TULSA, Okla. — There was a popular office supply store that advertised the idea of them being your “Easy Button” for all office supplies.
No matter what you needed they had an “Easy Button” for it. All you had to do is push the button.
In our industry, we are constantly searching for an easy button: a machine or process that, once it is installed, “boom,” no more managing, no more worries, we can just sit back and watch the linen roll out the door.
However, it does not ever seem to work like that. Fixing one bottleneck in a laundry usually develops another.
Machine vendors in our industry have developed some extremely impressive machinery that can simplify laundry tasks so that one employee can do what once took four employees to accomplish.
The new machinery reduces the ergonomic issues that come along with processing linen as well.
The one item to remember when you consider purchasing one of these impressive machines is that they are designed to remove labor; they are not designed to remove management decisions and processes.
I have been in laundries that are automated from the soil door to the clean door and every machine in between.
These automatic soil systems work so that once the linen is sorted, it is not touched again until it is briefly touched as the linen is fed to an automatic feeder where the corners are found, the linen is ironed, folded, and stacked in the desired number. Then, it’s briefly touched again as a shipper loads into a cart.
I have also been in laundries that have no automation anywhere in the facility.
Linen is brought in soil. It is manually sorted, manually loaded in a washer, manually loaded into the dryer, manually folded and then shipped. This system takes four times the number of employees to accomplish the same task.
When you talk with the management team in both types of facilities, you discover that they both fight the same issues. One of the biggest issues they both face is the handling of linen that never leaves the facility, below are the two items that a manager must resolve to become a well-run facility:
1. Mixed Linen. We all wish our soil rooms never threw the wrong items together. I have never seen that be accomplished. So how are you going to manage it? Are you going to redry it on the clean side and then distribute it to the correct department, or are you simply going to send it back to the soil room? These pounds generate no revenue for your facility, and they can add up to a lot of linen. You need to get a handle on it fast.
2. Stain Linen. Stain linen is a nemesis of every facility, made worse at any facility that has adopted 100% polyester items. You cannot wear them out and if you have a stain that you cannot get out, you can wash it daily for the rest of your life.
You must get a good method of handling stains. You must put it through a good stain wash, if it is still dirty, then it must be ragged, or it will get stuck in the merry-go-round of linen that has been the demise of many laundries.
Linen cycling around the plant is a major issue that every laundry faces, and there is just no “Easy Button” to resolve it.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].