Finding a Better Way to Handle Small, Dry-Fold Pieces

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Eric Frederick |

Healthcare laundry team investigates auto baggers

ROANOKE, Va. — I have enjoyed looking at the advancement in equipment at the last several Clean Shows. Innovation is always on full display at the show. The challenge is to look at what we see and to determine if it will work in our operation.

One of the innovations that has caught my attention is that of an automatic bagging machine for small-piece, dry-fold items. This area often represents a production nightmare because they are too small to use with an automatic folder and too numerous to always get an accurate count.

After Clean ’15 in Atlanta, I was determined to further investigate how an auto bagger could benefit my operation. I pulled my staff together and looked at which items in our healthcare laundry could be processed through the system. We determined that the following items were an ideal fit for this method of production:

  • 18-inch blue microfiber mops
  • 16-inch green microfiber mops
  • 12-by-12 yellow microfiber cleaning cloths
  • 12-by-12 green microfiber cleaning cloths
  • 16-by-16 blue microfiber cleaning cloths
  • 16-by-19 gold-striped cotton cleaning cloths
  • 16-by-19 white bar towels
  • Washcloths

We next pulled our yearly volume of each item, comparing current production rates with those claimed by the manufacturer. We then discounted the potential production rates, adjusting for what we thought was reality versus the highly optimistic projections of the manufacturer. This analysis showed a potential reduction of three full-time employees.

Such a reduction would help sell the capital expense.

We then surveyed the hospitals we served and determined that most nursing units had room to handle the bags (which required additional space) versus the stacked washcloths. The implementation plan was designed to reduce the cost to those units using the new bagged method by lowering the cost of the bagged washcloth by 2 cents each while raising the cost of the flat, stacked washcloth by 2 cents, thus creating a financial incentive to change to the preferred method.

We presented this idea to administration and were excited about the potential cost savings. It was concerned about how nursing would accept the change in delivery styles. Administration challenged us to prove that it would be accepted before it invested the money in the new system.

So, we went to work with the housekeeping and dietary departments to immediately make the switch. While hand-bagging the system was better than flat stacking, it did not provide the same cost savings.

Next, we approached nursing administration and asked for five test units we could work with on a trial basis to see how nursing and the end-users would accept the new system. After a three-month trial, we surveyed the staff of each nursing unit. The nurses said they had no preference for which delivery method was used. They just wanted to make sure they did not run out of linen.

Six months after our original idea was presented to administration, we were able to get approval for the project. We then needed to compare the pros and cons of the various equipment currently on the market.

What we wanted was a machine that would seamlessly fit into our existing production methods. We mix the green and blue microfiber mops together for washing and drying. We also mix all the microfiber cleaning cloths into one batch. We wanted a machine that would facilitate the processing of these items without a lot of extra handling.

The machine we chose has the capability of bagging two different products at the same time, allowing the operators to handle each item once. Once the bags are full, they are automatically sealed and conveyed to our clean collection belt.

We are excited about this labor-saving change and are currently changing as many units over to the new system prior to the arrival of the new piece of equipment.

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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