Essential Management Skill: Attention to Detail

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Eric Frederick |

Skill needed to organize laundry into efficient operation, says columnist

ROANOKE, Va. — There are two major management skills that all managers need in order to succeed.

The first, which we’ll examine this time, is the ability to organize a laundry into an efficient operation. To excel at this task, a manager must be able to thoroughly understand how each process is interconnected and how changes in one area of the operation will affect other parts of the operation. These changes are seldom obvious but will become obvious over time. 

A good example of this type of change is increasing the weight per sling of pillowcases going through the tunnel washer by 10 pounds. The goal is to increase washer productivity, and at first there may be no adjustment made to the wash formula or conditioning time per load.

The result of this change will become obvious downstream in the ironing department. It might require more time to iron the pillowcases because of increased moisture retention. There may be more rewash caused by the increased weight, or a bottleneck may form at this point because the staff cannot over time handle the increased hourly output. There may be an interruption in the way orders are filled or the quality of the finished pillowcases.

One small change will require the management team to carefully monitor the effects throughout the laundry. Such constant attention to detail is not normally given by most managers or management staff. They are completely dedicated to achieving the daily task at hand. There are orders to fill, reports to be provided, budget reviews to attend. All more demanding, often considered higher-level, management functions to be accomplished. 

Paying constant attention to the small details will ensure that all the orders, customer service goals, financial goals and personnel management goals are properly met. Failure to do so will result in the need for more and more creative excuses as to why the laundry is having trouble meeting its goals. 

In my example, the management team only made one small change. This would seldom be the case. Changes are constantly being made in all phases of the operation. New products are constantly being added, customers added, customers lost, personnel changes because of poor performance, family moves, promotion or retirement. Each change requires additional attention to detail.  

This constant attention to detail is why I tried, no matter how busy I was, to walk though my entire operation three times a day and question my management staff as to the reason behind what I was seeing. 

Sometimes the pressure of the day caused by staff shortages or linen shortages caused great management people to make dumb decisions. It was my job to show them better alternatives in how to handle the problem. A good manager is always looking for the teaching moment. Running a small-piece ironer with a full staff for two hours and then moving the staff elsewhere is preferable to running a small-piece ironer with less than half its normal staff for four hours.  

Attention to every detail is the key to the best operations. How well do you and your management staff pay attention to the details? I am sure we can all benefit from increased effort in this area. 

Next month, we will discuss the important management function of being a visionary manager.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Eric Frederick served 44 years in laundry management before retiring and remains active in the industry as a laundry operations consultant. You can contact him by e-mail at elfrederick@cox.net or by phone at 540-520-6288.

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