SUNBIZ

Understanding The Market Means Business Success

Tourism is the largest industry in Fiji and has had many years of sustained growth, sometimes diminished by events such as natural disasters, or international issues such as the global
28 Jan 2017 11:00
Understanding The Market Means Business Success
Manorma Khan (centre), the owner and director of Red Brick Laundry in Nadi when she was awarded at the Women in Business awards last year.

Tourism is the largest industry in Fiji and has had many years of sustained growth, sometimes diminished by events such as natural disasters, or international issues such as the global financial crisis.

But there is almost always growth and in those times where there are short negative periods, subsequent increases trend to even the growth curve.

The tourism industry also spreads the income it earns right through the Fiji economy, it provides employment for a great number of people and it provides opportunities for a significant number of businesses.

The tourism industry outsources many of the functions necessary to keep their business moving forward, because experience has shown that the capital investment to perform certain specific functions makes it more cost effective.

This is to use an outside company, who can spread the sometimes large investment over a number of hotels and resorts.

Every day the tourism industry produces a large amount of soiled linen such as sheets, towels, bath and pool towels, uniforms, table linen and other items and these need to be laundered and ready for use the next day.

While all tourism plant has a reserve of these items, there is seldom enough to cover more than one day.

So they need a service that they can be absolutely sure can deliver clean laundered items to deadline and to the required standard.

There can be no excuses, no delays and no mistakes.

Weather or other events can’t be allowed to get in the way of the delivery and the tourism plant has to be able to rely one hundred percent on the quality control of the supplier.

To enter the laundry services industry in 1900, Raymond and Norma Khan decided to build a facility that had all the elements needed to meet these demands of the clients.

The result was the Red Brick Laundry, so called because of the distinctive walls of the building they chose as the base.

It is located in the Namaka Industrial Subdivision.

This is facing the main runway for Nadi International Airport and was chosen because of its strategic location close to Denarau and the Denarau Marina, the arrival port for most of the outer island laundry.

It is also close to the airlines, a big group of clients and on the main highway to Lautoka and the Coral Coast.

In ensure the deadlines are achieved the closeness to transport routes is critical.

The other advantage of the building was that it had more than enough space for the installation of all the equipment and a reserve for expansion.

In order to ensure that the service was reliable the Khans understood that a high degree of redundancy had to be built into the operations.

A laundry uses a vast amount of water daily and there needs to be sufficient on-site water storage to overcome any failure in the WAF reticulation system.

Water tanks capable of holding 200,000 litres were built into the operations.

A modern laundry is very dependent on the availability of large volumes of steam delivered over long periods and steam generation can be a major overhead.

It was decided that wood fired boilers would be the most cost effective way to provide steam and the need to ensure a constant supply was so important that it was decided that two separate boilers would be installed.

Both were connected to the steam distribution that goes to all points in the laundry. Steam is particularly critical for the dryers, washing equipment and the huge roller irons.

Another critical issue that was needed to ensure that there would be no delays in production in a power outage was an on-site generator that could provide sufficient power, so two 150Kva generators were installed and connected to the internal reticulation system.

Another area that had the potential to cause delays was transport.

There had to be sufficient trucks to allow for some of the fleet to be unavailable due to maintenance and unexpected breakdowns.

Just as important was that the mix of vehicles in the fleet was such that all the different types of loads could be handled cost effectively.

Also the fleet was designed to meet the criteria with a combination of large, medium and small units.

The laundry had to operate seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, with no non-operational days.

So it was very important that the right management was in place and that all staff was well trained in the operations in the different areas.

Each person needed to be able to multi-task, so that any unexpected non-attendance could be covered by other staff.

Raymond Khan has extensive experience in the laundry business and he applied this to the development of the human resources, He also spent a significant amount of time ensuring that the management structure was able to cope with the unusual demands of the business.

Staffing in the laundry operation is heavily female.

There were several specialised services that needed additional attention and this was also built into the operations.

The airline industry is a large segment of the potential volume, but needs special techniques. In the design of the operational areas a special area was set aside for this segment.

It is isolated from the other production areas and is fully air conditioned, with its own equipment.

There is also significant demand from the resorts for guest laundry and this area is particularly time sensitive, so another operational area was set up to cater to the demands.

Most of the work is small batch washing and the ironing is all hand done.

Dry cleaning is also a special issue not normally available in the laundry so a special machine was set in place to provide this service.

Red Brick Laundry is now the largest operating in Fiji and has continued sustained growth since the start of operations.

Norma Khan, the company Managing Director, said:“This is a very complex business in both management and operation.

“And we came to the new company with a wealth of previous experience.

“We have applied all that to ensure that the service is totally reliable and that quality standards are also maintained, and our client list, which includes most of the leading hotel and resort brands is proof of our performance.

The Red Brick Laundry is a case study in understanding the industry, the demands of the client and the techniques that can provide the result will lead to success.

nJohn Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfiji@gmail.com

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