a defect in comparison to the overall linen weight. While the ideal is to have those metrics form the way linen utilization policies are formed, the University of Maryland Medical System sees room to grow within its organization.
“Once we pull all of this data together and identify standard textiles to be distributed across our organization, ideally, we will have a standardized process, not just for the linen textiles that we’re purchasing but for the policies as well,” Johnson explained. “With this data, the new policy, and these KPIs, we would have a much more robust program. That’s going to keep costs down and patient satisfaction high.”
The University of Maryland Medical System is working to develop more efficient processes surrounding linens. Mutual respect and managing the expectations throughout the hospital facilities has played a huge role in the organization’s contract progress. With a zero-defect policy, the organization holds a standard in which the vendor is held accountable and provide a measure for communication.