After a trip to MTW Linen Services in Maidstone, Kent it is time to throw a few misconceptions out of the window.

When you think of Kreussler Textile Care, wetcleaning chemicals and K4 are probably the products which spring to mind. Admit it, you would never dream of talking to them about industrial laundry chemicals, would you? And possibly if you are in the commercial laundry sector, you may even be thinking at this point – Kreussler-who?

And while you think that the NHS is fantastic, you may also consider it needs a measure of commercial realism. And the only way to get that is to outsource services to commercial ventures... a dose of privatisation is just what the doctor ordered.

Time to think again.

A partnership between MTW Linen Services, a NHS laundry, and Kreussler has delivered direct cost savings in the region of £10,000 per year on chemicals alone, while increasing wash quality, improving productivity and providing a full compliance audit trail for linen. It is enabling MTW to go out and compete for further non-NHS contracts. Mark Wildish, linen service manager comments: “It is about making public money work efficiently and demonstrating that outsourcing isn’t the only option. The end result is that the Trust can invest more in healthcare.”

MTW Linen Services is based in Maidstone and is a subsidiary of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS. The Trust operates two hospitals in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. Based in a purpose built site they have occupied since 2003, though they have been operating for 40 years, MTW processes four million items of linen each year.

Kreussler Textile Care is part of German chemical manufacturer, Chemische Fabrik Kreussler & Co GmbH. It was founded in 1912 by Christian Kreussler and has been owned by four generations of the Travers- Kreussler family.

Kreussler pride themselves on their innovative excellence and scientific approach to operations. They have enjoyed significant success in the field of textile chemistry due to their systematic approach to research and development, together with successful application technology.

Perhaps their two best known innovations are the development of MieleSystemKreussler wetcleaning system and SystemK4 as the e n v i r o n m e n t a l l y - f r i e n d l y alternative to perchlorethylene cleaning. But as Steve Champion, technical sales manager in the UK, points out in their German heartland they are equally known for their innovations in laundry chemicals, such as the Ecosan process that saves both energy and water in industrial laundry and the liquid detergent system Derval Power with the technical washing powers of a powder detergent.

Mark Wildish joined the MTW in 2004 as engineer and when the then manager retired he stepped up to the wider role. He was charged with being more commercially focussed and bringing his understanding of the market and customer expectations to an NHS set up. Wildish explains: “My role is to sweat our assets to the maximum and therefore bring the cost to the NHS down.”

The company, in addition to the local hospitals and community hospitals in Kent, secured Kings Commercial Hospital and a number of hotel, catering and care home contracts. They offer linen rental, workwear wash and return, and a full repair service.

Growth had been good at roughly 2.5 per cent per year when he met Kreussler. He felt his chemicals supplier had become complacent and he could not make the improvements he needed. He was so impressed with their customer-centred approach that he invited them to look at the laundry set up. A two week trial in February 2014 lead to an immediate improvement in the wash quality with a significant fall in rewashing.

Going through the NHS tender process took a while and it was in September 2014 that the contract went fully live. Key to the decision was Kreussler’s bespoke system of monitoring which allows full tracking of thermal disinfection and pH levels throughout the process. Wildish comments: “Times are lean in the NHS and Kreussler could offer live monitoring and validation on every load, without us having to invest in the system.”

The Kreussler system uses Team Viewer so that the development team in Germany can work on the Maidstone system remotely, making sure the information dashboard is just as required. Indeed Wildish can monitor productivity and performance from anywhere in the world, should he choose to, via his laptop. It is all backed up to the cloud as well as Kreussler’s computer facility, so the system is robust.

The installation and commissioning of pumps and dosing equipment went smoothly and there was no down time in the laundry. The Kreussler team worked nights and through the weekend, before the system went live at 7am on the Monday. All was custom built to MTW’s exact requirement and even the outgoing supplier commented favourably on the neatness of the install.

“We immediately noticed an improvement in quality – the chemical cleaning is brilliant. The validation is a great tool for validating contamination control, plus rewashes went down,” explains Wildish.

Refreshingly, all this came with a cost saving. Champion continues: “Our chemicals are extremely concentrated as it costs to move water around the world. This can make them look expensive, but you get what you pay for.

“They are also made in house in our production facility in Germany and therefore are consistent in formulation. So the wash quality and dosing is highly consistent too. They are delivered from our own bulk warehouse in the Midlands, usually next day, so customers need less stock on site.”

MTW operate a 15 stage Voss tunnel washer, which though elderly (1986) is going strong. They also have a series of refurbished Cherry Tree washerextractors for the red bag side of the operation. Working a 37.5 hour week, with 26 members of staff the laundry processes on average 10,000kg each day roughly split between the tunnel and the washer-extractors.

All washers were reprogrammed and indeed the temperatures were brought down on the washer-extractors, but the resulting wash quality improved. Champion observes that it is not just about ‘lots of temperature and lots of soap’!

Kreussler also has an in house fabric laboratory, which supports customers. There is currently an issue with an iodine ointment, which is staining linen. This seems to be a NHS-wide problem, so the lab is working on a fabric and stain analysis to come up with a solution. Medical adhesive can also be tricky to treat – after all it is designed to stick – and Champion is certain Kreussler can help there too, having found a solution to a similar chemical issue faced by professional rugby clubs.

MTW has been selected and placed on the “Buying Solutions National Framework”, after a rigorous selection process. This means that they are recognised as competitive, customer focused and can demonstrate a high quality service, for either public or private sector clients wishing to use their linen services.

MTW is not alone in taking this commercial view within the NHS; to Wildish’s knowledge the laundries in Salisbury, Exeter and Eastbourne take a similar approach.

MTW has attracted new customers from the care home sector private hospitals, more surprisingly from catering and hotels. While there can be concern about contamination from the hospital linen, Wildish argues that they have tight procedures which make infection less likely than in a ‘normal’ laundry. These include full risk analysis, monthly swabbing of machines, cages etc and random swabbing of operatives hands.

The staff fully understand their contribution to patient care and customer service. This was clearly demonstrated by the swift return of a purse found in the laundry, complete with cash and cards. They tracked it back to a community unit in Faversham and were able to reunite it with its elderly (and distressed) owner within two hours of discovery. As with many laundries they find their fair share of objects in their linen – false teeth, glasses, remote controls and hearing aids are the favourites.

It seems that the forward thinking partnership shows both an alternative to outsourcing in the NHS and demonstrates Kreussler’s ability in the commercial laundry setting. With their to scientific approach to operations they will no doubt become as well known in the UK for their laundry chemicals, as for their wet and drycleaning innovations.

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