Keeping Your Eye on the Goal

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Eric Frederick |

Important to always focus on the big three: labor, linen and energy, says veteran laundry manager

ROANOKE, Va. — It is very easy to lose focus as we deal with the daily problems of running a laundry. These distractions can come in numerous shapes and sizes.

The important thing is to always focus on the big three: labor, linen and energy. These costs can make or break an operation. Every dollar you save in these areas goes directly to the bottom line.

Most managers do not realize that these three are interconnected and changes in one area may have an effect in another area. My simple motto in dealing with labor, linen and energy can be stated, “Do it right the first time.” 

If you want to keep your labor cost lower than your competitors, then make sure your processes and procedures are designed so that linen is handled as few times as possible as it moves from soiled to clean. A good production system will maximize the production per hour of each machine.

I have seen laundries that operate a small-piece ironer with a four-lane stacker on the back with only two feeders. When asked why, I was told, “I was short-staffed” or “I needed some contours for an order, so I took two employees and put them on a mini folder so I could get both items produced at the same time.” The laundry was designed to have two minis discharging to one area. Using two instead of three is running at 50% production on the equipment.

It would have been much more effective to run the small-piece ironer fully staffed for 45 minutes to an hour and then run the minis fully staffed.

This can work well with effective product management. When you make the job more interesting and easier, the side benefit is that your employees stay longer and are more productive. Lower turnover results in better productivity.

Your second largest expense is normally linen purchases. Your laundry work procedures should be designed to extend the life of the linen and get it clean the first time it is washed. Rewash will eat away at your bottom line by increasing labor, linen and energy costs.

Once again, the best way to wash linen is to do it right the first time. Many managers will brag about how much money they save on washroom chemicals while failing to realize the negative effects on labor, linen replacement costs and energy.

A side benefit of extending the life of your linen is happier customers and a reputation for always producing quality linen.

To get the most out of your energy costs, make sure your equipment is well-maintained. We do not want to waste energy by having improperly operating steam traps, gas dryers with worn seals, washing machines with leaking drain valves.

We purchase energy to accomplish a specific task. It should never be wasted.

I realize that after being in the laundry business for almost 45 years now, I might be a bit of a dinosaur. Cold-water wash or low-temperature wash has been championed as a way to reduce energy costs. My question has always been how this temperature change affects the big three. 

When I took washroom chemistry at the American Laundry and Linen College, I remember that the higher the temperature, the greater the chemical activity. The greater the chemical activity, the less chemicals you need and the better the cleaning process. The fewer chemicals used and the better the cleaning process, the longer the linen life.

Good wash formulas should lower the amount of rewash. Often, spending more money in the original cleaning process saves money in labor, linen and energy.

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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