Looking for a Bottleneck? Start at the Beginning (Part 3 of 3)

“I’ve noticed my plant’s production has begun to lag and I believe that it’s being caused by a bottleneck somewhere in the workflow. Where are the problem areas most likely to be and how can I prevent such delays from occurring in the future?”Consulting Services — Charles Berge, American Laundry Systems, Haverhill, Mass.
A bottleneck zone is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources, according to Wikipedia.
If we take a closer look at this definition, we can see that a bottleneck is caused by a single or limited number of components or resources. As for the area to be looking at, more than likely you probably have already identified that department. But, remember, if the issue is employee-related, it could be in any of the departments.
Just because you have a bottleneck does not mean you might need new equipment. Since this is the most expensive resolution, maybe we can get started by looking at a number of issues.
Start by looking at these basic reports:

  • PPOH (pounds per operator hour);
  • Individual or department production reports;
  • New hires for the month;
  • New specialty items put into service; and
  • Equipment maintenance.

Take a close look at the production reports to see if there is anything that is out of the ordinary. Has there been a recent increase in poundage? Once you have reviewed this, then dig deeper and look at the individual and/or department production reports. If you can see an issue in a particular area, you have narrowed it down.
[NP][/NP]Has there been a new item sold by the sales/service department that requires special handling? This could be dragging down a department as it struggles to figure out how to handle it.
Are there a couple of new hires who are not up to speed on the required production standards? Check with your department heads to see if the workers need additional training or possibly should be moved to a different department.
After you have exhausted the production portion, then review the maintenance reports to see if there has been a recurring issue with a particular piece of equipment in the plant. If you can identify the equipment issue, then you can begin a discussion about what to do to resolve that problem.
Does the maintenance department have a regular preventive-maintenance program? If there is no PM program, this can be the biggest cause of lagging production in any plant.
Regularly scheduled preventive maintenance will only help to identify issues before they become major. In addition, you will be able to schedule the major maintenance so that any piece of equipment is down the shortest period of time, or is done during off-hours.
Finally, you have to determine if the poundage and production has outgrown the facility. If so, you need to look at new equipment to be able to get more production out of the same square footage. Otherwise, it may be time to expand.Chemicals Supply — Matt Koloseike, Procter & Gamble Professional, Cincinnati
The execution of proper procedures and processes will affect the workflow of your laundry operation, so reinforcing best practices is the key to success.
When your commercial laundry department is not operating at optimum levels, the first and most important area to check is your linen inventory.
[NP][/NP]It is important to keep two to three par of linen at all times. When there is inadequate inventory, your staff is inclined to wash immediately as linens enter your laundry operation. This practice often causes machines to be underloaded, which consequently causes a hindrance in the workflow—a real issue in today’s commercial laundry industry. As a result, poor wash performance also occurs and creates a potential laundry operation bottleneck.
The immediate treatment of soiled linens as they are removed from the guest/patient/resident room is a first step to ensure proper laundry performance.
All linens should be fully “opened up” to identify stains and to shake out any loose items or soils. Heavily stained linen should be treated immediately and separated from other linens prior to transport to the laundry room. Sort the linens by load type and by overall degree of soiling.
As the sorted linens enter the laundry room, each batch should be weighed within 90-100% of the recommended washer load. Underloading or overloading the machine will affect the wash quality and may cause an overall increase in rewashing.
Your laundry room attendant should select the appropriate wash program for the type of load in the washer, as well as the dispenser program number. These programs are managed in conjunction with your laundry chemical supplier and will directly impact overall cleaning performance. Any decrease in overall wash performance may increase rewash levels, which is another potential bottleneck.
Finally, stagger the washer starting times by at least two to five minutes. This will allow your staff adequate time to transport linens between the washers and dryers and to look for performance issues sooner.
After the wash cycle is complete, linens should only be slightly damp. If water drips from the linens, contact your machine manufacturer to check for proper extraction time. As linens are then transported to the dryer, do not mix load types.
Ensure that lint filters are clean, and do not over-dry linens. Fold all linens immediately after drying to minimize wrinkles. It is important to check for stains and excessive wear or tear during this process. If linens require additional treatment, it is easier to treat and rewash while they are in the laundry room.
Do not send unacceptable pieces of linen to your guest/patient/resident rooms. This can cause unplanned rework and another potential bottleneck in your overall operation.
Laundry room operations can be effectively managed to minimize bottlenecks and increase overall efficiency. It is important to work with your chemical supplier and machine manufacturer to optimize training and staff procedures. By reviewing par levels and laundry room procedures regularly, you can keep your facility running as efficiently as possible.


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