Best Practices for Sorting, Arranging Laundry and Linen (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“What ideas do you have for sorting and arranging product throughout the operation in order to be most efficient—and effective?”

Long-Term Care Laundry, Kathrine Flitsch, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Brookfield, Wis.

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Kathrine Flitsch

Kathrine Flitsch

Each person that works in our laundry takes great pride in the work they do, as well as in keeping the workspace organized. 

Our facility handles the personal clothing of our residents. Being organized plays a huge part in what we do. Upon admission to the facility, each piece of clothing is inventoried and labeled with the patient’s name and room number.  

Once the laundry is sent down to be washed, we process it and then get it ready for delivery. We have several delivery carts. Each floor has its own cart, which is divided by room numbers. We place the clothing on the cart according to the patient’s room number.

The cart then goes to the floor where we deliver the clothing. We double-check each piece of clothing we take off the cart to be sure it is the right patient, right room and right closet. 

By having a system in place for labeling the laundry, we are quickly able to identify whose clothing is it is and where it needs to go. Our inventory sheets help us keep track of what residents have, in case things go missing. We have detailed descriptions of the items and can begin a more detailed search. 

Our linen room is also labeled so that when the order is put away, it has a place that it goes. By having the shelves labeled and everything placed in the correct spot, we are able to order our linen more effectively, as we can see what we have on hand at all times. 

Our linen delivery cart is laid out the same way. Each item has a specific spot, and when the spot is empty, we know what to fill it with. 

Having a simple process in place, such as putting things where they belong and having a spot to put it in, helps us keep track of things and saves all of us time. Using labeled carts and marking systems helps us get the right item to the right person. 

In the end, it saves us time and money. Making sure our residents get their clothing back to them at the end of the day is our main goal.   

Chemicals Supply: Scott Pariser, Pariser Industries Inc., Paterson, N.J.

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Scott Pariser

Scott Pariser

While others who weigh in on this question will likely have better insight into how to best pre-sort and arrange linens in order to maximize washroom efficiency, one often overlooked yet critical component of production efficiency in on-premises laundries (OPLs) involves maintaining proper linen inventory and its extraordinary impact on a laundry’s ability to produce linen in an effective, timely and cost-effective manner.

Inadequately maintained linen pars in hospitality and healthcare facilities make staging, sorting and loading linens to maximize efficiency an impossible task.

Too often, physical inventories of linens that I have participated in have revealed par levels on certain daily-use items at less than one par. A par of linen in this case is defined as “the total use of an individual linen item consumed by a resident/guest per daily period” (not “one such item per person per day”).

In the scenario described, some items are required to be washed more than once per day and distributed again to the respective rooms in order to prevent a critical run-out of linen at the point of use. At the laundry level, this condition requires the laundry to process what it has in the soil room immediately as it is received, often mixed with other classifications that should be sorted separately in order to fill washers to capacity, or it forces operators to run partial loads to get the work processed and back up to the floors.

Therefore, some items will either be washed longer or harder than necessary, increasing costs and decreasing linen life, or the washer will be underloaded, resulting in wasted time, energy and labor.

In order to run an efficient and effective laundry operation in an OPL, linen levels must be such that the laundry is washing linen today for tomorrow’s use at the very least. (Most Departments of Health actually require three par of linen to be in circulation, and while this may not be feasible for some facilities because of cashflow or space considerations, two par is a likely minimum threshold for each item’s inventory control.)

With proper linen par levels in circulation, the laundry operation can stage its daily requirements appropriately, wash all like items together on the best-suited wash formula, dry each item only the appropriate amount of time and thereby effectively and efficiently process each day’s linen requirements with the least amount of related expenses (and stress) possible.  

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion, with input from textiles and equipment/supply distribution experts.

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