Healthcare Laundry: Gregory Gicewicz, Sterile Surgical Systems, Tumwater, Wash.
We have found that tempo and alignment, more than any other concepts, help a laundry run most efficiently. While this appears counterintuitive, it has proven true time and again. Let me explain.
Tempo is defined as the relative rapidity or rate of movement. In music, a vivace tempo is lively and fast. Did you ever walk into an establishment that buzzes with so much energy you can’t help but get caught up in the vivacity? Conversely, did you ever walk into an organization with a culture that has more in common with a morgue than a laundry? You walk in and absorb the lethargy.
Tempos are infectious and touch all areas of a laundry, including the equipment. I swear! Establishing a culture of tempo benefits the bottom line. Employees feed off tempo and produce more efficiently. And they are happier. Spirited employees complete more work per hour creating a cascading effect.
The wash aisle finishes sooner so the dryers, ironers, boiler and lights shut down earlier. Now maintenance can get to work sooner, and trucks can get out earlier. Each of these outcomes saves expensive utilities in addition to labor.
Commitment to a culture of tempo must start at the top and be embedded into the fabric of the organization. Hire high-energy managers that bring on high-energy workers. Project lively music in plant production areas. Keep the plant bright, comfortable and clutter free. Encourage a fun atmosphere with lots of competition and camaraderie.
Workers spend many hours in your plant. Why not make those hours enjoyable?
MAKE THE STARS ALIGN!
High-tempo employees who are aligned with the goals of the organization make for an even more cost-efficient laundry. Whether in a laundry, in a war, in a football game or in government, the best performance ideas seldom originate from the top. They come from the players on the front lines.
Your front-line employees should be measured on the same metrics that impact your bottom line. They should have a transparent view into the same data that measures the success of your operation. And they should be empowered to impact this data.
We share most success metrics with our employees. Every employee knows, daily, how much revenue we billed, how many pounds we produced, how many employee hours were used, how much utilities we consumed, and what customers complained about. We not only share this information, we allow them to impact it.
Consequently, many of our greatest bottom-line-improving ideas came from empowered front-line employees. Can front-line employees impact revenue? Absolutely. Our cubicle curtain processor looked at our daily revenue report and asked why we were charging the same for normal-sized curtains as for 2XL, 3XL, and 4XL curtains. Great question, and we changed this the day she made the suggestion.
Our cart weigher suggested elastic cart cover fasteners. A driver suggested an innovative loading ramp to speed up truck loading and unloading.
These suggestions were all implemented and are paying nice dividends!
Consulting Services: Sam Spence, TBR Associates, Saddle Brook, N.J.
Individual tasks that represent potential to reduce costs in a laundry, ranging from enforcing production standards to bidding out textiles and supplies, are just about limitless. These types of efforts are certainly worthwhile and will save money; however, for the purpose of this response, I suggest a more strategic, process-oriented approach based upon Lean principles.
There was a time when someone would mention Lean to me and my first reaction would be, “I’m not building cars here, I do laundry for a living!” Only after I read up on the subject and visited a few plants that had “leaned” out their processes did I learn how impactful, and most importantly, sustainable Lean-based improvements can be.
The most basic principle here is to identify the steps in our process that represent value to our customers. Value-added steps in our process are strictly defined as:
- The customer wants it and is willing to pay for it.
- Changes form, fit, function of the product.
- Is not rework.
If a step in the process does not meet all three of the above criteria, it is considered to be waste.
Although value-added time makes up a very small portion of the overall time in a process, organizations too often focus on reducing the value-added rather than the much larger non-value-added portion (waste). By focusing on the non-value-added steps in our process and reducing waste, you can have a much greater impact.
Focus on the “Eight Deadly Wastes” as defined below.
Transportation—Moving work where it needs to go. This can mean pushing a cart or a sling from one area of the plant to another, as well as fleet transport.
Inventory—Anything beyond what’s immediately needed to fill orders. This can be new product in stock and processed goods in the plant.
Motion—Movement that doesn’t add value or is unsafe. This can be symptomatic of poor layout and poor organization.
Waiting—Idle work, equipment and/or people.
Overproduction—Producing excess product before it is needed.
Over processing—Unnecessary work steps, inconsistent processes, design that ignores customer.
Defects—Work that needs to be scrapped or reworked, such as ragout or rewash.
Underutilized people skills—Wasted ideas, skills, capabilities. Lack of employee empowerment.
A helpful tool often used to identify value and waste is to perform a process-mapping exercise. With a process map, you plot out every step in your plant from the time soiled linen arrives in your sorting department to the time clean linen is packed out.
Then identify the value-added steps that meet the three criteria mentioned above. Every step that does not meet the value-added standard is waste. Complete this exercise and you will quickly see how much waste exists in your plant!
Lean is not just for heavy manufacturing anymore. Any labor- or capital-intensive process can benefit from implementing Lean principles.
Uniforms/Workwear Manufacturing: Scott Delin, Fashion Seal Healthcare, Seminole, Fla.
Just the other day while going through my mail, I noticed that I had an unusual amount of mail pertaining to third-party energy suppliers for electric and gas. The message and intent with these mailings was that they can save me money on my household expenses if I switched from my service from our current supplier to them—guaranteed! I must admit, who doesn’t like to save money?
Then the next day while working from my home office, I received a phone from a solicitor telling me that I was overcharged by my secondary supplier on my electric bill and was entitled to a $125 rebate and I should press 1 to redeem my rebate check. Excited about getting my rebate check, I immediately hit 1 on my phone and told the caller to process check to my home address.
When I would not reveal my account numbers or home address to the caller, he immediately hung up on me. Surprise, surprise. Realizing from the get go that I do not use secondary suppliers, I knew the call was a scam. This call however started to make me think about other ways to save money on my home utilities, etc.
Running any business today, it can be, and is, an expensive proposition, especially when it comes to managing our utilities: electric, gas, waste removal and even labor. We need to be smart and innovative when it comes to finding ways to save money and reduce costs.
Budget plans and locking in pricing for a period of time or year is one way to keep your costs for utilities under control and within budget. By working closely with your local utility companies, you can pretty much guarantee what your monthly bills will be once you negotiate and lock in your rates for a year or more.
This tactic can easily be done and should be done with all utility providers. Also, many utility companies today offer free audits on your business and/or home to offer what can be done to save and reduce energy costs.
Another way to save money is to go to LED lighting. LED technology produces brighter light while using less power. In addition to saving energy, this technology lasts longer, is low in maintenance and, most importantly, is eco-friendly.
We need to make sure we implement plans for making sure all lights are turned off and temperatures are controlled when the shift ends for the day. Also, no need to keep the air conditioners running at low temps when hot or the heaters blasting when cold outside. Be smart, conserve wherever and whenever possible.
Another tactic for saving money might be to get employees involved in what the end game is for the company as it looks to cuts costs and reduce energy while maintaining a cost-efficient laundry. Ask for ideas and offer gifts or monetary awards for best ideas brought forward and implemented.
Keep in mind, our employees are part of the team and by getting those involved with brainstorming for ideas to save costs that will also help us run efficient businesses will be a win-win for all.
Miss Part 1 with ideas from commercial laundry, equipment supply/distribution and equipment manufacturing experts? Click HERE now to read it.