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Evaluating Laundry Employee Productivity (Conclusion)

“Automation is growing in the washroom, but employees are essential to the operation. How would you recommend a laundry set productivity standards—and monitor them?”

Textiles: Steve Kallenbach, ADI American Dawn, Los Angeles, Calif.

Regardless of the presence, absence or level of automation in a plant, effective productive labor costs begin with measured productivity standards. Conducting time and motion studies on each and every repetitive task motion is the basis for establishing standards. 

By measuring each individual’s performance and contribution to the whole, we can validate/justify/modify staff levels, and also justify the need for more or replacement equipment. 

“People productivity” is the measure of goods that the “average” worker produces in an hour of work. The level of productivity is one of the most important elements of profitability. 

With regard to the washroom, the best sources of obtaining expectations on standards are your equipment manufacturer and your chemical supplier, both of which have specific experience with washroom setups. 

The washroom is typically staffed with one to three associates, all of whom must operate as a team in order to produce at “standard.” While it would be most effective to set standards for each of the washroom associates, many times the washroom flow simply requires teamwork. So, the output of the entire floor must be measured and then divided into the total staff of the washroom. 

Output of the washroom (and all stations) should be displayed/posted throughout each day. Managers should inspect what they expect, and utilize the posted numbers to track down the deficiency. 

Low productivity in the washroom can typically be traced to a few key areas: soil staging, soil product mix, machine turn time, clean cart staging, efficient flow of goods, as well as slow work by associates. Measuring and analyzing these key areas can help managers understand certain product flow factors, such as the time and amount of specific goods being fed into finishing areas, in order to keep them at productive velocity. 

If a department is calling for product, and the washroom has to “stop everything” in order to find specific soil, this disruptive activity will have a hugely negative impact on productivity, both in the washroom and the department in need of product. 

So, standards in the washroom drive and measure productivity of the associates involved. Posted output should be analyzed for correctness. If they are correct, and the operation is suffering from low productivity, the areas mentioned will assist the manager in finding the deficiency and correcting it. 

Inspect what you expect … every day.

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Nick Fertig, Rosen Hotel and Resorts, Orlando, Fla.

Tracking productivity is one of the most essential functions that needs to be performed in a laundry. Every operation needs a reliable method to verify that associates are operating to standard. These efficiencies are required to control the largest expense of any operation, labor.  

The first step to a successful productivity program is to determine your standards. The easiest way to accomplish this is to reach out to your equipment manufacturers. Each manufacturer will have extensively researched the output capacity of their equipment. They will have developed their own internal standards which, through their testing, they believe are realistic hourly production goals.  

These goals can be even further tailored to your specific operation, depending on the product type, size or finishing quality required. No matter the situation, your equipment manufacturer should be able to assist in the creation of your standards. 

Once your standards are in place, the focus changes to tracking. There are two methods to accomplish this task. The first can be considered “old school.” It involves a lot of pen-and-paper recording and human interaction. Essentially, someone is tasked with recording daily production numbers to be transferred to a created spreadsheet. The amount of time dedicated to each job type must be compared to overall output to determine productivity levels. This method is labor/time-intensive and leaves room for a lot of error.

The second method is more automated. Many laundries have chosen to utilize productivity tracking software. These powerful software suites utilize RFID technology that laundry associates “log in” to daily. 

As they perform their job functions, all production is automatically tracked. Productivity calculations are performed in real time and reports can be created with a few mouse clicks. Human error is eliminated, and this tedious task is completed with little to no effort daily, allowing leadership to focus on other pressing issues.  

It is to be expected that the second method of tracking will require a much more substantial upfront investment. However, the return on that investment is priceless. The ability to operate daily with a successful productivity program in place will ensure that labor expenses are in line with budgets and that you will hit that all-important cost-per-pound figure. 

Equipment Manufacturing: Tony Jackson, Kannegiesser ETECH, Grand Prairie, Texas

This is an interesting topic for me, as I am directly related to assisting customers with finding efficiencies by introducing automation technology in the washroom. When visiting with customers, it is essential to find out the production goal, as every laundry is different.  

At times, I see healthcare laundries put more stock into productivity, whereas a hospitality plant’s focus may lean heavier on quality to maintain customer loyalty. It is a balancing act for each, as they might set the numbers too high and sacrifice quality; however, setting the numbers too low will create a production loss. The owner must look at the equipment capabilities and the staff on hand to determine where they can be within each department.  

Within any plant, the proper production standards are essential for a successful operation, and the employees are vital regardless of the level of automation. With having either a productivity management system or manual entry method, it has to be easily accessible to both the supervisors and operators for everyone to work from the same information.  

I have seen success with owners using the data in a format of rewarding the staff for above-average efficiencies, while also using it to train or discipline those who are not helping increase the pounds-per-operator-hour (PPOH) ratio.

On the equipment side, we have installed many successful rail and tunnel systems and have seen tremendous boosts in overall washroom efficiencies. The employee plays a key role even with a high level of automation, as they must manage the batch sequencing going into the tunnel to allow a constant flow of linen through the system.  

Every equipment vendor will calculate a system based on a mix of full-dry and conditioned items in the dryers; therefore, an appropriate sequencing should be managed during the shift. Sometimes we see some operators send a long run of full-dry items, which eventually causes a dryer bottleneck and cuts down on the potential throughput. An appropriate mix of items will allow a more manageable and steady finishing department for the ironer lines and full-dry folding equipment.  

Employee input, even in the most automated rail and tunnel systems, is critical to managing the success of the production within the plant. The good thing is there are many ways to extract data on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis from the automated washroom. The staff can analyze where they can make adjustments and fine-tune to allow better productivity while setting new production standards moving forward.

Miss Part 1 with thoughts from experts in consulting, healthcare laundry and chemicals? Click here to read it.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].