Is Exchange Cart or Par Stock a Better Linen Distribution System?

Exchange cart

Is Exchange Cart or Par Stock a Better Linen Distribution System?

This is a great question, as it pits traditional linen distribution versus conventional linen distribution. The answer isn’t so simple – it really depends a lot on how your facility is run.

There are pros and cons to each linen distribution system, and you’re point of view depends on your situation, such as the current processes in place at your facility and the resources you have.

In this article, we’re going to cover all that you’ll need to know in order to make an informed decision.

Definitions of exchange cart and par stock

To start with, we’ll begin by defining both systems.

What is the exchange cart linen system?

Simply put, this is where you have a pre-stocked linen cart that holds enough linen for a 24-hour period… (hopefully!). When the full linen cart has been depleted, a hospital staff member rolls a new cart to its location and returns with the empty one. Very simple.

Note: Sometimes, the exchange cart system is called the “linen turn distribution system”.

What is the par stock linen system?

Stocked linen carts are sent to a specific location. As the carts become depleted, hospital linen staff roll a full linen cart around to all the different locations, filling up the linen to pre-determined levels or quantities, or simply to whatever fits on the cart. A little more logistical, but also very simple.

Note: A “par level” is normally considered to be a full day’s worth of linen plus 10% to 30% more, which is known as “safety stock”. Also, the par stock system is sometimes called the “replenishment linen distribution system”.

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Should I use exchange cart or par stock linen distribution system?

The easiest way to start this question is to break down the advantages and disadvantages of both linen distribution systems.

Exchange cart vs Par Stock linen distribution

Inefficiencies of Exchange Cart System

Another thing to consider if you’re on an exchange cart system is how much time your linen staff currently spends in transporting the carts.

They’re taking one cart at a time – Point A to Point B. Back to Point A. Grab another cart and now go to Point C. Back to Point A. Grab another cart and now go to Point D. Back to Point A…you get the point.

exchagne cart

That can amount to a ton of time.

In a moment, we’re going to talk about alEx linen distribution which has real-time inventory tracking. Your supply staff will know exactly the linen they have to replace at exactly which location.

Inefficiencies of non-automated Par Stock System

Without automation or real-time data analysis, your staff won’t know what needs to be replenished. With par stock being more efficient than exchange cart, it still has its issues.

For example, a bunch of varying sizes are loaded onto a cart and dragged around to the different locations: Point A to Point B. Point B to Point C. Point C to Point D, assuming that they didn’t already run out of certain sizes. It they did, Point C back to Point A to reload. Point A to Point D…

linen infographic

Par Stock with Automation (real-time-analytics)

While par stock is widely regarded as more efficient and the better of the two systems, having the real-time data allows staff to pre-load exactly what they need at each location, which means having to make less trips.

A Better Way of Linen Distribution

While both exchange cart and par stock have their differences, both systems insufficiently provide the best solution as stand-alone model.

These two systems can work in conjunction or separately, but they need something else to take it to the next level of excellence.


Linen distribution has been re-engineered. Meditek is the proud Western Canadian distributor of a ground breaking automated linen distribution system called alEx, the indisputable leader in linen dispensing machines and systems.

Now, we tell you exactly how alEx takes your exchange cart or par stock system to the next level.

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alEx linen distribution system

First, we’ll address how alEx does against the disadvantages of both other systems.

Then, we’ll tell you about the extra good stuff it does.

Exchange Cart and Par Stock Disadvantage VS alEx
System Disadvantages alEx Advantages
Exchange Need space in linen room to store empty and full carts Due to real time inventory analysis reporting (which grows ‘smarter’ over time the more you use it) alEx shows you the optimal output and therefore reduces number of carts
Exchange May require having more inventory on hand Inventory analysis reports automatically generate the most efficient linen inventory levels required
Exchange May run out of a specific linen before others The clearView software tracks individual linen levels in real time, so staff know what to stock when and where
Exchange Time consuming for staff to roll one cart to a specific location and back again with empty cart before moving on to the next location Staff will know which carts need stocking and exactly where they are


Departments may have to wait long times for linen replenishment Providing linen team acts on notifications, this is eliminated because clearView sends texts or emails when low levels are reached
Par Distribution supervision may be difficult to monitor Monitoring is centralized, updated in real time and is online for all to see
Par Monitoring linen usage is more difficult clearView software to the rescue!
Par May need to establish a linen inventory measurement to determine par levels (if none in place already) To get the most out of the alEx system, a measurement system is preferred; however, not necessary as real time data starts accumulating the moment the system is operational and generating reports in real time

Quite frankly, alEx encompasses all of the features, benefits and solutions that you’ve been looking for! (even if you weren’t specifically aware of the pain points you do have).

Other alEx advantages include:

  • Infection prevention: alEx completely encloses the linen, all the time.
  • Prevents unauthorized access and theft
  • Informs the hospital staff member of the $$ value of the linen they just took out, which leads to a more informed staff about true linen costs. They then inevitably use less linen because no one likes to see $$ wasted
  • Guaranteed supply of linen for staff
  • Happier staff. Nurses get what they want when they want it. Support services don’t field any more complaints


The beauty of alEx is that there are two systems available to accommodate both exchange cart or par stock processes. We work with whichever system you already have in place.

However, the better alEx system is par stock.

If you have an existing exchange cart system, implementing the preferred par stock alEx system really is quite straightforward and easy.

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